With Alex Song away, can Arsenal rely on Denilson to get the tackles in?

January 11, 2010

The general consensus amongst Arsenal fans seems to be that Alex Song has been the club’s best (or at least, most important) player so far this season, sitting in front of the back four in the holding role, and winning the ball in the centre of the park. But Song has departed for a month for the Africa Cup of Nations (the last ACON, in 2008, he was named in the Best XI for the tournament, playing at centre-back) and Arsenal don’t have a ready-made replacement.

Instead, against Everton, Denilson dropped back into the holding role. Denilson has improved immeasurably in the past two seasons, but he remains a passer rather than a tackler.

Wenger remains confident that Denilson can fill Song’s boots, saying that Denilson “can play this role and come in for Song without a problem…although Song and Denilson can play together, they have very similar qualities.”

So, here is a comparison between the two. Denilson’s tackling record in the Everton game, compared to Song’s in the last real ‘contest’ Arsenal were in, away at Burnley (in other words, ignoring the easy three-goal victories against Hull, Aston Villa and Portsmouth).

Song’s tackling success rate is 100%, and he covers a larger area of the pitch. In Denilson’s defence, he attempted more tackles than Song, and won the three challenges closest to his own goal.

Nevertheless, Arsenal’s next game is on Sunday, away at Bolton, traditionally a fixture they have struggled in physically. This will be a real test for Denilson (if fit) and with Arsenal’s subsequent fixtures tricky-looking games against Stoke (away), Aston Villa (away) and Manchester United (home), Arsenal fans might well hope that Song’s Cameroon side exit the tournament early.

by Guardian Chalkboards

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