Here’s my first attempt at using the Guardian chalkboards.
I’m motivated in part by something I noticed on Arseblog. In amongst all the Gunner naval-gazing (where we get no credit for playing very well and taking four points over them this season, by the way), there’s this gem:


I’ve said it time and time again. Fans can and will overlook lack of quality in a player, for the most part, but lack of effort at any level, at any stage of the game, is unforgivable. The team lacks heart, it lacks leadership, there was nobody in that team yesterday to kick the rest of them up the arse. And look what happened.

Danny Murphy bossed the show. Danny Murphy.

 It might have escaped the Arsenal contingent’s notice but Danny’s a very good player. They should have remmebered him running the show at the Cottage and having a few outstanding seasons for Liverpool, where he was overlooked for some of the more big-name players when the praise was being banded around.

What I’m more interested in than the Arsenal view is the vast difference between how Hodgson uses his captain and how Lawrie Sanchez played Murphy. Plenty of people were concerned about our free transfer signing of Murphy – who arrived late on transfer deadline day – and questioned the wisdom of signing a player whose career had tailed off at Charlton and Tottenham after he had left Anfield.

What was more baffling was putting a player renowned for clever passing in central midfield whilst we whacked the ball from back to front. There’s a limit to what a good player can do when the ball’s sailing over his head all the time. To illustrate this point, I picked the Derby game from last season. Utterly frustrating goalles draw against the bottom side, made all the more grating by Paul Konchesky’s needless sending off. Murphy made just 33 passes in the ninety minutes and his seven unsuccesful ones in red were hopeful punts forward. He didn’t have the freedom to play the kind of slide-rule ball through that has unlocked so many defences since Hodgson has come in.

He was all over the pitch yesterday. It was an outstanding performance as much for his positioning and tackling as for how commanding he was on the ball. You got the sense the skipper was setting the tone. He made several raking passes that exposed the space that was behind Arsenal’s unusually vulnerable defence, including one beautiful ball to Simon Davies.

Our passing, patient style suits Murphy and, also, as he gets used to our gameplan and his team-mates Dickson Etuhu. This is how to get the best out of him. The best news of the year for me so far was that Murphy’s qualified for a contract extension. He’s been the player of the season so far – and we can only hope for more.