Player of the Year Candidate: Nathan Arnold

It would be incredibly hard not to mention Nathan Arnold when discussing the Player of the Year. His performances have been scintillating at times, he has provided perhaps (for me) the moment of the season, and of course we took him away from Grimsby Town which has to count in his favour.

I’m a fan of flying wingers, most of my own personal favourite players have prowled up and down the Sincil Bank touchline, but I’m not sure we have ever been blessed with as many as we currently have. Nathan Arnold represents the best winger we have in the squad, and possibly the best we’ve seen at Lincoln in 20 years. He isn’t just a good player though, he has produced goals time and time again. The fact he is our second highest scorer speaks for itself.

The rumour mill suggests he’d been offered a deal at Grimsby, but it wasn’t as good as one he’d previously discussed with them. He isn’t a mercenary money-man though, and I hear it was the lack of respect that made him seek football elsewhere. He could still have been a Cod, he could be playing league football, but instead he wound up here (via a trial at Alfreton Town). Danny Cowley stated that the crowd funder money had helped land him, and he instantly became a fan favourite. We’d all seen him at Cambridge and Grimsby, flying down the wing and often making our full-back look foolish. His name popped up intermittently amongst the goals as well, and we knew having Nathan Arnold in the team meant chances being created.

Nathan wasn’t at all like I expected. Instead of the cock-sure winger we got a down to earth family man, thoughtful and intelligent. We learned a lot about his upbringing and his personality during the cup run, and he isn’t your stereotypical footballer. He understands people and that humble outlook on life makes him even more likeable. Nice guy off the pitch doesn’t mean he’s a push-over on it though. He never looks happier than when he is roasting a full back or chasing a ball down.

He has many facets to his game, and at times we’ve seen them all this season. He works incredibly hard and has adapted to the pressing game with relative ease. Often wingers don’t like to get too involved with the hard work, but Nathan never shirks his responsibilities. Prior to the fixture pile up he formed an incredible partnership on the flanks, first with Lee Beevers and latterly with Bradley Wood. He’d cover when he needed to, making their lives much easier.

When Nathan is on the ball, the crowd rise to their feet. He has a knack of running at players, making them commit to challenges and then skipping past them. He can always find his way into a scoring position as well, and a double figure haul for a wide man is no mean feat. He has an all round contribution to offer, and has looked as effective against the likes of North Ferriby and Maidstone as he has again Arsenal and Ipswich.

I’m informed he is not just a good player on the pitch, but a massive influence off it. When I watched a training session he was asked for input as a senior player, and apparently he has the air of a man who may go on to coach and manage himself. He’s pensive and well-informed and he understands the game superbly. It gives him an edge when finding space and reading where the ball will go, and when you combine that with raw pace and a penchant for putting defenders on their arse as he glides past, you have all the ingredients of a potential POTY.

Key Moments

North Ferriby (H)

Way back before the cup run, before we went top and before we knew what sort of a ride we’d go on, there was North Ferriby at home. It was the second match of the season, the first competitive game many of us got to see. It was to be an indication of what we could expect from our side, North Ferriby were the sort of team we needed to beat, and beat well.

Five minutes into the game we were 2-0 up, and Nathan had registered a goal. Every time he got on the ball we looked like scoring, and after 24 minutes it was 4-0. The whole team were looking good, and North Ferriby looked awful, but it was that Arnold goal on five minutes that really stood out. The way he worked the ball was superb, dipping his shoulder to glide past players and creating chances at will. It finished 6-1, and I went home not only believing we were in for a special season, but convinced that in Arnold we had a player that was a cut above this league. I still feel that way now.

Ipswich (H)

One moment is all it took to ensure that Nathan Arnold has a space in Lincoln City folklore. You can do what you like in the league, but when you score last minute winners in big cup games, your name will always be remembered. The cup-run was so much more than one player, and of course others will be remembered for other moments. However, that goal, that moment will always be etched in my memory.

90 minutes at Portman Road had brought us a wonderful 2-2 draw. We went back to the Bank and battled resolutely for another 90 minutes. Ipswich got a free kick which was cleared by Alan Power. It came to Adam Marriott who waited and then slipped a sumptuous pass into the path of Arnold. He sprinted through as if it were the first minute, brilliantly rounded the keeper and stroked the ball into an empty net. The image of him running towards the Imps fans with his thumb in his mouth will never leave me. If the POTY award was given for stand out moments, this would win it hands down.

If you read this Nathan I’d like to thank you personally for giving me such a wonderful memory. I have the Art of Football print to go on my wall, meaning the image of Dean Gherkin sat on his arse while Nathan puts the ball home will always be somewhere in my house to enjoy.

Brighton (H)

It seems to be all about the cup run for Nathan, but there has been so much more to enjoy. That said his performance against Chris Hughton’s side really stood out for me. 1-0 down at half-time I thought we were dead and buried. Nathan had a superb shot saved well in the first half, and after we drew level he really stood out. It was a Nathan Arnold cross that Tomori turned into his own net to put us 2-1 up, and Arnold again was involved in the third goal, providing the killer pass for Theo to slide home. Whatever happens over the next three weeks, the cup-run was unrivalled by any non-league club, and Nathan Arnold played a major role in getting us as far as he could.