Arsenal fans have been crying out for a defensive midfielder ever since Vieira left this despite the fact that Vieira was not a defensive midfielder in the mould of Makelele. What Arsenal fans have really been looking for is a player to protect the defence and to dominate the midfield.
This season Wenger has realised that to give the defence the protection they need, we need to change formation, and we need to play 4-1-2-3. The duties of defensive midfielder have been assigned to Song.
For Song to be effective and the formation to work, Song needs to make a sacrifice. Song needs to play no further forward than 15 yards in front of the back-four. He did this against Wigan and was very effective. Very little got past the Cameroon international, so when people analyse the game they will say that Wigan had few chances, but that was because of Song.
We all know that Song is a player who can play further forward and attack the opposition, but if he does this, then we will be left exposed at the back. His happened against Manchester City and against Manchester United.
Alex has a job to do and that is protect the defence, if an opportunity arises he can go forward, but one of the other players needs to cover his runs.
The irony of Song’s position is that two seasons ago Wenger stated he did not see Alex as a central midfielder and to emphasise this point he proceeds to play him in a central midfield for the whole season until the last few games when he plays in defence!
Song will develop into a great midfielder, this being the play who was ridiculed by Merson when he played against a Fulham a couple of seasons ago and described his performance “like a fish up a tree”.
Playing in this “defensive midfield” position gives us the solidity that we have been looking for. Our problem will be in January and February when Song is away with Cameroon playing in the African Cup of Nations.
A young man has developed into a vital cog in our team, this man has been slated by fans and pundits in the past, but now we pull our hair when Wenger does not pick him. The player in question in Cameroon international, Alexandre Song.
Wenger bought Song from Bastia, had him on loan for a season and eventually paid €3.5million for him, so he saw something in Song back then. The problem with all Arsenal players is that we buy them so young, thrust them into the first team action and expect them to perform like world beaters from the outset. Other clubs buy youngsters, play massive fees and ease them in gradually, look at Manchester United and Zoran Tosic, a £13million buy in January who will be a peripheral figure for the next two seasons at Old Trafford.
Song was a dilemma for Arsene, a centre back or central midfielder. This affected Song too, as his early performances were woeful.
This season Arsene has picked him in central midfield and he has had time to establish himself. At the outset both him and Denilson looked completely lost in midfield, but recently he has turned things around and Song has been outstanding in recent weeks and he is finally showing us why Arsene made such a fuss about him, whilst others were cast dispersions in his ability to make it in the Premier League.
Alex’s qualities are there for all to see. In the mould of Vieira he is big, strong and athletic. He tackles well and wins his fair share of headers. He likes to come forward, but does not possess the skill to run past opponents or open teams up with a killer pass. Alex is statring to harrass players and not let himself be brushed aside easily. He reaslises his responsibilities and is ensuring that he protects the defence as much as possible. What he needs to learn is when to go forward and when to sit back.
My only concern is that no matter how well Song is playing at the moment, he has not convinced me that he is a player who we have been looking for to step in and become Fabregas’ partner in midfield. He is suitable as a squad player.
In the summer I hope Arsene takes a long hard and truthful look at the season and realises that we need another central midfielder. Song, Denilson and Diaby are satisfactory, but they have not yet developed into dominant players. Last summer we tried to buy Alonso, Toure, Inler and Velosso, nothing has changed in our central midfield to say we do not want one of these players this summer.
At the start of the season Alex Song was regarded as a last resort for the central midfield berth. He had not shown much over the last few seasons to change people’s opinions. In fact when he did play this season there was more frustration than elation over his performances.
The good displays were few a far between, but when Alex played well, then he stood out. In the games against Liverpool and Tottenham away, Song turned into some commanding displays, but there was no consistency.
Over the last six or seven games, Song has been the commanding figure in central midfield. He has grown into a role that even Arsene Wenger doubted he was able to play. He is a strong player, has plenty of energy and harries the opposition. His partnership with Fabregas against Villarreal was the ideal pairing. Alex run everywhere, protected the defence and gave simple passes to Cesc, Theo and Samir so that they go and do the damage to the opposition.
He had managed to move ahead of both Denilson and Diaby in the view of most fans as the ideal partner for Cesc. Clearly this was not the case as far as Arsene was concerned, he decided to drop Song to the bench and played both Diaby and Denilson. What Song had been able to do on his own, these two both failed to do against Chelsea.
To stand a chance against Manchester United in the Champions League, Alex Song needs to play, if that is alongside Cesc in an orthodox 4-4-2 formation or part of a holding pair in a 4-2-3-1, it does not matter so long as he plays.