The Incredible Hulk

He might not have been booed at the Emirates, but I’m pretty sure that most people have aired their grievances about Alex Song. On first viewing, with a slightly clumsy dribbling style and wild hair, it was hard to notice what exactly he possessed that would enable Arsene to pick him for the squad.

His first appearance I remember in the senior squad was in a rather uninspired performance against Fulham at Craven Cottage. That was during the first year at the Emirates, and people equated our team performance with Alex Song’s performance. He was promptly dismissed. Most called him a donkey. Rigobert’s nephew wasn’t good enough.

Read columns like Myles Palmer (who nobody should actually take seriously), and he’ll still call him a donkey. In today’s column, he said Denilson and Song are “average, dull, and unpopular.” He then goes on to say that Denilson will never be a Xavi, but could yet be a Dunga. (What the hell kind of reasoning is this?) In any case, at the pub where I watch Arsenal matches, whenever Alex Song is in the team, people automatically assume the worst.

Back to his progression, he was farmed out to Charlton Athletic under Alan Pardew. I watched a couple of matches, just to get a sense for how he was in his natural position. To my delight, he was a warrior. He was strong. He delivered sharp (granted, simple) passes. He could pass with both feet. He worked hard. He was a player. Alan Pardew wanted to keep him permanently, but Arsene said no thanks.

Next season, we saw Alex used in central defense. Thrown into the fire at Old Trafford, he gave a performance that was good enough. He made tactical mistakes, but stood up to Rooney. After the season ended, as if Arsene was issuing a challenge, Wenger said that Song was suited to play in central defense because he may not have the stamina needed to play in the midfield.

This year, with our rotten rut of injuries continuing, Alex Song has only been played in central midfield. Earlier in the year, a great man I frequently chat with about Arsenal told me that Song often seemed to be out of position. I said that I could see his point, but to me he was trying, a mark of an inexperienced, but willed youngster.

Later in the year, during the infamous Tottenham game at the Emirates, Alex Song was slagged off for smiling and laughing when being subbed into the game. We won’t speak about the rest of that game, cause it’s somewhat painful.

All the while, we could say things about our team’s effort, but there wasn’t any single, big mistake you can attribute to him. Something you could not say about Clichy or even Gallas.

Come full circle to the Tottenham fixture last week. With the unfortunate incidents of Eboue, most felt that we would withdraw van Persie from up front, place him on the left wing, and go with a five man midfield. We did not.

Instead, we had a narrow midfield, with Denilson and Alex Song acting as shields to the defense. After the sending off, Alex Song turned into The Incredible Hulk. He was everywhere breaking up attacks. He had the best opportunity to score in the game (I forgive him for blowing that chance, he’s not at his best when shooting). He was two men in the midfield. So much so, that Denilson wasn’t really needed.

When I read most English newspaper recaps of the game, they gave Alex Song a rating of 5. Wilson Palacios, who was the player that Wenger referred to when talking about the player who fouled 14 times without getting a foul, got ratings of 7 and 8’s. That’s all the evidence I’d ever need to condemn the English media. Some blogs followed along with this train of thought, but there were some that saw the light.

They saw that Alex Song does hold promise. I don’t know if he’ll ever be an automatic choice for the starting XI. I just know that it’s never wise to judge a player negatively too early that Wenger believes in.

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