On Song and Other Points

“It was July 2005, and I came here with the chairman of Bastia,” Song told Arsenal TV Online.

“I walked into the dressing room and saw Robert [Pires], Thierry [Henry], Dennis [Bergkamp]. It was unbelievable; they were players you watch on the TV.

“I just asked myself, “Alex, what are you doing here?””

Countless others would ask the same question after seeing him play his first matches for Arsenal. They made up their minds early – they did not want him in the team. “What the f*ck was Wenger thinking,” they thought.

This is in no way an effort to bring attention to how my colleagues at eighteen86 and I got it right while so many others were ready to send Alex Song packing. We fully acknowledge that he is not the finished article. He still needs to work on his passing and like all Arsenal players, his consistency. He has improved his reading of the game and his positional sense but there is always room for improvement.

On the plus side, Song has given a level of legitimacy to the Wenger youth plan. I heard a guy say this past weekend that he takes back what he said about Arsene’s policy. I was eager to hear him explain. He went on to say that he was a non-believer in the approach to building a team from scratch with kids but now he sees the value in the method. More important than one guy saying so is how there is a general consensus growing among many of those who were previously against it. We’ve bought potential world class players early and nurtured them. Key to the whole scheme is how we’ve managed to keep (most of) them thus far.

The plan can work, you know.

I am not suggesting that Alex Song is world class. He isn’t but can anyone doubt his improvement and importance to the team? I’ve asked a few people to tell me who are better holding midfielders in the EPL. Naturally, Michael Essien comes to mind but he really is more than a holding midfielder. Mascherano comes up next.

…and then there were none.

I tell them that just mentioning Alex Song in the same sentence as Mascherano says loads. Just last season, I was ridiculed for even suggesting that he was worthy of a first team place. A man whose opinion I respect likened him to a lesser Eric Djemba-Djemba. You remember him don’t you? I remember him for planting his foot in Sol’s groin (no yellow by the way for the first failed replacement for Roy Keane. Surprised?). The news highlights only showed Sol’s retaliation. Maybe you don’t remember him since I can’t imagine that there are highlights of anything else Djemba-Djemba’s ever done.

I am not one to say I told you so, but he ain’t no Alex Song.

Song provides cover for the CBs in a way that most reserve players do not. It is seamless when he lines up for us at the back. People forget that we bought him as a central defender. His versatility is best priceless.

In a little less than one week, it will be 15 years since Argentina and Germany played a friendly at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. Lothar Matthaus still had enough left to play his 105th international for Germany. He played as a libero but with a slight variation to the classical role. He played in front of rather than behind the back four. In essence, that is what Alex Song does for Arsenal.

When Gallas and Vermaelen were showing up on the score sheet every week, it wasn’t just because they like to get forward and know what to do in front of goal. They were given the freedom to get there by Song. There’s a trust that’s built amongst players that gives them the confidence to try certain things they wouldn’t try otherwise. The back four and Cesc trust Song to that degree. Our captain’s spectacular form is partially due to the freer free role he enjoys.

When players leave for the African Cup of Nations in January, the fear is that Wenger won’t have a plan to replace Song.

Heh! The guy has gone from a hated player deemed as ‘just not good enough’ to striking fear in the hearts of Arsenal fans who don’t think that the manager will spend on cover for him. Fans who used to doubt the player now see his value to the team.

I don’t know what Wenger will do in January. Maybe a deal is already in place to bring back PV4. I can’t imagine Mourinho helping us though. I heard someone mention a loan move to bring back Flamini. It’s not the worst idea but one very unlike Arsene. Maybe Wenger will promote from within. Or he might not make a move at all. We shall see.

Alex Song has made his point.

Other points:

Are Liverpool in freefall? Do they have a squad capable of reversing the current run of bad form? Imagine if Arsenal were going through the same thing. We were poor at times last season but we were also among the most consistent teams for a large part of the season. On current form, Liverpool will be happy to make the last four of anything.

I didn’t realize City are without a league win since the leaves were still green. Oh dear! Again, imagine if Arsenal were in the same boat. The media (and fans) would be in a frenzy – “Frenchie Has Lost The Plot,” “Dein-Usmanov Coup Imminent.” Arsene would be ridiculed to no end – “Ha! you can’t win with kids you stubborn, half blind Alsacian.” Gallas and Vermaelen would hate each other with rumours of a fight video taken down from YouTube by the club. Cesc and Arshavin would be off to Catalunya with Thierry and Bojan coming to London. The curse of Kolo would hang over the club.

And they’d never let us forget selling that other guy to City.

Where are the endless, tabloid-type Liverpool and Man City in Crisis headlines?

The FIFA U17 World Cup has gone under the radar, if you’re interested.

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