Often seen as the ‘Makelele’ of the team (an unjustified term which is both overused and misused throughout the footballing world), Alex Song has shed his image of a player used to break up play and has shone in the absence of Jack Wilshere. While Arteta scored yesterday, it was Song’s vision, technique and ability to play a through ball that started Arsenal’s rout.
Song’s emergence as the pulse of the Arsenal team has a lot to do with Arsene Wenger’s (often criticised) loyalty to players. When Song was pilloried after poor debut season as a teenager, Wenger could have easily seen the youngster shipped back to French club Bastia. Instead a loan to Charlton saw the player grow in stature and on his return, a refreshed and more mature Song emerged; an Alex Song who was chosen over an impressive Lassana Diarra and the hilarious Emmanuel Eboue to occupy the central midfield birth.
Despite not getting his name on the score sheet this afternoon, Song still had a massive part to play in nearly every breaking move that Arsenal made. His vision to pick out a 20 yard pass into the run of Theo Walcott to set up van Persie’s second was incredible: if it was Scholes, Fabregas or Gerrard who had made the pass, supporters wouldn’t hear the end of it, and rightly so. It took out four different Blackburn players before Walcott and van Persie mopped up.
If Song decides to pick it up a notch or two then Ramsey or Arteta will slot into a more defensive setting
One of the main reasons behind Song’s progression has been Arsenal’s switch to a very flexible three central midfielders. Even without the likes of Fabregas or Nasri being around anymore, the three central workers of the team interchange at will; if Arteta pounces forward then Ramsey or Song will drop back; if Song decides to pick it up a notch or two then Ramsey or Arteta will slot into and hold. It’s this flexibility that has seen Song operating as a box-to-box midfielder, often starting a move from just outside of his own area and having the strength and stamina to be at the opposite end to perform a composed pass. In many aspects Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong is the Patrick Vieira type of player that has been missed in previous seasons.
Not that he is the next Vieira; Song is very much his own man. He is unique in that he stands just over 6 feet tall and, despite being a big unit, is very quick off the mark. This athleticism is crucial to an Arsenal team that has had to put all their silverware aspirations on the Champions League and FA Cup: two knockout competitions where that little bit of edge on the night can prove the difference. The willingness of Song combined with his composure could be that difference.
Coming off the back of the news that Jack Wilshere might be out for the season, Song’s fitness is very important to Wenger and Arsenal and this was shown with his departure for Yossi Benayoun halfway through the second half when the job was done. Many critics of Arsenal’s season point to Arsenal being a one man team but maybe it’s time to start questioning where these goal scoring opportunities begin. Arsenal may only have one Song, but if he continues his form Arsenal could be singing it very loudly at the business end of the season.
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