Should Arsenal sell Alex Song if we sign a defensive midfielder?

Alex took a moment to reflect on several seasons of appalling choices at the hairdresser.

Morning, boys ‘n’ girls.

With names like Nigel de Jong, Yann M’Vila and many others being brandished about by the rumour mongers, it would seem Arsenal are in the market for a new holding midfielder. If such a thing is true, does it mean Alex Song is likely to be moved on to another club? Perhaps.

I’ve often said Arsenal’s midfield is as culpable as its defence when it comes to the amount of goals we concede. Too often there is a gaping hole between the back four and the players who should be contributing to prevention in front of them. Defending isn’t the responsibility of just the guys assigned to those positions. Defending is the responsibility of all 11 players on the field, so I wouldn’t think for a moment it’s fair to assign the blame to just one.

For all his excellent offensive stats this season – 46 appearances and 14 assists – Alex Song has, at times, been found wanting when it come to the defensive, holding element to his game. I don’t think he’s put on the pitch to simply cover the back four, as I don’t believe we actually employ that role any longer. The responsibility is shared between two, with the third midfielder – Ramsey or Rosicky – being the further forward. In the absence of the excellent Mikel Arteta, a player who does cover, Alex’s desire to get forward without offering cover has been all the more noticeable.

Arsenal need that steely element in the midfield that was once offered by Vieira and Gilberto. Although they played in a different formation to the hybrid 4-3-3 we use today, both rarely neglected covering the back four, and we looked a much more solid unit back in those days. I think that’s something we need back. We need an out-and-out holding midfielder.

If Arsenal are to sign Yann M’Vila, is there a place for Alex in the starting line-up? It’s certainly debatable. I think a central pairing of M’Vila and Arteta would be excellent, and we’d concede less goals from our defence being exposed. Scoring goals hasn’t been the issue with Arsenal, the amount of silly and preventable goals we’ve conceded in recent seasons is, and it’s the area that needs to be addressed above any other.

Of course, like I said; that’s a team issue, and one I certainly am not saying Alex is responsible for alone, but he is responsible. His contribution to our attacks is usually what enables folks to look past his faux-pas in the other third of the field. The question I put was whether we should sell him? I don’t think that is the answer, but I do think a new player in the holding role might see him relegated to a squad role.

Assuming we keep those entering contract negotiations, and we sign Yann M’Vila, I’d like to see Arsenal’s first choice X1 be like this:

But that’s just me, folks. Beneath today’s entry, the comments are lurking in wait for all your wonderful opinions. I’m sure some of you may disagree, and you’d prefer to see Alex continue in the same position. Whatever your thoughts, please feel free to share them as it’s always good to hear different opinions – unless you’re going to suggest I either die, or engage in deviant acts with members of my close family, that is.

Thanks for take a moment to read today, you beautiful bastards. You can keep up with my posts and other silliness on my Twitter account @_ArmchairGooner

 

30 Comments

  1. john c

    absolutely not song was instrumental last season but lacks discipline by holding the position leaving us exposed at the back. A genuine holding midfielder is needed as well as an attacking midfielder,and another quality striker and another defender its simple really everyone knows it its nothing knew so will wenger show a real urge to challenge for the title? time will tell but time is running out.If there is no trophies this time next year wenger may well go.

    Reply
  2. john c

    p.s the team you have illustrated looks great and definetely looks title challenging material

    Reply
  3. Albert Lee

    I like Arteta, he is mature enough to sacrifice personal glory for the team, and he reads games so well he knew when to go forward and when to stay back. Song is good at assisting this season, but it is achieved by abandoning his defensive duty. But, I suspect, he may be given the chance to play the role of AM with M’vila taking over DM full time.

    As such, I think the formation will be more like M’vila playing as DM just in front of the 2 CD, and Arteta and Song playing in front of him. I think Wilshere will be used sparingly in the first half of the season, as he did not play for 1 whole year and his body needs time to adjust.

    Reply
    1. Cupsui

      Your point is excellent sir and one I have been making. Whileshere ain’t back yet people. And with a yer off don’t expect him to just slot in seamlessly. He’ll take time and careful management and he will prob pick up a niggle so I agree he won’t be a full time starter at least til after Xmas.

      Therefore I see mvila song artera lining up and all three players playing a bit of each role interchanging position. They can all play DM, CM and AM, all can create and all can defend. Perfect foil for each other and it keeps the opposition guessing. Complete midfielders are the “modern” midfielder for me and I can see wenger trying to amass a few of them in artera, song, whileshere, le coq and to a lesser extent rosicky…and potentially mvila or Capoue.

      So James that is a DEFINITE NO! No we should not sell song he is such a good midfielder and when he was with another complete mid and an almost complete mid in rosicky we looked as solid as we have in the last 7 or 8 yrs with Sagna tv5. King koz and gibbsy at the back.

      Reply
  4. davi

    The problem is not with Song, it is with the perception that he is our main defensive/holding midfielder, and for that reason whatever defensive mistakes he has made (of course he’s not perfect) have been greatly exaggerated. Since he started playing regularly for arsenal, I don’t think there have been many games when that has actually been the case. I remember him marking rooney out of the game last season (the game we won), but generally speaking, he has not been assigned that role, and so should not be judged so harshly on that side of his game. Denilson, Diaby, (arguably) Wilshere, and now Arteta have all played more withdrawn roles when present in centre of midfield with him.
    I agree Arteta has been excellent in providing cover for the defence, but the point should also be made that this has been his main role in the side, he is the holding/defensive midfielder. He has largely sat in front of the defence, won the ball back and kept things tidy. Song (along with Ramsey/Rosicky) has supplemented him very well, but Mikel has been the main man in that department. Based on how we’ve played this season, the midfield triangle shown in the diagram above could in fact be drawn upside down, with arteta at the point – and when arteta and song have both been there, it’s worked!
    Song has been our most consistent performer over the past few seasons, and the fact that he’s got so many assists this year is a massive clue of his quality. Considering he does help out a lot with the defence, and he doesn’t take corners or freekicks, this is an excellent return, and one which was badly needed given the loss of our most creative player. In short, he stepped up when we needed him, and he’s consistently done that since he first came into the side, helping to stabilise the midfield (along with denilson to be fair) when we had some serious injuries a few years ago. In my opinion, this man deserves a lot more love and respect from the Arsenal fans for what he’s done, and I’m quite convinced we would have dropped out of the top four at least once in the last few years without him, given the injuries we’ve suffered to other players.
    That said, I wouldn’t complain if M’vila or someone were signed, but I think the point would be more of an Arteta-replacement than a Song-replacement. Of course M’vila could cover either of them, but I think that, given Arteta’s age, the idea would most likely be to bring M’vila in as cover in the short term, and to have him slowly take over. Yann is actually more similar to Arteta than Song in playing style anyway, and there’s no evidence that he could set up chances the way that Song has this year. The other side to it is that Arteta’s attacking talents, which haven’t been shown too often at arsenal, with some notable exceptions, could be exploited as a different option on the wings, like we had with Benayoun this year. His intelligence and ability to time his passes could be extremely useful.
    Still, I think Coquelin could be just as good a DM as M’vila, but he comes with an injury record and perhaps would be more risky in the short term. I have a feeling he’s now moving more in the fullback direction, for now at least, which is a bit saddening, but at least he should get game-time.

    Reply
    1. Cupsui

      Agree mate. Can’t quite understand the bagging of song. He is an amazing player with an allround game.

      On mvila he does have a bit of songs ability to spot a long ball and also loves a ball over the top. Definitely got creativity in his gme nd that just make him a more rounded player and if he steps forward with two of jack, mikel and Alex filling the other two mids then we are still amply covered against a counter.

      Another plus I haven’t mentioned is that signing a mvila (or Capoue) gives us added defensive strength and depth as they both can slot into cb as can song (who would prob go in first if we got desperate)…song I cancels any need to sign another defender. A good thing if you ask me!

      Reply
      1. davi

        I’ve heard he’s a good passer, but not one to directly set up a lot of goals – haven’t seen much of him at all though, so could be wrong!
        Also I haven’t heard of M’vila playing as CB before, is that true? Would be excellent to have more defensive cover. That’s what I liek about Capoue, he’s been part of apparently the best defensive side in France, can play CB and is a bit taller than the others.

        Reply
    2. Albert Lee

      Hi Davi,

      I remember reading an interview with Arteta, and he said he would love to go forward more, but when the other midfielder venture forward, he will have to stay back to cover the hole, and he said he willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.

      I do not think Arteta is given the main role as DM. Arsene is playing with one AM and 2 midfielders, both Arteta and Song are given the freedom to roam forward and protect the back lines.

      But over the whole season, it became very obvious that, Arteta was the player who decided to sacrifice to allow Song to charge forward as much as he liked.

      This became so obvious when Arteta was injured and not playing. Rosicky was the AM, everybody knew that. That left Song and Ramsey or whoever was partnering him to do the defensive job. But so many times I felt like I was watching Arsenal with 3 AM and no holding or defensive midfielders. Both Song and Ramsey liked to go forward, so many times they were as high up as Rosicky, and leaving our 2 CD miserably exposed.

      Yes, Song always rushed back to help, and many times earned himself yellow cards, and also many times he was too far up to even make it back in time to help with defenses.

      Song is a very very good player, with one of the highest through ball completion in EPL, but obviously either he does not have the vision to know when to stay back and when to go forward, or he is expecting his partner to be as good as Arteta who knows when to stay back when he charges forward.

      As such, Song is still not a complete player, and far from world class. In fact, I think Arteta is much better than him in this context.

      Song helped Arsenal to score more goals, but without Arteta to cover his back, he also contribute to a lot of goals conceded, and yes, he has to take the responsibility, because Rosicky is the AM, he is not.

      Which is why I think Arsene is looking for an out and out DM, who can always cover the back, and then the full potential of Song can be released.

      Reply
  5. GunnerNvH

    Are you serious? First off Arteta plays a more attacking role than both song and wilshere, but that is besides the point. I’m tired of everyone thinkng M’vila is a replacement to Song because he is not. In the formation you have up top M’vila and song could play alongside each other as we saw this season Song likes to get up the field and assist goals. M’vila strength is that he tracks back very well. This being said arteta would be on the bench while our starting mids would be wilshere (more attacking) then m’vila and song.

    Reply
    1. davi

      “Arteta plays a more attacking role than both song and wilshere” – What!? If that were the case he would have had a crap season. He’s done virtually nothing going forward aside from a few goals, which have come from relatively few shots.

      Reply
  6. bc

    Thankfully i disagree with everyone. i dont think currently anyone has a responsibility to be the dm or the am hence why nobody is particularly impressing with a defensive.display or an attacking one. all of midfielders.can pretty much ay any of the 3 roles and in some.cases they can.play on the wings too. i think this jack of all trades needs to stop at least with the dm role. we need someone who is happy to.sit in front of the.back 4 and play basic football. breaking down attacks and making simple passes. mvila capoue nzonzi biglia ahmedov are all those type of players so are.coquelin and frimpong. song arteta wilshire diaby ramsey lansbury are all similar with only rosicky offering something different although he too can play like the others. i actually think the xmas tree formation would suit our players the best 4321 gives us such flexibility the 4 is straight forward and so is the one although the 2 full backs can be.deployed as wing backs if need be. the 3 can be any combination a dm and two ams one dm one holding one am. one dm and two wingers. even two dms and an am. the two can be ams or wingers or withdrawn forwards. im certain this is what wenger is striving for next season.

    Reply
  7. davi

    “coquelin and frimpong. song arteta wilshire diaby ramsey lansbury are all similar”
    I think these are all adaptable players, which is why wenger likes them, but they all have very different abilities. To my knowledge, no one really expected Wilshere to play such a withdrawn role in the first team, for example, because he was playing more of an attacking role or on the wing in the League cup and friendlies and hit quite a few goals in those games. He didn’t hang back last season because that’s just the type of player he is, he did that because that was the job he was assigned.
    Diaby has played out wide and even up front (although briefly), but has also been impressive sitting in front of the defence – he didn’t do that because that’s the type of player he is, everyone has seen his attacking skills, he did that because he was told to.

    Reply
  8. hak zah

    hi gooners,two things i want to remark on here:
    1)selling one of our best players for the last two seasons is no option,why would we do that?
    2) Song is solid defensively,he goes forward because he was given the licence to by our manager obviously,that has to change not selling song,no player would wonder forward without the blessing of his manager,we need to sort out having our defensive players pondering forward times and times again,that includes our back four too,we need to find a balance between attack and defence,so we can stop being caught unguarded and concede silly goals,
    i said that before unless we change our approach to the games ,we will end up chasing games most of the time.

    Reply
  9. duke p

    This is rubbish! I stopped readin wen I saw u contemplating d sale of song. He’s our best midfielder, strong and adds offensive quality with assists. @ best add a holding midfielder to cover for song bt I’ll never sell such a player who gave crucial assists to rvp. Buy bilglia, or m’villa and push song further up field and rotate him in DM. He’s far too indispensibleand our most consistent. I say keep alex. Wilshere is still uncertain, ramsey was @best average, rosicky is gud bt he cnt be relied onplus his stats arnt so great. We nid a DM so song cn concentrate on attackin yet add some defensive quality should we nid to park the bus.

    Reply
    1. James 'Raul' Stokes (Post author)

      If you had continued reading, you’d see I merely asked a question.

      I love Alex, but he is in no way indispensable.

      Reply
      1. cupsui

        Have to disagree there James.
        I think he is indispensible.
        We would not have finished in the top 6 without him this season, his strength, passing range, versatility, defensive skills are top notch. HE IS WORLD CLASS! and he is one of few gooners that stays fit (knock on wood). That makes him more valuable than anyone else including RvP over the last 4 seasons. Clearly RvP when fit is the most valuable player in the team thats why this whole situation with him is a little sad and frustrating as it has been Arsenal sticking by him during all that time off.

        Reply
        1. James 'Raul' Stokes (Post author)

          I appreciate you expressing your opinion without having to resort to abuse. Others take note…

          Reply
  10. david

    i don’t know why Arsenal loose big signing player, i think M’Villa should also neglect Arsenal because he think Arsenal is not a big club as compare to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man Utd, Chelsea .etc

    Reply
  11. WC

    Yeah because you know we did quite well when we only had one player who could play central mid when Arteta was injured. How did that record go? 1 win in about our last 7 games. Yeah we already lack quality squad depth, so selling Song and buying a replacement doesn’t deepen our squad, it just leaves it all the same. Coq and Frimpong might be good in the future but we have alot of those “might be world class in 5 years” players. We need more is world class right now players or at the very least above average on the bench players.

    Reply
  12. sam

    hmmm well said all u but i dont agree about selling song as a matter of fact song is the best playing that position.i will look at it this way instead of buying mvilla what we neeed is a creative cm who can pass the ball around and create chances for the trikers to score goes.so why won’t we buy marvin so that song can maintain his dm position

    Reply
  13. goonergooner

    yup i agree that we should sell him.

    however i would prefer not to sign m’vila. i would prefer javi martinez over him. paper quoted him saying recently he wasn’t happy playing CB @ bilbao… in my opinion if we sold rvp to juventus and song to real madrid (jose loves DMCs, right? lol….) and bought llorente and martinez i would be really happy and confident in our efforts next year. don’t get me wrong i grew up with these players i was 18 when most of that generation came in/through the club and i know we now need this transition and i’m sad to say it might include RVP ****if***** his heart isn’t 100% content on the arsenal cause and not just “ambition” (i.e. fame/adoration not stylish football which we have played every season up until the last 10 or so games of 2010-2011 and parts of 2011-2012. before that i don’t remember our style of play EVER being put into question except for the odd game but for the most part we were “the team to watch who never won anything”. shit got really depressing this year when we became “the team NOT to watch who never wins anything” so lets not try go there again.

    my entire preference is this:

    – sell RVP and song.
    – sell off remaining players who can’t either be registered in the 25 man squad and/or anyone who wants to leave (now days agents have twitter and facebook too lol… transfers happen instantly as papers are usually prepared).
    – buy llorente and martinez from bilbao.
    – sign holliet, gordon/green, demba ba and n’zonzi
    – keep bartley as he looks to be pretty good and an english prospect as he helped rangers to 2nd when everyone automatically expected them to finish 3rd in which they lost 4 games out of a possible 18 all by 1 or 2 goals and all mostly by faults of other defenders. what i’m getting at is he would be absolutely stellar with both vermaelen and koscielny and i’d almost prefer him to mertersacker even though i like him too. 4 defenders is necessary though as is two defensive midfielders and three strikers to compete in 4 competitions possibly 6 if you count friendly (they still run don’t they?.

    longest rant ever.

    Reply
    1. goonergooner

      just to add to that this is what my squad would be for next season:

      ———- szczesny ———-

      sagna – koscielny – vermaelen – gibbs

      ——- martinez —- arteta ——-

      ————–rosicky———-

      walcott——-llorente——podolski

      1) green
      2) mertersacker
      3) santos
      4) n’zonzi (wilshere***)
      5) oxlade-chamberlain
      6) gervinho
      7) demba ba

      resv) diaby, ramsey, bartley, coquelin, jenkinson, miyaichi, aneke, afobe

      *** why i don’t have wilshere in the squad is because he won’t be able to play at the start of the season and if he is fit he will take forever to get back into form. remember all the other players who came back from long injury layoffs…. rosicky, rvp, etc… they took 2-3 years to “settle” and had mini injuries in between. we need to take care of wilshere as he really is a class above them all (future xavi… IMO of course).

      Reply
      1. goonergooner

        fixed the reserves 😉

        resv) jr. holliet, joel campbell, diaby, ramsey, bartley, coquelin, jenkinson, miyaichi, aneke, afobe

        Reply
  14. olat

    This is a very good article,infact we really need to talk about this i wonder if you could or we should look at it carefully.Song as a player cannot be relived of his duty for this is more experienced and also he has premiership experience than all these players,but we should look at it very well at Barca xavi and inesta,when one of them is attacking the other is backing up to defence. Players like Ramsey,Arshavin,Diaby and host of others should be relived of their duty to get a better and experience players.Arteta is experience but never used to cover up we more look into this…

    Reply
  15. Anon

    No way should Arsenal sell Song. I am a firm believer that if you want success in the future you have to look at how you achieved success in the past. Again like this article has stated, we always have had a strong pair of players in the centre of midfield. Both of our most successful seasons under Wenger’s tenure have had 2 defensive midfielders, Petit and Vieira or Gilberto and Vieira. In both of the teams where these combinations were present. Arsenal were a dominant force in midfield, and a team whom nobody had the guts to mess with. I think with M’vila and Song, we could have that again. Song can usually boss anybody in the midfield who he is played against. M’vila is the same except he is more defensive minded whereas Song is more attack minded, It provides the perfect balance in our midfield then.

    One more signing is needed I think. We could all say that Vertonghen, Giroud, Belhanda etc. are all needed to strengthen the team and to a certain extent..yes they could all be very useful in getting Arsenal some silverware. But the most key player that i think Arsenal need is Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. With the possibility of Djourou leaving and the usual Arsenal injury problems, he could fill a void left by the verminator or koscielny and evn challenge them for a first team place. He is going to be a star of the future and i think we should snap him up as soon as possible.

    Reply
    1. James 'Raul' Stokes (Post author)

      Yanga-Mbiwa – I agree with you on that one. He looks very good,

      Reply
  16. Albert Lee

    If we bought M’Vila, and if we bought another AM, example Afellay, we will have simply too many players for CM! Rosicky, Song, Arteta, Wilshere, M’Vila, Afellay, Ramsey, Ox, Diaby.. and we also have good young player in Frimpong and coquelin! We are talking about 9 players for 3 positions without including Frimpong and coquelin! It is sad to see Rosicky back to bench after such impressive performance and finally found his confidence back. In fact, 3-4 of the 9 players may not even be on the bench!

    Yes, we all like to see a bench full of world class players, but that cannot happened because no world class players will be happy to sit on the bench, unless you pay him 200k per week. He may be able to endure for a few more months.

    Therefore, to have so many CM and most of them are very good players, are not healthy to the dressing room. Unhappy players will affect the mood and morale of the team.

    It is like a time bomb unless Arsene do something..

    Reply
    1. cupsui

      This is probs too late for anyone to read…
      But i would loan out Ramsey to a prem team for 6months. Sell Diaby…surely his time has come. And loan frimpong (he won’t be back til xmas anyway).
      That drops that number down to 6 and whilshere prob won’t be back consistently until around december anyway. And affelay is a winger who can play AM…versatile like we need…
      But he is 2nd priority (not essential but very handy) after a DM preferably M’vila or Capoue

      Reply
      1. cupsui

        depth competition for places…its the only way to compete for trophies other than the league and even for the league!!

        Reply
  17. umar toheeb vantjay

    it would be a great mistake by selling alex song, cos he is a player that has more to give

    Reply

Leave a comment. Go on, you know you wanna...