Undoubtedly, Song has had a difficult time in the last few games. And I’m one among the many who have not been very happy with the change in his approach. It seems the player who impressed most of us as a Defensive Midfielder is trying to add more to his game. We can’t really fault that as a long as it doesn’t affect the balance of the team.
However, as the game against Sunderland showed us and more recently the ones against WBA and Partizan have proved, we struggle with our defensive balance when Song adopts a more adventurous style of play.
I first noted this change after the Bolton game itself. These are my exact words,
“I was surprised he pushed forward so often. Was he given the license to go forward? I thought he should have stayed back, our defenders needed some support with the second ball.”
At that time I didn’t harp on the issue because it takes away the joy of the win. Since then we’ve had plenty of discussion on this issue as a couple of poor results have brought the issue to the fore.
The worrying aspect that I’ve noticed is that many fans have started talking about dropping Song. This comes hot on the heels of the calls to drop Arshavin and Clichy. I see a dangerous trend developing here where fans are condemning players after just a couple of games.
Arguably, the noises against Arshavin and Clichy have been there for a while.
In the case of the Russian part of the problems come from the dislike towards his attitude and comments, many of which have been maliciously distorted. More recently, many fans have conveniently ignored the fact that he is far more involved with our attack this season and has already got more assists than all of last season. As a matter of fact, Arshavin has 4 goals and 5 assists in 8 games (6+2). He also put the two through-balls that won us penalties against the Spuds and if we also include his goal in that League Cup game, then his overall contribution has been nothing short of phenomenal.
In the case of Clichy, bulk of the criticism comes from the fact that he’s been guilty of some lapses in concentration and other mistakes leading to goals for the opposition. But sometimes fans don’t realize the difficult nature of his job in a system that Arsenal play. For instance, against WBA Clichy made the highest passes for an Arsenal player 79/86. That was almost a pass a minute and when you consider the fact that our midfielders didn’t do particularly well in the first hour (Eboue 8/15, Diaby 31/35 in 57 min), it’s not difficult to see that Clichy was playing as a defender while doubling up as a midfielder.
I don’t deny that some of our players have made mistakes and a few even repeatedly but the call for dropping players seems to be an extreme reaction that has come in vogue these days. It seems some fans think this is the only way the players will improve or learn their lesson. I consider that to be a flawed approach because it implies the players have no will to win and are happy with the mistakes they’ve mad.
Earlier this month I did an article discussing a quote by Wenger where the manager said we must be more open-minded. He was talking about the goalkeepers but it is just as easily applicable to the others as well. When we know the media just needs an excuse to create a negative story about Arsenal, refs are not going to give us much, and injuries are always going make it a challenge, why do supporters create further negativity with such a judgemental approach?
If Arsene started listening to these supporters we would have to drop Clichy, Song, and Arshavin. By popular opinion he should also keep Almunia, Fabianski, and Denilson out of the team as they are supposed to be useless. Effectively, we should start with kids like Szczesney, Gibbs, Wilshere, Vela, and JET more often. If that happens, will anyone be surprised if those kids were written off as useless within a few weeks as they struggle at the highest level without experienced heads around them?
I don’t know if some of this has to do with the relatively recent enthusiasm towards player ratings. It’s easy to put numbers like 3 or 4 in front of a player’s name. It’s also easy to call for their heads if this happens for two or three games in a row. As far as discussing the game or a players performance goes, I’ve no issues with criticism or highlighting mistakes. But we also need some perspective. Each player cannot be perfect in every game.
It’s also an issue of confidence. If a player makes a mistake we can point if out. But we can also help him improve with a positive reaction to his mistake. If, on the other hand, it seems that the fans are just sitting with a sword in their hand waiting for a chance to chop heads, it is going to affect the way players perform.
At Arsenal, these days, it seems the onus is on the player. Some fans are eager to jump on players who make a mistake or three. Perhaps, it’s the same at other clubs. I don’t know for sure but it’s certainly likely because this is closely connected with the growth of the internet. Everyone has a medium to voice their views and many are rash and exceedingly harsh.
One man’s rant doesn’t make a big difference but when others join in, it has a tendency of rapidly evolving into a popular opinion. Often, the line between opinion and fact gets blurred and the foundation of the rants that were written in a highly emotive state is then seen as a matter of fact.
You might point the finger at me for being harsh on occasions and I can’t claim to have a perfect, composed reaction to everything. But I try to avoid making sweeping statements and I’d like to believe I’ve improved over the last year or so. And frankly, that is my only request to other fans as well. I can relate to the disappointment and the frustration but when you want to communicate, just give it a second thought. Fans have a big role to play in the way the team performs and we don’t want to reach a state where someone can say Arsenal fans should be sacked!