Does Anyone Know What Song’s Role Is?

Alex Song has now scored three goals in three games. Excellent for a midfielder and astonishing for someone supposed to be a holding midfielder. Add the fact that all were crucial goals – first one against a determined Shakhtar side, game-killer against City, and the winner against the Hammers – and we have to acknowledge Song has been immense for us in the last couple of weeks.

The transformation of a player deemed useless by the Misery Brigade just a couple of seasons ago seems to be a continuous process. Last season he made the holding role his own. Many could not think of a team without Song in it. People thought our defence would be shredded to bits if Song wasn’t there in front of them. Such was his impact that there were demands for signing another Song like player as a back-up or even as his partner.

This season we have seen the Cameroonian add an adventurous streak to his game. It started with a few bursts up field and has slowly evolved into regular runs in attacking areas. It seems Song is graduating from the Holding role into a Box-to-Box style.

When Song scored against Bolton I was a little cautious and wrote that I’m not convinced by this approach. We saw him continue his attacking forays and even paid the price in a couple of games, most notably against West Brom. The experts on the internet had seen enough and passed their verdict. Unsurprisingly, there was a clamour for Song to stick to his defensive duties.

As regular readers will remember, we had a discussion on this topic a short while back and the consensus seemed to be that this seems like a strategic/tactical change. Most people who commented here were not against Song bursting forward as long as someone else was there to stay behind.

In recent games we’ve seen Denilson, Wilshere, and Cesc perform that role admirably. Our midfielders have shown better understanding and at least one, if not two, tend to stay closer to the defence. The results are there for all to see – three clean sheets in a run of five wins. Obviously we are doing something right.

In his post-match press conference after the win over the Hammers, Arsene made a very interesting comment about Song.

He has got the taste to go forward, even if I think a little too much sometimes for a holding midfielder!

By and large, Le Boss was praising Song but there is more to it. To me that comment shows Song’s transformation is a work in progress. This can be further seen from these comments attributed to Arsene,

He sees there is a big competition in midfield and that helps, because nobody is guaranteed a place.

Song has improved his engine. Before he was less mobile, now he does not need a breather when he goes and comes back, that has added something to his quality.

Since he has more stamina capacity, when we win the ball, he is on the move straight away and, when his timing is, he arrives at the right moment in the box.

That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? Obviously all our players can see there is plenty of competition in midfield even when Ramsey is injured. Many thought Cesc was joking when last year he said that his place was under threat due to the emergence of the Welshman. But the fact is we are building a phenomenal midfield (as a part of a fantastic squad) and it will motivate everyone to continuously raise their game.

What we must understand is that improving as a player or adding a new dimension to one’s game doesn’t happen overnight. While it is largely down to the player to make individual improvements that alone is not sufficient. Football is a team game and one player’s movement and work affects the others around him.

Some fans analyze the game in isolation. They think if the manager tells someone to shoot they can get up and start shooting more from the next day. Or if the manager tells them to sit in front of the back four then they’ll just be able to hold fort. It doesn’t work that way.

Adding something significant to one’s game takes time and effort. Players mature over time and not overnight, even if it seems that way to those who are quick to judge based on short memories.

Similarly teams mature over a period of time. City have signed plenty of proven players but it’s not working out for them. That doesn’t mean the players they’ve signed are useless or that their manager is a fool. Just that bringing so many players together, even of high quality, and making them perform in unison is not as simple as it would be in Football Manager.

It seems to me that we are in phase II of Song’s development. In phase I he moved from being a clumsy, rough tackling, unreliable defender to a hard-working, strong, physical defensive midfielder who could hold his own. But he knows there is more in him physically, technically, and mentally. And so does the manager.

As Arsene said, he has a better engine and stamina these days. It was one of the things I’d noticed. Song was able to go up and down the pitch almost effortlessly. In a few moments this season, we’ve also seen that Song can pick the final ball or provide the finishing touch with his head or feet. He has the vision and the instinct.

Of course there are some rough edges. It will take time to sort them out. I’m sure the Cameroonian works on them in training under the watchful eye of Arsene. But the major differences can only be made in match situations. In effect, what we are seeing right now is an effort to harness the latent potential that Song has.

Obviously, as I said earlier, it cannot happen in isolation. That means the others will also have to adapt their game. This will be a process of improvement/adaptation and will take its own time. In the interim, we might see some mistakes, lost opportunities, or even absolute blunders. That’s part of the game, so to speak. It will be up to the manager to ensure that we minimize the negatives while we develop the positives.

I’m one of those who really loves watching these transformations. At times the negatives can be frustrating and the results depressing. But at the end of the day I can learn so much about the game and witness something truly magical. We can all appreciate a beautiful flower but watching the transformation from a bud to the full bloom is something else. Certainly beats the joy one gets from telling a mate that the team you support is better than the team he supports!

At this point if someone asks me what is Alex Song’s role at Arsenal? I’d say I don’t know exactly but he is immense for us right now and on his way to being among the world’s best. And watching him blossom will one of the most cherished memories of my lifetime.

54 Responses to Does Anyone Know What Song’s Role Is?

  1. ed says:

    hes a defensive midfielder that can go forward as long as 1 or maybe even 2 players cover him.

    fabregas and denilson have improved their defensive games over the past 1-2 years. and therfore we are seeing signs of improvement.

  2. Royal_Arsenal11 says:

    i would say his role is to make sure we win games. if we need him on D, he’s there, when we need a goal, he’s there. its as simple as that.

  3. MSL says:

    I was not convinced that Song could make box-to-box midfielder due to his lack of pace. Not completely sold yet as it is still in progress but what is most satisfying is his hunger to get there. Another key point is how do rest of the midfield and back four adapt to this situation.

    Song going forward has the biggest advantage in that he causes confusion with opponents marking and creates one more person there. With good support around him he can develop quickly.Denilson did well in the second half yesterday to cover for him. He does misplace or misjudge passes but has developed the knack to be there at right time.

    From Center Half to DM to Box-Box eh? One of the first transformations of its kind? Research time.

    • AnonymousGun says:

      Not really.. case in point .. Dogba. of course, that guy went up another position up front .. but maybe in 2 years, Song reach up top too 😀

    • Metalhead says:

      Why should lack of pace be a hindrance to become a good box to box midfielder? Patrick Vieira was a typical example of a box to box midfielder and he wasn’t pacy by any stretch of the imagination. If anything the only hindrance according to me was his lack of passing ability and yesterday he proved that he can pass, viz. the through ball to Sagna. Top Draw!!!! But it will be very important for the other midfielders to cover him when he is moving forward, else we’ll struggle defensively.

      When Vieira was there he had Gilberto and Petit who were more than reliable to back him up. That’s why he shone in that role.

      • sambo, Ilorin says:

        Song also gave the through ball for the Arshavin penalty claim.

      • aravindvr says:

        Wonderful piece of work.
        I know with ‘Song go back and defend’-Misery brigade at its best after first few games,it was inevitable for a true Gooner to come up with such an article.
        Wengers primary policy is not youth or frugal spending or something like tht.
        Rather its about playing total football where any player at any position can play wonderful football.
        This is what hes always trying to achieve by his experimentation.
        Anyway as much as we enjoy the trio Cesc/Song/Wilshere or Denilson playing CM/DM/AM roles by switching and covering,we must be ready to accept that this is not gonna work all games.So we better support our team through all these mistakes (say learning).
        Its great to see all Almunia n Fabianski bashers are now praising our GoalKeepers.
        Similary we must trust in Arsene.
        Patience will reap benefits.

        You r spot on.
        A good Box-Box midfielder requires a good Reading of the game and Stamina rather than pace.
        coz a box to box Midfielder works down the packed centre not thru the flanks.
        So pace might be an advantage but not an essential quality.
        Is Song great in tht role?
        Only time will tell.But as of now things are looking positive for him.

  4. 7masters says:

    Haha I like your misery brigade tag, They started it with AKB tag now it back to them. Arsene wenger has made plenty of mistake which has made our job double harder, Namely selling quality players and not replacing them. But one thing we all agree is the fact he an expert in polishing rough diamond and path their career at successful club like Arsenal is not easy but he has done it. Jack Wiltshire is a good example and Song, Denilson to name few. Now if we listen to misery brigade none of these players would have come to fore and be what they are today, But also along the line we have been bullied into selling players to easily and in the regard Wenger need to stand firm.

    What I cannot understand is almost every other game we hear that these player or that is former Arsenal player, Some in tops team Like Chelsea Ashley Cole. Who I think was mistake to get in part exchange plus William ‘Trouble’ Gallas, Instead we should asked for full fee 25 million up front which Chelsea Where ready to pay. It would have spared us Gallas and his troubles, He created division in dressing room, made Younger players fight etc Adebayor vs Bendtner to name few. Another biggest mistakes was to make Gallas Captain not Gilberto who was a good leader by example.

    Mistakes after mistakes but we should continue supporting Arsenal no matter what happen. The misery brigade are not good supporters and I doubt they would like to be exposed openly in Public like they to players. The need to zip it and shut up for once.

    It getting crazy with there constant blame game, What A bunch of bores.

    • Mick says:

      You can’t blame Gallas if Adebayor feels he must fall out with a teamate every few years ( Kompany). As for Song, provided will outscore our opponents then who cares?

  5. Dan Smith says:

    Really enjoyed reading this mate. Its so true regarding the flower analogy. And we’ll be witnessing many blossoms in the near future. Nasri, Walcott, Bendtner just to name a few have stepped their game up. We have real depth to the squad at last Its exciting times to be a gooner! Brilliant piece again mate!

  6. dino says:

    One thing I am noticeing this season is that change wenger made at central defence wich helped song to go more forward ..last year there were a times you will see Gallas and Vermalin both in atack midfield posission and no one to defend at the back and teams with quick strickers in contra atck killed us . but now i see Kos and Scolaci they do only the defence jobe properly you will never see sculeci in oponents half unlws its a free kick . so i think thats what it should be and that keeps us a clean sheeet to …

  7. Gooner92 says:

    I’m sold on the idea because it works. A midfield with fabregas song and wilshere is perfect as 1 always seems to go back when someone moves forward. For the people that don’t think it’s working just look at the clean sheets recently so as long as we keep winning and don’t concede goals then keep doing what your doing song.

    • tcarpenter5 says:

      I agree. Aresenal does not seem to get burned on the counter and that shows they are still maintaining shape even if Song goes up. And if him going forward is creating more chances I don’t think Arsene will have a problem with it. The midfield is solid enough with fabregas and wilshire to hold their own when Song goes forward. If it proves to result in problems we know wenger will put a stop to it, I however like the aggresiveness and the added dimension it gives the gunners.

    • AnonymousGun says:

      Playing the devils advocate here, we got 3 clean sheet with Jack out of the team.


      *skips away*

  8. armshavin says:

    now tell me what is denilson’s role on the last match
    he didnt hold the ball, he didnt do what DM should do,
    he just passing side ways
    so i think it is better to let song moves forwards, as denilson cant pass the ball pass the opponent.
    if denilson can cover the back 4, then it would safer.
    it looks our def now trusting the goalkeeper

    • AnonymousGun says:

      He passed side ways because that was his role! He is meant to ensure a passing outlet and keeping the tiki taka engine rolling.

  9. skwam says:

    where does this all leave diaby….he’s behind wilshire, denilson, rambo when he returns and some other youth team players are breathing down his neck….arshavin is another that will soon feel the pressure of youngsters knocking for the left wing position….but all good for the strength in depth and competition for a jersey in the arsenal squad….good times

  10. HexyDre says:

    Another good piece. At this point, I’ll just say…’In Arsene we trust!’

  11. midou says:

    did anyone notice that at 1 point where westham had a corner,fabiansky pulled fab shirt to position him and fab fellow the orders of the kipper and ended cleering the ball away.just brilliant.

    • GoonerTerry says:

      Yes I noticed that – AND the pundits covering the match commented on the fact too. It shows that Fabiansky is gaining real confidence and that confidence is being transmitted to the rest of the defence. I applaud Arsene for sticking to his guns (pun intended) when he was under pressure to go out and spend, spend & spend on players that were not improvements on the players he knew we already had at the club. And, and I can tell you that there is more to come (i.e. next season when Frimpong, JET, the boy Aneke (sp)…and several others are ready to step up we will really see Arsenal’s golden generation…

  12. Gurkhaligunner says:

    Haha he’s a allrounder footballer lol ……

  13. clarence says:

    we have a very serious problem now.. i suppose this is the 1st time we have more den 50% of our squad available, and most are under 25, so all of them can improve and hungry to play..

    we have 3 midfield role which is covered by fab, whilshere, song, nasir, rodosky, diaby, denison, ramsy ( not available yet), 3 striking role for chamak, rvp, bendter, walcott, vela, ashivin, (rodosky, nas can play here too ). i have not inculd those up and coming youth players yet~

    to keep them all happy, we Must challege the quadraple every season to get enuf play time for all of them. finally, this si the 1st time in 6 years since i am so excited and confident of our squad. in ter of overall squad quality, including bench, i doubt there are many teams can match us, beside real marid or Man C.. barca has a vry weak bench, and too reliant on messi..

  14. Archimedes says:

    The team improves thru rising internal competition for positions. Injuries are detrimental for two reasons of which the first is obvious but the second reason is that internal competition also receives a blow. Players will therefore have to evolve and improve in order to be selected, many says it is down to coaching but a lot also comes from self awareness.

  15. james says:

    Song’s really stepped up over the past 2 seasons, its been too amazing and I do think he’s probably no. 2 or 3(Cesc, TV) in our must-haves because of his physicality. My only problem is how this transformation would work against the bigger, better teams: I’m almost of the mind that he does the box-to-box experimentation against park-the-bus smaller teams but stays home against tougher teams but I’m also scared that this can’t work since there’s no need developing that side of his game if he can’t perfect it against tougher teams.
    The question as always is what’s the position of the last midfielder (seems lil’ Jackie has owned that role) just wished we could have seen the whole thing against both Chelsea and Citeh (Cesc, Song and Wilshere) since the question is how well will Song decide to hold back for Wilshere to make inroads upfront in periods where he’s either not connecting well with Cesc or he’s needed to front the back four and allow the smaller wizards to cut open the front.

  16. dapo says:


  17. Naylyn says:

    Song’s transformation and Cesc’s excellent defending is making me imagine a fully dynamic midfield. Imagine a midfield that reshapes as need be with players switching positions as they need to. It is already happening to some extent and it stretches teams because players can attack where ever there is space.

    If Song continues like this we will have Cesc, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey and Song who I would probably feel confident with in any of the midfield roles, plus Diaby, Denilson and Nasri who have pretty much one element of their game which needs to be able to improve to be able to player that game.

    Then all we need to do is make it into a totally dynamic front 6…

  18. Desi,
    I do not agree with this article.

    > even if I think a little too much sometimes for a holding midfielder!

    I think this is the problem, when somebody is acting beyond the managers advise.

    I do not think Song becoming a striker and we loosing 10 points in the season is worth the growing up. We can allow younger players to make mistakes but not the first team regulars. Their improvement should certainly not come at Arsenal’s expense.
    Who knows Westbrom’s 3 points might be very valuable in the end might be the deal breaker. I certainly do not accept this gung-ho improvement of a first team regular with a large risk of loosing points. Even though he had decent performances in the past 2 games, his performances at the start of the season were awful. Let us assume we lost 3-4 points somewhere else (Sunderland comes to mind) our season would be done.

    I also think this is just too early to come up with this article. We played Man City with an extra man so we had the luxury of allowing him forward. And against West Ham anyways they were sitting behind there is no harm, or we needed the extra numbers in attack.

    Hopefully he can make the judgement in each match and understands what he should do.

  19. The biggest advantage of the change i would say is not Song’s improvement but the other midfielder’s defensive awareness. That makes Song droppable , or for that matter anybody is dispensable.
    This change makes everybody understands the defensive side of the game there by the team’s defense does not stop with the back 6, this is indeed a master stroke by Arsene. This makes way to see the dream midfield of Ramsey, Wilshere, Cesc.

    Ramsey was being groomed exactly this role , seeing the trend Wilshere is also being groomed for similar role.

    The only one who does not have any defensive duties/does not do much defensively is Arshavin.Going by the trend ,I do not think Wenger is going to allow such a free role for him in future.

  20. Snir Geuli says:

    Song’s going forward is the most dangerous weapon we have as an attacking team.

    Very simple, when he goes forward, he is not considered a threat and not marked as a threat like Chamakh, Arshavin, Cesc, Wilshere, Nasri are, meaning he gets to pockets of space that different players won’t get to.

    It’s just up to him to take advantage of the space given to him given his reputation of not being a goal scorer and he’s taking FULL advantage!

    In addition, just like AW said, he’s a lot fitter this year so even if he’s too far up the pitch he gets back quicker than the opposition can break forward in addition to having the other player cover for him.

  21. arvind says:

    Be aware… can someone say the next making of Vieira? think about it? box to box…. score, pass, defend..hmmmm

  22. Gunner says:

    hmm.. 2 viera (ie: song and wilshere) at the back supporting fab in the midfield.. kinda of scary~

  23. Bode says:

    Oh frimpong, my dear frimpong! Imagine a midfield with frimpong right behind song. It would give our defence some bone

  24. cin says:

    role is not at all important.
    He is the one of the best in the team now.
    He is the player improved most in the team.

  25. realex99 says:

    I’m at lost with the hype of Song all of sudden. The only thing he can do better than our midfielders is to sit in front of the back four.
    If you watch the matches closely with him and Wilshere in the team, you would see he is almost always ahead of Wilshere when we are attacking, and that gives the young boy a lot of defending to do.

    • Yup me too. I dont think he has done anything great to be honest. Wilshere has been more successful when going forward. He almost got an assist or goal every 4-5 times he goes forward. Song is simply doing something better than what he has been doing rather than doing better than others in the team.

  26. The BearMan says:

    What we have to realize is this our Song’s role changes every time a family member has a dream that he will score a crucial goal. So far it has worked brilliantly, now what we want all the other players wives and children to start doing is dreaming BIG DREAMS the night before each game from now on in.

  27. The BearMan says:

    The day before a match, Wenger should interview all the family members. How many of you had dreams last night? Anyone answering No! He should reply OK, you, you and you are on the bench this week, you are letting down the side. LoLLLLL

    Excuse the Bear today folks, he has not had his honey and is about to be ushered to Nutty Land. Hahaha

  28. Lanz says:

    I hope my comment is not rather late. AW claims he bought Denilson to replace Gilberto. However, he also says Denilson “is somewhere between Gilberto and Rosicky”, implying that Denilson is more of a box to box. What is going on now is that Denilson is being forced to play more of a holding role because of Song’s adventures. I wonder how song will play when Wiltshire plays because certainly Denilson will not be there. Not only so, remember Song is some kinda back-up central defender. If he continues this his box to box thing, I fear he will altogether lose his defence instincts. I would prefer he stays in his holding role especially as Wiltshire seems to be as well a good tackler. Or perhaps it is in anticipation of Song’s metamorphosis that we are after Mboj (hope I got the name right)?

  29. Terminator says:

    arsenal vs west ham analysis
    watch song’s role

  30. Davi says:

    Song is becoming essien with better close control and passing range.
    Wenger is amassing a squad of very complete players who can perform multiple roles. Wilshere, nasri, song, denilson, diaby, (rosicky) – all of these central midfielders can contribute significantly both offensively and defensively; some more than others, but all can do a job in all areas of the field.

  31. dreddy says:

    That is an ExCELLEnT Video perfectly explaining Song’s role.. and how the team in general works. I believe we can almost stop looking at Arsenal’s formation with an actual DM. We do have Song and Denilson/Wilshere playing the deeper roles to begin, which is different from last season where we only had Song in that role. Now with both able to pass the ball around and keep the play moving, we create a completely robust and fluid midfield where we don’t need 1 deep lying defensive mid. Problem is when Song started this development at the beginning of the season.. there wasn’t much cover in the defensive role.

  32. afrogoon says:

    Your usual top notch writing Desie…….personally i have never understood people’s fascination with ‘song should stay back, he is a holding midfielder’ type argument…..i have always thought we play a very fluid system so it is counter – productive to tell a player to just sit back……even the defenders are required to bomb forward to create opportunities or score themselves when the situation demands…….that is the key however….getting the timing right…..for song to improve his timing he has to ‘practice’ and what better way to do this than try in games……how does one succeed when you don’t try…..i guess this question escapes the misery brigade…the players have to be smart enough to know when to pass and move or stay back otherwise the whole system falls apart….besides if he goes forward it creates space for Jack Wilshire to create from deep whereas Fab and song can wreak havoc on the opposition further up the field……..people just need to see the other side of the coin at times or think outside the box….some folks are still stuck with the ‘makelele’ role in their minds.Just as a few years ago it was we need a ‘big, hard, strong enforcer in the middle of the park when the game has moved on with ball playing dm’s being in vogue now.

    Look at Barca….they hunt in packs hence reclaim the ball back much faster… is not left to one player to do that ‘Makelele’ role…….football is about evolution………..Have a great day Desie……once again….kudos to you for your excellent daily blogging…… word to describe this blog is ‘ERUDITE’……keep up the good work.

  33. […] Does Anyone Know What Song’s Role Is? Alex Song has now scored three goals in three games. Excellent for a midfielder and astonishing for someone supposed to […] […]

  34. santori says:

    Did you hear the interview with Wenger in which he said : “Song is doing the reverse. he started as a CB, then a holding midfielder and now he is a striker!”:D

    If the midfield perfects this system of rotating responsibilities, we will be very tough to beat.

    Agree that players need to develop different dimensions to their play in face of competition.

    Point in case Denilson. He is fairly strong with his shooting from range. If he can improve this and his set pieces, he will be a very useful weapon in our Arsenal.

    Ditto Diaby (Yes he’ll have to work much harder now). His forward play is good. What he (obviously)needs is to improve the defensive side of things (and there are reasonable signs to suggest he is getting there.

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