Alex Song has flourished in his role as the deepest midfielder, his tackling and pressing key to Arsenal’s impressive start to the season.
It’s funny how a fresh start can result in a change in attitude and fortune. Arsene Wenger had mulled deeply during the previous season on how to reinvigorate his troops after what was becoming a dour campaign. His answer was to switch to a 4-3-3, playing a high intensity pressing game and bringing much fluidity to the side.
Pre-season failed to excite his boys but as soon as the real stuff started, they notched it up a few gears. The key to the early success has not been just the new system, the players willingness and attitude has been the most impressive. Fabregas has been liberated in the centre allowing him to dictate at will while behind him Alex Song and Denilson have provided the double shield, hassling and harrying opposition. While Denilson has steadily continued his unnoticed form last season Cameroonian Alex Song has been given extra responsibility and has gained an extra stride or two.
“I am the first defender in the midfield, if you like,” he said. “That means Cesc and Denilson can push forward a little more. I’ll stay in the middle so that I can stop counter-attacks and close passes down. I’ve seen everyone want the ball when we have it and everyone pressuring it hard when we don’t.”
His presence in the middle has already seen him make twelve successful tackles in his two league games (two unsuccessful) and while his reading of the game is not yet as developed as Denilson’s, that has still not deterred him from making fourteen crucial interceptions. There is an increasing level of evidence to show a specialist tackler is becoming of greater importance but come the bigger games, it must be complemented even more importantly with the effective reading of play. Arsenal’s dominance against Manchester United, despite their 2-1 loss saw the Gunners make 37 interceptions to United’s measly eight although the tackle counts were very similar.
Alex Song was at the forefront, breaking down play the most frequently and has also shown confidence on the ball. He hasn’t always been to everyone’s tune but with performances like these, will ensure his name is sung for months to come.