Alex Song – from zero to hero

“One Song, we’ve only got one Song.” This is a delightful little ditty sung by the Arsenal faithful, but also hard proof of the fact that young players can vastly improve, if given the chance. A couple of years ago the suggestion of such a chant for Alex Song would have been scoffed at. The 22-year-old was not a well liked figure amongst the Gunners fans back then, for he wasn’t up to speed. A poor first touch is hardly a trait associated with any successful player at the modern Arsenal and Song certainly struggled with his control during his initial period with the North London club. That was almost five years ago now, when the Cameroon international arrived on loan at the age of 17. Arsene Wenger has a proven track record for spotting raw talent and turning this into undoubted ability. It seems as though the Frenchman has done this again as Song must now be one of the first names on his team sheet – some turnaround. And Song recently said how grateful he is for this help from his boss and joked about his inability to trap a bag of cement when he first came to England…

“He would say, ‘I told you to come here because I watched you play and I know what you can do’. I have improved working with him. Now he will say to me, ‘Remember when you first came here, your first touch?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, boss, I remember’.”

Song has no such problems now and is a mainstay of the midfield trio at the Emirates. Since his return from the Africa Cup of Nations, the destructive midfielder has arguably been slightly off the boil, but this is only in comparison to the superb form he showed in the first half of this campaign, where he was consistently one of Arsenal’s top performers. The two-game suspension he is currently serving will probably actually do him some good and allow him to return fresh and get back to the high standards he has set for himself.

Song has now played over 100 games for the Gunners, really maturing into his role as the midfield anchor. Initially he started as a centre-back but Wenger knew he would be able to make best use of his talents further up the pitch. While he is not the quickest, he has the ability to take up good positions to end opposition attacks and has also added a good range of passing to his repertoire. Sometimes, he actually tries to be too adventurous with his deliveries, but maybe one day he will be able to pull off the more incisive passes he attempts. If he keeps improving at a similar pace it would be no surprise. Song has spoken of his enjoyment of his unselfish role for his side and also on the areas he needs to improve, such as his aptitude with his weaker foot.

“If I hold my position, the other midfielders can go forward, and if the other team attacks, my job is to slow things down to allow the others to get back. I improve a lot, the left foot. Now I can give a pass with the left, I use it and I’m sure I will be using it more in the future.”

In the near future though, Song will be looking to return to the side in just over a week’s time for Arsenal’s home match against West Ham, as they go in search of their first league title in six years. If they do it, it will be thanks to a group of young, but extremely talented, players – and their number 17 is one of the finest of the lot. There’s only one Song and his stature amongst Gooners everywhere will continue to rise if he carries on at his current rate of development.