Arsene Wenger has made Arsenal the benchmark for youth talent and since arriving at Arsenal in 1996, has produced some of the most exciting young players that the Premier League has ever seen. With Wenger’s philosophy however, it is inevitable that not every youngster can make it. You only have to look through the list of Arsenal’s sides in the league cup in recent years to realise that not all of the young stars at the Emirates become key players for the Gunners. For every Cesc Fabregas there is two or three youngsters who only make the Arsenal bench, or even disappear into obscurity.
After watching his progress in the Arsenal squad over the last few seasons, my opinion of Alexandre Song began to differ slightly. Despite his obvious development, I thought Song would not fulfil his potential in becoming a key figure for Arsenal, believing him to continue as a squad player for years to come at Arsenal. How wrong I was.
Song has been one of the main reasons for Arsenal’s impressive start to the campaign. Wenger’s side lay in a commanding position in the Premier League table, having been written off by some after a 3-0 thrashing by Chelsea and remain in the Champions League and F.A Cup with an impressive fight back against West Ham yesterday. Song has cemented his place in the side and for many Arsenal fans, has become one of the first names on the team sheet. In previous years the Cameroon international acted as somewhat of a utility player, playing second fiddle to the starting eleven. In times of crisis Wenger would often throw in Song and hope for the best and although he often gave a solid performance, Song was unable to stake a claim for a regular position as he was forced to play differing roles.
This term however, Song has made the defensive midfield position his own. Arsene Wenger’s sides of previous seasons have regularly been criticised for lacking a strong defensive midfielder since the departure of Patrick Vieira and whilst I am not claiming Song to yet be of the Frenchman’s ability, he has certainly silenced these critics. His inclusion has enabled Wenger to switch to a 4-3-3 formation and he has become even more key since Robin Van Persie’s injury. Much of Fabregas’ form this year can be attested to the freedom that Song has given the Spaniard, yet the former Barcelona man is not the only man to have benefited. Andrey Arshavin has had to perform in a centre forward role that is foreign to him, yet Song’s positioning has enabled Eduardo and Abou Diaby to play in a front three, supporting the Russian. Arsenal’s distinctive creative play has been revelling through Song who not only provides defensive support, but also offensive as he is often the man to initiate attacks.
The Cameroon international is one of the members of the Gunners squad who will be missing during the African Cup of Nations and the upcoming weeks will do a lot to determine just how important Song has been for the side. Arsenal will look to fill the void left by Song and it will be interesting to see how Wenger adapts in his absence. His departure could not have come at a worse time for Arsenal considering he has been instrumental in what has been a stunning spell of form for Arsenal. Either way, when the Cameroon international returns, you can bet that he will walk be welcomed back with open arms and walk straight back into the Arsenal starting eleven.
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