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Playing Song further forwards? Just how many points has that cost us?

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By Corley

After the Fulham game, Arsene Wenger indicated that he had instructed Alex Song to play further forwards this season in an effort to open up more room in midfield. General reaction around the blog-o-net seems to be that Wenger must be crazy.  ‘He’s a holding midfielder! He should hold! This is why our defence is so poor!’

I don’t necessarily disagree. But how many points would you say we’ve dropped, how many points would some bloggers say we’ve dropped, on account of Song’s positioning? The answer might surprise you.

In this article, I’m going to review all the times when we’ve dropped points this year. For each goal we’ve conceded in those matches, I’ve looked at the videos I could find and tried to determine if Song’s positioning was at fault or not. The goal is to see whether Song’s forward play has actually led to us dropping points this year.

In order to avoid nitpicking, I’ve made the following rule: if I can’t see where the goal came from (as is the case with some free kicks whose highlights begin and end with the goal and don’t show the buildup), I’ve assumed the goal was directly as a result of Song getting caught too far forwards. This way, the number that comes out should be as bad as possible.

I’ll keep a running Song Positioning Total through the article. After each game, I’ll try and see how many points Song’s forward positioning has cost us this year.

Liverpool:

1-0.           Overconfident passing in our defending third and sub-awesome goalkeeping leads to two points dropped. Song’s positioning? Not at fault.

SPT: Even

West Brom:

I think most of us would agree that this one mostly sits on Almunia’s shoulders, right?

1-0             For the first goal you can see Song sitting right in front of the back four like we’d prefer the entire time. Maybe he should track the run, but the problem clearly isn’t his getting caught too far upfield. Song’s positioning: Not at fault.

2-0             He should probably do better here to track Jara’s run but I don’t think you can say it’s a question of positioning, just switching off at the wrong time. Song’s positioning: Not at fault.

3-0             In the highlight I watched (arsenalist.com) you can’t see Song anywhere in the clip. Farcical goalkeeping, of course. But since I promised to hold him accountable if I couldn’t tell, here I am. Song’s positioning: at fault (by default).

SPT: -1

Chelsea:

1-0             Don’t think you can fault Song here–Cole’s run isn’t tracked by Nasri, Drogba pulls a wonderful finish from nowhere for the first. Song’s positioning: Not at fault.

2-0             Free kick from Alex.  I haven’t been able to find a highlight showing where the free kick came from. So if we assume he’s guilty, that’s a goal on his account. Song’s positioning: at fault. But can you honestly claim we were getting point there?

SPT: -1

West Ham:

I think you have to say he’s earned us two points here by getting forwards in a game headed for 0-0. Song’s positioning: earned two points.

SPT: +1

Newcastle:

1-0             Goal came from a FK won nicely in the air by Carroll. On MOTD you can see that Song’s caught a little forwards from where he ought to be. He puts in a decent tackle on Tiote/Ameobi but Gutierrez gets in good position and wins the FK off Sagna.  This seems like our first actual candidate for a point dropped clearly because Song got forwards. Song’s positioning: possibly at fault.

SPT: Even

Spurs:

1-0             Ridiculous. Ball played into the heart of D—wouldn’t have been Song’s position anyways, just bad work from CBs. Song’s positioning: not at fault.

2-0             Song’s fair tackle -> terrible free kick -> bad decision by Cesc -> penalty. Song was in the exact right place on the pitch, just got whistled for a good tackle. Song’s positioning: not at fault.

3-0             Kaboul’s flick from a free kick on the right. As I recall, Koscielny was skinned by Bale and brought him down. I can’t find fantastic video evidence for this one, though. Lots of clips, few conclusive about where Song was or where he should have been. Assuming it was his fault even though Koscielny gave away the kick, even though the kick was on the right flank where Song doesn’t play. Song: At fault.

Braga and Shakhtar away have been omitted because Song didn’t play in either of them.

Season SPT: -1

Of the 10 goals we’ve conceded this season in games where we’ve dropped points and Song has played, a maximum of four of those goals can be attributed to Song’s attacking positioning. One of these goals, and this one is indeterminate, came in the dying minutes of a match (Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal) most supporters would agree we weren’t taking points from anyways.

The root causes of two of the goals (Arsenal 2-3 West Brom and Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham) are difficult to determine from the available videos (if anyone has MOTD taped from these games and can tell me what happened, I’d be very appreciative). In the worst-case-scenario, in which both of these mystery goals are directly given up because of Song’s positioning, these goals constitute two points dropped.

For only one of these goals (Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle) is there direct video evidence available that Song is caught too far forwards.  We can definitively say that at home against Newcastle Song’s forward positioning cost us 1 point. Although even then the goal required a foul by Sagna, poor marking, an excellent free kick, and a poor effort from Fabianski. Combined with the worst-case-scenario against Tottenham and WBA, this is a total of 3 points dropped.

But most supporters would agree that Song earned us 2 points against West Ham with his diving header. So even under the most critical possible lens—assuming Song’s positioning led to ALL unclear goals we’ve given up while dropping points—Song’s positioning has cost us a total of 1 point this season. But I think that further examination/better videos would likely reveal that the Tottenham goal was not up to Song’s positioning. In that case, his forwards play has been a wash.

I won’t deny that his forwards play has led to some hairy situations—yellow cards for him and sometimes his teammates, free kicks given away in bad positions, some bad times for the centre backs. It’s possible Song should start holding all match every match. But a review of the available video evidence shows that what Wenger has asked him to do has had a net effect on our points total somewhere between +1 (if you choose to not believe Song’s positioning was at fault for the WBA and Spurs goals) and -1 (if you choose to believe Song’s positioning was directly at fault for these goals).

Troubling to lose a point, certainly. And his positioning might have something to do with the defence seeming frail to watch, something to do with elevated heart rates among Arsenal supporters. But I don’t think you can make a very strong case that the manager’s instructions have been crippling our season. After all…we’re top of the league.

Political note: if you are a UK resident and you agree that it is wrong that government funding should be cut while Vodophone, Topshop, BHS, Dorothy Perkins, Barclays Bank, and most recently Cadbury, should avoid UK tax by utilising tax loopholes that the UK government refuses to shut down, please visit UK Uncut

Non-political notes:

Life, the universe, Arsenal

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Why are you always going on about the past?

45 comments to Playing Song further forwards? Just how many points has that cost us?

  • gooner80

    I think the alex free kick for chelsea was conceded by a tired challenge by one of the CB

  • munawwar

    song also scored the 2nd goal against citeh.

  • reece

    Although song may not be at fault for many of the goals, he does leave our defence open and when the other team counter attacks they constantly look as if they can score. This is worrying as with a bit of composure, the other team could of equalised/won the game. The defence looks vulnerable as it is….

  • jaymin

    yeah you’re right, it’s a brilliant idea. let’s see how it works against madrid or bayern or barca. No defensive mid in a team accommodating three new central defenders and playing 4 3 3. we are insane if song is being instructed to bomb forward. he was never even really great as a strict defensive mid. now he’s not even expected to be dedicated?

  • Bootoomee

    Jaymin,

    BAYERN or BARCA!!!! AAAAAAHHH!!!!

    Be afraid, be very afraid!

  • Dark Prince

    I’ve seen a lot of times that defensive midfielders are almost defending in line with the central defenders while the opposition is doing a counter attack. How often do we see Song among the defenders while the opposition has counter attacked us?? I guess it would be nil.

  • I’m not sure we can approach this issue statistically. The way you’ve put it does make a case for Song’s current position being ideal, but like reece and you mentioned, the defence looks collectively ragged without his presence as a pure defensive mid.

    If you had to do it statistically, you should include the number of times we had to make a last ditch tackle or Fabianski had to make a tough save. Which frankly is unrealistic I think.

  • Bootoomee

    Who needs facts when we’ve got perception?

    It is perceived that Song is responsible for all our woes defensively this season. Who cares if there’s no evidence to back it up?

    Arsenal is perceived to have by far the worst defence in the league, who cares if other contenders have been shipping in goals? Come on, we all know that Chelsea epitomises great defensive teams and their recent form is only a blip! But Arsenal? Can’t even keep a clean sheet (the all important clean sheet!) if their lives epend on it!

    Arsenal fans, we are going to get hammered at OT on Monday, then by any of Bayern, Barca, Schalke or Real in February. Oh blogging gooners, BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID!!!!

  • Dark Prince

    I think our tactic of having 2 defensive midfielders is a little bit error prone. The defensive midfielders are having an identity problem now, they dont really know who’s covering who behind them. Having one DM which only goes forward till the half line and maybe a few attacking runs is acceptable. But having 2 DM is making it confusing for the people at defence and midfield also.

  • Dale

    Song also got the assist for the first goal against Wolves which he may not have done playing further back.

    However, what about his sending off at Sunderland. Was that due to bad positioning?

  • Dark Prince

    I think its also a problem of the absence of Cesc who i think is both a defensive midfielder and an attacking one too. And he’s bloody brilliant at it. So even if Song use to go ahead, there was Cesc who used to stay behind and who i think reads the defensive game rather well. But now without him, we’re having Song and Wilshere who both probe forward together which i think really makes our defence too open. Denilson is probably an average defensive midfielder, he reads the game well and is good at interceptions but is not physical enough to tackle opponents to take back possession and is also not good in the air to deal with the second ball.

  • Dale

    Actually, I just re-read Walter’s ref review and Song’s yellow cards against Sunderland were very harsh so he was probably not at fault.

  • walter

    Great work Corley.
    I have the feeling that some of the Song haters out there are trying to have another go at him after last season had to keep their mouth shut and admit that he wasn’t that extremly bad at all.

  • I guess Arsene Wenger is a little bit better football expert than me, so probably he know what he is doing.
    Or we have all to believe that Wenger became masochist who enjoy others slapping him.
    But I agree with DP (strange) that his partner in DM role need to cover him more when he get too much up front.

  • IncredibleG

    There is an argument that Song’s movement makes us look frailer because we get some gaps between our midfield and our defence. The thing is, Arsenal’s version of “total football” can only benefit from every player feeling confident to maraud forward when opportunities present themselves. The other element required is every player being alert enough to cover for this movement from their team-mates. That’s too completely separate learning curves, which is why its taking a while to work and there’s no way of learning it on the training pitch.
    The only way a team can stay on top is to constantly develop. We are not going to reach some staggering plateau of excellence and stay there forever, there are too many variables from year to year. We have to adapt and improve every season or get left behind and that means we will have periods of adjustment from time to time. What’s important is, as you’ve shown here, that we don’t allow these developmental periods to effect our league position.(!!!)

  • DC

    @ Reece,
    I agree. Our biggest problem defensively is in the holding midfield position and Lord Wenger has to be held responsible. If you look at how Barcelona play, and especially against Real Madrid last week, Busquets never ventured anywhere near the final attacking 3rd and always shielded his 2 central defenders. He assisted the full backs when needed but hardly ever left the centre it created a gap between the back 4. Furthermore, Busquets is a great midfield-splitting passer of the ball which is very helpful to the way that Barcelona play, and how we play. We don’t have a player who is that disciplined in that role and with those skills, although Jack could certainly be made to play that role, but at least with Song, he would have to strength and ability to stop every team exploiting this obvious weakness in our defensive setup. Denilson who now plays this more traditional holding role more often than not just doesn’t cut it and doesn’t have the strength or courage to stick his foot in. He’s been more culpable than Song. All Arsene needs to do is tell Song or Wilshere to just sit and let the front 4, with either one of the fullbacks, go forward and attack. Also, without the ball, everyone must close down the ball higher up the pitch bug do it in an intelligent and calculated way, not Gung Ho jumping in like Clichy does on many an occasion. It’s so easy to see where our biggest problem is and it is in that space between the midfield and the central defenders – there is absolutely no discipline there whatsoever and it always looks school boyish at best!

  • DC

    Apologies for the typos and grammatical errors! New phone with a smaller keyboard and somewhat inept predictive texting with a mind of its own!

  • Samuel

    Still the same hogwash from fickle Arsenal fans as Song,s drive into the opposition box after winning the ball and his quick one two with Nasri got Arsenal a third goal and effectively killed off the match for Partizan ,yet these same fickle fans cannot see the positive contribution Alex makes game after game ,so when he pushes right up the pitch other midfielders/defenders need to step into the breech left by Song and stop the attacks through the midfield,Denilson did it rather well ,can Wilshere,Ramsey ,Diaby do the job ,therein lies the problem to a so called leaky defence ,stop the midfield attacks from the opposing team ,what,s the problem ?

  • Samuel

    We don,t want or need Nasri,Arshavin,Chamakh,Rosicky or van Persie to keep on dropping deep to get the ball as midfielders should be getting the ball quicker up front but Wilshere,Eboue,Cl
    ichy and Sagna cannot get this done,too much lateral passing then backwards again slowing the game down with our wingers unable to go past their opposite winger and get plenty crosses into the box for Chamakh to score ,the same old story game after game,why,s that ?

  • Steve Palmer

    In all fairness to Alex Song in what ever role Wenger wants him to play you can only admire the enthusiasm this young man musters if only we had nine more like him,when he’s played in the holding role he still has a tendancy to creep too far up the pitch, he seems to like playing that role more and plays the role very well, i wonder if putting Gibbs up into the holding position and giving Song licence to roam could be a solution Arshaven has hardly shone in his role and very seldom do we get more than 70mins from him,Gibbs i feel is not being used enough and at the moment this shows when he is called on, we have to anticipate his injuries will not hinder him to much.

  • captain cesc

    btw song didnt play vs liverpool

    he was injured, diaby played in the middle with jack

    song returned vs blackpool and he played at centre back

  • Dark Prince

    Lol. I think there is only one solution to this problem which i think every arsenal supporter will agree too. And thats – bring back a fit Cesc to replace Denilson and a fit Vermaelen to replace either of the central defenders. Both are absolutely vital to the team to make a serious impact against Chelsea and United. Infact i’d go further and say that if with the present squad, we hav a fit Cesc and Vermaelen by the time the round of 16 comes then i believe we can beat Barca and Madrid convincingly.

  • shayomi

    mikel’s game was altered by the special one and we see the effect on our national team,telling song to go upfront as really affected our defenders.
    It will be hard for song to play at the way he was playing b4 bcos he now enjoyed it.
    If u want song to go upfront then the formation should change.

  • JohnW

    I think a combination of Song’s bizarre forays upfront and the manager’s inability to ensure balance in the team is the real reason why we are shipping goals. Come Monday, should we track Nani, Park and Rooney very well, we will win it. But is there a realistic chance of this happening?

  • diba

    I really do not think there should be an orthodox role for a player to sit in front of the defense I think those days are over the midfield football should be about dynamism and equilibrium and if you ask me I think Song has made a case for him self going forward because he just do not only score but have some decisive passes to his game.The problem is the players that are suppose balance his forward runs like Denilson should in the first goal for Spurs mostly tire out and so does Wilshire even though he can run better than Denilson. Diaby is suppose to foot this bill but is either too inconsistent or injury prone.I personally believe a more defense minded partner to Song will benefit the team as I think there is a side of his game upfront that will be a plus to the team.

  • walter

    “Enjoy yourselves guys”, how long is it since this sentence is used in football…..

    Football is a team sport and if one players goes forward on a run then the others should see this and see if there is still enough cover behind that player and if needed track back a bit themselves.
    This season Song has given us already goals, assists and yes maybe he was caught out of position on a few occasions. Who programmed him? Fire the one who wrote the software for Song.

  • DC

    @ shayomi,
    Good point! Arsene needs to decide once and for all who he wants to be his purely defensive midfielders. That’s what all the best teams, including Barcelona currently, have! We have more than enough attack-minded players so Song does not need to step up! Cesc is not a defensive midfielder, he is a creative one like Xavi. We massively need a holding and destructive midfielder like Busquets or Mascherano to compliment him and Song can more than do this right now!

  • Paul C.

    Of all the comments I think only Dark Prince got it right. Look at AW’s comment about Song again. He wasnt saying that he has told Song to bomb forward all the time. He was saying that, in the absence of Cesc, against teams that come to our place and park the bus behind the ball, he has told Song to get forward more in order to create more numbers in attack and pose the opposition some questions.

    Having Cesc in opur midfield changes everything. Cesc is multiple attackers roled into one. He is a creator and a finisher. When Cesc is playing then we can hold a midfielder back to cover in front of the back four. That would be Song.

    We have all seen teams defend deep against us and a couple of years ago, when Song first came into the team regularly (2nd half of the 2008/09) season it resulted in a whole string of 0-0 or 1-1 games that were painful to watch. Cesc was missing then as well. Look at the stats. After Cesc got injured that season our next run of PL games was 2-1,1-0,1-1,1-1,2-2,1-0,1-0,3-1,1-1,0-0,0-0,0-0,0-0. In 13 games we scored 13 goals. So this season, in the absence of Cesc, AW has asked Song to push forward more, to try and create more than destroy, even if that costs us the occasional goal.

    Once Cesc gets fit and back in the side then Song, or AN Other mdifielder, can drop deeper and play more defensively.

    Right now AW is gambling on scoring goals rather than defending, especially at home against teams that drop deep and defend.

  • Paul C.

    And for those of you comparing our situation to Barca, dont be silly. Busquets can do that because in front of him he has Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro and Villa. When we have everyone fit, especially Cesc, we can provide that sort of firepower. But do people remember what Barca’s form was like earlier in the season when Xavi was unfit? They struggled to score goals against teams dropping deep and defending. Xavi is their Cesc.

    It is a balance.

  • DC

    Align Song with a veracious, compact, defensive unit that pressurises and chases when we don’t have the ball, and we will not lose many matches!

  • DC

    @ Paul C,
    No doubt we are a better side with Cesc than without; which team, including Barcelona and Spain, wouldn’t be! However, I disagree with your view on the comparable inadequacy of our midfield and attack wrt creativity and goal-scoring – our attacking stats speak for themselves. Every successful and solid team needs a fulcrum in the middle of the park that maintains shape and balance which is exactly what the Barca holding midfielders do during their current period of success! Arsenal, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Man U, Chelsea, but to name a few, have all done this too in the past with massive success!

  • DC

    Additionally, if one watches the recent El Classico match again, Barca dominated Real because they pressed the ball high up the pitch as a unit, and whenever the ball was re-won, they were already bearing down on Real’s back four! No team on the planet can cope with that disarray and we gave similar players that can create from such a situation!

  • diba

    Xavi started his career as a defensive midfielder and as he grows in the team he was pushed up and up and now the central play maker. Song may not be Xavi but there will come a time in his arsenal career he will not just be a holding midfielder but one of our most dependable midfield player.Song along side Nasri has been the best players for us this season in general.If you want to know how much Song has improved as a player for himself and the team take a look at Mikel in chelsea who is the complete opposite because he has been asked to sit in front of the back four and seldom get inside the 18yard box in a game of 90mins that is why his national team coach is bemoaning Chelsea is killing his career.AW is no fool just like he did Vieira from a holding player to a box to box with the inclusion of Gilberto to cover him so will Song be in the near future and someone else will cover the back four along side him.He has the energy,skill and tenacity to be a solid box to box player like Essien.

  • DC

    No team on the planet can cope with that disarray and we have similar players that can create from such a situation!
    Don’t be fooled, there is no team that won their group in the champions league, including Barcelona, that will want to meet us in the 2nd round, if they know we have a disciplined defensive unit aligned with our attacking prowess; and that is with or without Cesc!

  • Paul C.

    DC – Our attacking stats “speak for themselves” because SONG HAS BEEN PUSHING FORWARD MORE!!!!!!! That’s the point!!! Dont you see the inconsistency in complaining that Song should defend more and then saying that our “attacking stats speak for themselves” during the period Song has been pushing forward? I agree, our attacking stats speak for themselves. Song should continue doing what he is doing until Cesc returns.

    Having that defensive fulcrum in the middle of the park only works if you also have the creative players to break down opponents. Otherwise it is just defensive. Look at City so often this year. Yeah they have been defensively secure, but have also struggled to score goals, especially against the better teams. Without Cesc, RvP, and Diaby we have missed three of our most potent attacking threats most of the season. So Song has pushed forward more to compensate.

    It is all well and good saying a “solid team needs a fulcrum in the middle of the park that maintains shape and balance”, yeah, yeah, yeah that could straight out of any article in the Guardian or Telegraph. But if it means you are getting 0-0 matches because you dont have numbers and creativity going forward then it is pointless. With Cesc in the side and in top form it would be completely different. The manager has told Song to get forward more because he feels the goals it produces more than offsets the goals such a strategy concedes. Considering the results we have had without Cesc and RvP compared to results without them in recent years it is hard to argue with that.

    There is no law that says you need defensive or “holding” midfielders. Edu and Vieira were a wonderful pair and neither of them were “holding”. Utd won Championship after Championship with Keane and Scholes and Keane would have punched you had you called him a “holding” midfielder. You only need a “holding” midfielder if your other midfielder is primarilly an attacking player, such as Zidane and Deschamps for France, or Busquets backing Xavi and Iniesta at Barca. Without Cesc we tend to play with more general “midfielders” such as Denilson, Song, Wilshire. Ramsey is another one like that. They are midfielders. They can play box-to-box. I’d take a midfielder like that, and I would imagine most top managers would as well, over a “holding” midfielder anyday.

  • Waleed

    I think there’s a difference between playing “higher up” and making more forward runs. Although there is a correlation because if you are higher up the pitch it is easier to make forward runs and still come back into your normal position.

    The difference this season compared to last is that we are playing now with two deep midfielders rather than one. And Neither of them play the “Makelele role” which requires just sitting in front of the back four behind the midfield. They both press up in midfield.

    I’m not exactly sure of how it helps us against high pressing (I suppose it gives the defenders a clearer pass into midfield?) but the downside is clearly that we leave a bit of room behind the midfield for our opponents to exploit.
    In the 08-09 season, we allowed the most goals from outside box. The reason was that the gap between our midfield and defence was too big. That’s why next season Wenger decided to play Song as the shield. This season it’s changed a bit again, but instead of playing Song deeper, our solution to curb the gab is to play an even higher defensive line.

    At times it does leave us a bit exposed but Wenger thinks the positives outweigh the negatives, and I suppose your SPT stat shows that.

  • LRV

    Poor Arsenal! Too many “Expert” Fans, none good enough to be a manager of a Sunday park game. Pity!

  • Paul C.

    LRV – What, you dont think managing a top class football side is as easy as “put a holding midfielder there, spend more time in training working on defending, and buy new players every transfer window”? 🙂

  • Bootoomee

    Good point LRV,

    Every Arsenal fan who can type is a football expert and all are eager to question one of the most respected minds in the modern game. Nothing irritates me more than posts discussing tactics. I find them boring and annoying. It’s nothing more than the posters’ showing off, usually ignorantly! I wonder if people suggest to surgeons how to carry out their operations.

    I know my place as a fan, I just sit back, relax and enjoy the games. When things are not going right, I trust the man in charge to evaluate the situation and make the appropriate corrections because (i) it’s his job and (ii) (and more importantly) he has proven me and most of his detractors wrong on too many occasions. He has earned my trust.

    The only top EPL team still in ALL competitions and currently topping the table; a club in crisis indeed!

  • DC

    @ Waleed; I agree and this has been made evident from our away performances this year which have been mire disciplined defensively!
    @ Paul C; there is no real discussion to be had here regarding how we all want Arsene to encourage the boys to play expansive, attractive football but regardless of what has been encouraged to do to facilitate the attack, a great degree of personal responsibility and discipline is required on the part of THAT player too (e.g. Viera & Petit/Edu/Gilberto had it). I’ve played lots of semi-professional football in central midfield and the problem you have with that role is that it is extremely dynamic and requires real insight and awareness to play it well otherwise the whole side suffers (hence my label if a fulcrum, and not your so-called media annotation of it). Song is the most experienced midfielder that can play that role at present, hence he best possesses the insight and physical attributes to do so successfully, however, whenever he forays forward it’s great but as soon as the play breaks down, those left have not compensated. Simple footballing logic! Arsene has tried to procure/develop another player to fulfil this role but so far with no success (e.g. Alonso, Barry). Wrt to Man City, we are a very different outfit and don’t play the same way as Citeh do now under Mancini – they play the way Holland did in the world cup! We play more like they did under Hughes. You must know that it’s far easier to play football when you have the ball than when you don’t!
    @LRV, aren’t opinions allowed to stretch to all aspects of our wonderful club now?!

  • DC

    @ Bootomee,
    I would give an opinion to a surgeon as i am actually one myself!!!

  • Paul C.

    DC – We all know what it takes to play midfield. We’ve all played the game. There is no need to bring up that “I’ve played at semi-professional level” thing.

    Last night was a perfect example of what we are discussing. The goal that iced the game, that calmed the nerves, was made by Song getting far forward into the opposition area and creating the chance. That is what he has been asked to do by the manager in the absence of Cesc. Song isnt being irresposible, he is doing what the manager has asked. Are you saying that Song shouldnt do what the manager asks him to do? Instead he should do what we, the fans, want him to do? I would actually say that following your managers orders and doing what has been asked of you is in fact showing great awareness and insight, as you put it, for someone who has just turned 23 and is still growing into his role.

    And Partizan’s goal last night had nothing to with Song. He was exactly where he should have been if you look at the video of the goal. The goal was created by an exquisite touch and turn by the Partizan player that left Kos dead in the water and resulted in Squillaci having to cover two players himself. He hesitated and that allowed the Partizan player to shoot. Squillaci’s recovery tackle deflected the ball and left Fab helpless. Fab probably had it covered easily without the deflection. That happens. The build-up was actually excellent and had nothing to with defensive midfielders or anything like that. Blame Koscielny if anyone for getting dragged out of position and leaving Squillaci having to mark two men at once, but Song and Denilson were exactly where they should have been.

  • DC

    @ Paul C,
    I agree with your analysis of the Partizan goal, culpability cannot be solely laid at the door of the midfield in this case.
    I don’t think anyone would encourage any of the lads to play against the holistic wishes of Lord Wenger (their age being an irrelevance) however, once on the pitch, one has to be intuitive and flexible. If one is yet to attain that ability, he or she needs to learn it and be able to asses if those around him/her have it too – the basis of dynamic team sports and teamwork!

  • Paul C, May I know from where have you come up with the “Wenger has asked Song to go forward when Cesc doesn’t play” line? I don’t recall any comment by Wenger about Song that also involved Cesc. Would really like to read this one.

    As far as my personal opinion goes, Song has been going forward all through this season irrespective of whether Cesc played or didn’t play. I also feel it works alright when Fabregas plays because Cesc can drop deeper and control the game from deep. And we really struggle with this when Cesc doesn’t play because once Song starts bombing forward we don’t have anyone to bring the ball out from defence on a consistent basis. Last game against Partizan was just another example of this.

    I’d love to see Song become more of a box-to-box player because he has the talent and the energy to do that. But in the process of development we should not lose our balance when other key players are missing or we are trying something different e.g. RvP in a deeper role.

  • Waleed

    Another thing – Song has more energy and stamina this year. I think Wenger has always had doubts about his stamina. He always saw Song as a center back because he didn’t think Song could last the whole season playing in midfield, even though he had the skill to play the role.
    This season Wenger mentioned that Song no longer needs a breather when he makes a forward run. He can make a forward run and get back in time to his proper position.

    And one more thing – The interchangeability of our midfield.
    We have players like Cesc, Song, Denilson, Diaby, Wilshere who are comfortable in any role in midfield. They have different qualities and styles but they are all comfortable attacking and defending, from deep or high up the pitch.

    When Song makes a forward run, usually one of our players drops back to cover. Denilson is probably the most defensive of our players and he constantly stays deeper than Song whenever they have played this season.

    So Song being at the edge of the D doesn’t mean that there’s a gaping hole in our midfield. Usually someone is there to cover.

    Song’s position is higher up the pitch this season – that can be discussed. His forward runs, however, have been extremely beneficial and they haven’t harmed us. So no room for debate there.