By Walter Broeckx
Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong is the full name of our defensive midfield player.
The first time he really caught my eye was two seasons ago when we played in the Carling cup against Blackburn in the season 2007-2008. For those who can’t remember it, it was the game in which our youngsters played at Blackburn on a freezing night. It was the night when Eduardo showed what Wenger had seen in him by scoring 2 great goals.
We won 2-3 after extra time and it was in that extra time I saw the first signs of the Song we know now.
In the dying minutes of normal time Denilson got his second yellow and with 10 players they had to play the extra time. And from the moment Denilson was sent off, Song stepped up and just began to play for 2.
He played CB and he played DM at the same time. I always remembered this game for the goals from Eduardo and for the way Song played and showed what kind of player he could become. He broke up play, he intercepted, he started the counters, gave the pass to Eduardo from which he scored a great goal against Friedel. He was all over the pitch in those 30 minutes. I really was impressed with that performance.
Since then my son and I started this little joke about his full name. We always said with an Arsène Wenger accent : “Yes, I think Song Billong belong in the team”.
So every time before kick off we had the same thing : is Song in the team? Most of that season he was not but last year he picked up and got more playing time.
After the departure of Flamini the shout for a defensive midfielder was huge around the Emirates. I, at that time, suggested on our website from the Benelux fans that maybe Song could be the tune to sing.
And yes I’m not going to say or pretend he played every game at the same high level or was master class from the first game to the last. No but any one who wasn’t wearing short sighted glasses could see that he had great potential.
Last year he, and Denilson, had their learning year in the first team. As we had to deal with an almost complete new midfield the pressure on both Song and Denilson was big and in some games it failed.
As Johan Cruijff, used to say, every bad thing has a good side and the bad thing that happened to Arsenal was the serious injury from Cesc in December against Liverpool. The good side was that from that moment on Song and Denilson had to do it on their own.
A way to teach someone to swim is just to throw him in the deep water and see if he can save himself. This happened to Song and Denilson last year and with a 19 game unbeaten run, mostly without Cesc in the team they showed their potential. They could swim if you just gave them the chance.
Much of the criticism that went out to Song last season always seemed odd to me. Couldn’t they see we just had to give him time to adjust? From this season on, the song changed it’s tune. For some he will never be good, the ones that have slaughtered him from the first moment and who are still not willing to admit how wrong they were, because he didn’t cost XX-millions and is not a buy you can brag about to other teams. Most fans now see the big player he will be for Arsenal.
The way he has made that defensive midfield place his own is just great to see. Shortly before going to the African Nations cup Wenger said on the website that they would have to find a balance in the absence of Song. When Wenger talks in those terms of a player you can be sure that he rates him very highly.
I even can’t remember him saying this when Cesc is injured. So this is the biggest compliment Wenger can make to one of his players. And rightfully.
It is only when you see the game against Everton and most fans don’t speak about the absence of Cesc you realise what has happened. What they speak about is missing Song. And you could see what Wenger was referring to. Our midfielders looked to be caught in 2 minds. Other wise they know they can attack the opponents in the knowledge that the strong Cameroon man is sitting behind them ready to challenge every lost ball.
Now you could see them almost thinking: “don’t run in blind, always look for cover”. Everton knew that this could happen and tried to take advantage of this and nearly did. The whole team played with the handbrake on because Song is the man who can put it off and let the others fly.
So yes Arsène Wenger knew this could happen and had expressed it in advance. Buy, buy, buy could be one answer. But if you look how long it takes to make that place your own, in our attacking system, it will take weeks if not months to play the way Song does now. So by the time a new player would be fitted in, Song would be back.
I think Denilson could be the answer, if he is 100 % fit. He’s a different type of player with other abilities and with another body. But he has the tactical awareness to play there.
I don’t know if Wenger will buy someone for the period that Song is away and I think it will be difficult to replace him. But I really would be surprised that a new signing could step in right away. Maybe time to look for someone in the squad to replace him if Denilson is out for a while ?
I know the last thing Wenger wants to do is to break up the combination of Gallas and Vermaelen but I really think that Vermaelen could be the one who has the attributes to move up for a few weeks. He is strong, can head, can pass, can give a good long ball, has vision, he knows the system we play.
Wenger has a thing with a CB going to defensive midfield. Song is one of them as was Petit. So why not Vermaelen. But then again… what would his absence mean to the whole defence ? Or could Sol Campbell be the answer for a few weeks ?
Thank God, I’m not the manager. Just someone who takes notice of the decisions. I wouldn’t sleep at all I think.
Oh, yes, just one remark: who ever is picked to play there: let’s just get behind him and support him and the whole team. Now is the moment we need to stick together in the weeks ahead, until our “never fit enough to were the shirt player” comes back to sing us his song.
ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM THE GREAT TANNOY IN THE SKY…
We can smirk about Man U’s financial problems, but it is worth remembering that almost 100 years ago to the day Arsenal were also sinking fast. You can read the story of Arsenal’s financial collapse and their rebirth in full in MAKING THE ARSENAL – click here
- Read what The Online Gooner said about MAKING THE ARSENAL here
- Read what Arsenal World said about the book here
- Read what Arsenal Independent Supporters Assn said about Making the Arsenal here
- Read what A Cultured Left Foot said about Making the Arsenal here
- Read a review of the Untold Arsenal blog here
Right that’s enough reading.
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