Song poses midfield questions in picture-book Arsenal win

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Eduardo will get the headlines, but Alex Song's contribution did not go unnoticed by this bloggerWith a vitally important trip to Rome later in the week, yesterday’s comfortable 3-0 win over Burnley in the FA Cup was just what the doctor ordered.

Rarely in the same will you see three goals of such gorgeous technical quality. Yet Carlos Vela’s scintillating run and delightful chip, Emmanuel Eboue’s fine low finish and Eduardo’s ridiculously inventive side-of-the-foot volley are some of the best goals you will see all season and another stark indication of what this Arsenal team are capable of when they put their minds to it.

Arsene Wenger took the option to reshuffle his pack with the mid-week trip to Rome in mind, surprisingly giving starts to Eduardo and Carlos Vela up front and Kieran Gibbs at left-back. Less surprising was the selection of cup ‘keeper Lukasz Fabianski and Johan Djourou to partner William Gallas at the back and the pairing of Alex Song and Abou Diaby in central midfield. Andrey Arshavin took up a place on the left with a rejuvenated Emmanuel Eboue completing the line-up on the right.

On paper it was far from our strongest side but the performance suggested anything but. Eduardo and Vela caused the Burnley defence trouble all afternoon with their clever movement and neat touches, both rewarded with outrageous goals for their contribution. The Mexican’s opener – a wonderful lobbed finish after an electric burst from halfway – came at just the right time to relieve the pressure on our team, while the Croatian’s outrageous volley essentially sealed the contest with just under 40 minutes left to play.

The two strikers received excellent support from the midfield. Arshavin was again effervescent and energetic, showing his class on the ball and rarely misplacing a pass. Eboue continued his steady improvement since the sending-off at Tottenham, pushing forward with great pace and verve at times and putting the icing on the cake with an uncharacteristically cool finish in the 85th minute.

Diaby put in another strong performance but was his partner, the much-criticised Alex Song who was the real star of the show. The Cameroon midfield is often criticised for his lack of quality going forward but his performance against Burnley indicated there may be more to his game than was previously perceived. It was his lovely chipped pass that allowed Eduardo to fire home, his lovely backheel that set up Eboue for the final and those critical interventions as well as his defensive efforts impressed my immensely.

In the lead-up to the Roma game I think Song has posed some very interesting questions about our midfield. I would say that I am among the minority with my suggestion that the Cameroon midfielder is an all-round better fit in the side than the man that was rested and will no doubt start in Rome, Denilson. The changing shape of the team in Cesc Fabregas’ absence means for the games that really matter it is very much one or the other of Song or Denilson to partner Diaby in the middle, a contest that the Brazilian appears to be winning in the mind of the manager.

But I just can’t see how this is the case. People will always point to the statistics when it comes to Denilson but for me it is Song’s defensive mindset and general willingness to actually get stuck in and tackle that puts him ahead of the Brazilian and makes him a better fit for the side. The decisiveness he showed going forward against Burnley suggests that his confidence is on the rise and I do hope that a few more performances of this quality will push him ahead of Denilson in the manager’s pecking order.

The other player who I think deserves a mention for his general performances of late is William Gallas. Once again he was faultless at the back against Burnley and his ability to put his head down and focus since being stripped of the captaincy has been the key factor in our new-found stability at the back. We still look a little shaky in defence at times but I must say that I don’t have that crapping-myself-every-time-the-opposition-team-attacks feeling I used to get about three months ago and the Frenchman has been a massive part of improving that area of our game.

All-in-all, I have to say that things are looking pretty good with Roma just around the corner. From a situation where we just couldn’t buy a goal we’ve now scored eleven goals in our last four games and are starting to move the ball forward with much more pace and purpose than in previous weeks. When you consider that a goal on Wednesday night will leave Roma with the task of having to score three to avoid elimination it’s hard not to feel just a little bit confident about our chances of progression in that competition.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I’m off to watch Eduardo’s goal again…

Have your say on Arsenal’s win over Burnley or the midfield situation by leaving a comment.


42 thoughts on “Song poses midfield questions in picture-book Arsenal win

  1. I still think denilson has been doing well..This was just one game against lower league opposition and i still think song has to improve his passing if he’s to be a good midfielder. Defensively he’s quite sound though he lacks the all action style of flamini. However i’m not saying song cant play for arsenal. I hope he improves because the potential is there..

    Oh and what a sumptuous finish from eduardo.. Poor vela.his goal got overshadowed 🙂

  2. Which tune are Song’s critics singing now?
    Remember the comment made in last months blog about how flamini didn’t become world class overnight? Now I’m not saying Song is world class just yet, but if he gets as much game time as Deni does, he’ll surely improve, especially with performances like the one displayed on Sunday. I’ve always felt that he’s the perfect replacement for Flamini. The only key now is consistency, especially with a confidence booster like that.

  3. I have been one to criticize Song pretty much all season but he had a spectacular game yesterday. His mind was right. He usually lunges in vain attempts to make tackles in the attacking third of the pitch only to leave himself woefully out of position for the inevitable counter from the opposition. Against Burnley however, he avoided that mistake and, with very few exceptions, managed to be accurate and efficient in his passes (and what a nifty little back pass to Eboue!). All in all he had a very nice game. I hope he can maintain that quality thru the rest of the season.

    I know it was against Cardiff and Burnley, both at Emirates, but Eduardo looks fantastic and his ability to link up with Vela is something the squad has been desperately trying to find. This is the kind of play that will unlock defenses when they try to “park the bus”. Add Nasri, RVP, Arshavin and Walcott and we will see untold scoring opportunities. I don’t know who I would drop for a dm, or if I even would.

    On another note, Fabianski did not have a confidence inspiring performance. If Arsenal get past Hull, I would feel much better with the #1 between the posts against Chelsea and beyond.

    On to Rome and on to VICTORY!

  4. @ Medeski – Just on Fabianski, I don’t think he’s covering himself with glory. I know he’s only young but when people are saying he should play instead of Almunia I just don’t understand it. Very flappy at this stage of his career.

  5. Come on people we were playing Burnley. I would of played well there. Lets see how good song is against utd or chelsea etc. What we want at the club is quality and Song is to slow for our midfield.

  6. Burnley are a championship side pushing for the playoffs. They are not as bad as you make out.

  7. Spanish fry! You are the best, can you record the goals and send them to my e-mail address thanx. Well SP i think you are getting a little excited ok may be song had a good game but all round he is no match for Deni basic problem with him is he can’t carry his weight. According to what i’ve read Burnely played positive football allowing us to attack that in a cartoon lucas would have attacked as well so song was left with little to do but move freely. The question to you Spanish Fry is would you dare pair Diaby with Deni or Song against Roma!!

  8. @ Ezra – I can’t send the goals through directly but if you subscribe to the blog you’ll receive daily updates with the appropriate links.

    As for your question on Diaby/Song v Diaby/Denilson, I would go for the first one generally but as Denilson has been rested I’m pretty sure he’ll play. As long as it’s not Denilson/Song!

  9. I think Denilson is much better. That boy will again be the star of Rome on Wednesday. Both Song and Denilson are almost the same age, but in two season’s time, Denilson will have scored more than Song, and will be a real star, a main stay of our midfield. you will see.

  10. @ JohnW – Interesting thoughts. I’m certainly not closed to the idea of Denilson being a star. In fact, I would welcome it. For me though, at this point in time, Song fits in a little better for what our side needs.

  11. Song is better in Defence. Not In the middle of the park – but what a evening we were treated to yesterday! Even Eboue!! Wow!!

  12. Burnley are a championship side pushing for the playoffs. They are not as bad as some people are making them out to be. Song was my man of the match for sure. He broke up play and added to our offensive play. The offensive side is something he has developed very well recently. His ball distribution has imoroved tremendously, both in the air and along the ground. And he¿s always been a defensive player so his defensive play is getting better & better. As i mentioned before, i liked Arshavin¿s defensive game as he tackled very well, and offensive play continues to improve¿his thru ball were top-class. Eduardo was very good as was Vela. Vela was all over the pitch, contributing very well all-round and like Eduardo scored a great goal. Eboue looked sharp, good goal for him. Our defensive & Fabianski were solid. Theo looked fresh and ready for action. As is the usual story with us, we could have scored more but the game made my day without a doubt. Arshavin is just in a class of his own. Just unfortunate the team doesn¿t make the most of it.

  13. I agree with you guys who’ve made the point that we were playing a championship side yesterday. We look a lot stronger now that Eduardo is back and Arshavin is finding his feet, but you’d expect us to beat a team from a lower division at home. The Roma game will be a better barometer of our progress. I must say, though, that I look forward to that game with a lot more confidence. Eduardo is such a class act, the natural finisher we’ve been sorely missing this season, and I feel he’s more likely to nick us a goal in Rome than anyone else.
    On the Song/Denilson debate, I agree with you SF, that Song is better equipped for the DM berth. I’ve always thought that Denilson provides natural cover for Fab, but now that Arshavin’s on the scene, I’d like to see how he would play in the centre.

  14. Yesterdays game showed, yet again, Arsenals great movement and if only we could always finish like that!…Arshavin was awesome he can sometimes look laxidasical but always sees the killer pass…he set up Vela then in the second half chances for RVP and Walcott…Song was sublime, ive always been a Denilson fan and unsure as to Song but he ran the show yesterday popping up everywhere consistency is the key to his role…Diaby is strong, quick and confident however he needs to get a left foot and stop needlessly giving the ball away. We are in a great position with the Midfield now that Walcott is back and Cesc, Rosicky only weeks away…Eboue playing well..That and the fact we have Nasri to boot..Selection headache for the boss…
    For Roma Im sure it will be Diaby and Denilson in the centre..remember in the first leg Denilson played a stormer and his (limited) CL experience is superior to Songs feel more comfortable with that pairing however who would play on the wings…will Walcott be used more centrally now…if so what does it mean for Bendtner especially as Ades back soon…..Its so exciting now….this is going to be a strong, excellent run in!

  15. wonderful game,with the return of all our people the future looks bright.glad that walcott and dudu are back,now can’t wait 4 captain fab.good game.keep the faith gunners.

  16. Song has suddenly risen from a player who we all thought would never make it. Since he was selected for Cameroon in the ACN, he hasnt looked back. Played vitally for them in the whole tournament. Came back to arsenal full of confidence but he was behind our current Cms plus Gilberto and Flamini but with both of them gone and Cesc injured he has had a great chance and I think he has taken it well. His goal against Fenerbahce was a class volley, his willingness to go for any tackle, and his new found attacking ability show that he can help Arsenal in everyway. Although I would still play Denilson ahead of Song against Roma, with more performances like that, our next UCL game (if we get through) I could be persuaded to play Song. I also think Song, Gibbs, Vela, Eduardo, Arshavin and Eboue hav guarenteed themselves a 1/4 final starting place. Those goals, show that we have class. Vela’s run and lob was just so pleasing and memories of the goals against Shef Utd and Wigan came flooding back. eduardo, out for almost a year, has played 2, scored 3 and what a third goal it was too, im not sure the Rooneys, Ronaldos or Torress would have put that away as excentally as Eduardo did. Great play for the third goal, is this Arsenal back now? Well Eduardo and Theo are at least 😀

  17. Great win, the boys were awesome. Song was my motm yesterday, he totally bossed the midfield. There were some crunching tackles and brilliant passes, im sure he was working on passing alot in training. Lets hope he keeps it up. But i still think Song’s future at Arsenal is in CB. The JD-Song pairing has been solid in the past, and with Gallas and Toure aging, it should one for the future.

  18. I see Denilson as the next Gilberto Silva. He will be a brilliant DM in the next year or so, i just want to see more bone crunching tackles from him.

  19. We’re back baby. We are just 3 players away from being the be team in the world. Cesc, Arsha, Rosicky, Eduardo, RvP, Ade, Theo, no one can match that. im so excited! 🙂

  20. great win, we can only go forward from here.I THINK DIABY NEEDS A SIDE LINE COACH TO SHOUT TO HIM TO CONCENTRATE WHENEVER HE HAS THE BALL. HE HAS THE “K.S.A.”knowledge,skills, ability,but not the focust to keep the ball.

  21. @ezra – search for Arsenal on and sort by the most recent. They always have good quality videos of highlights including motd clips.

  22. @Gibbs; I don’t think you want to see “bone crunching tackles” from anyone. That is when the bone actually get crunched and that is bad for the game. So far, we need what Denilson has been able to provide. He breaks up attacks, wins the ball back, he is the first one to challenge the man with the ball when everyone is retreating, he is almost always the nearest player to offer support when a teammate gets the ball. He has a bag of tricks, works harder than anyone else in the team and most often more than anyone on the field.

    Song is a very good player. The one thing that I don’t preffer much from him(in our current sguad) is his “mono-pace” and being overly defensive. Both those qualities will be my preference in certain games when we need to counter-ballance our attack when we have too many adventorous players in the side. His good performance yesterday further underlines what I have been missing from him. It is not a coincidence that when he ventured forward, he looked great. We all should note that his forward forrays came at a trade-off. Arshavin had to do a bit more defending and since both Arshavin Vela, Eduardo and Eboue are confortable dropping deep to collect the ball, he had enough cover and the dynamics of the team allowed him to venture foward. A team with Nasri and Ade would have been a different proposition.

    One poster stated that Song is a perfect replacement for Flamini! They are 2 very different players in 2 opposites of the spectrum.

    With Denilson, we have a very good CM, very good in tackles and interceptions, uses the ball very well, has more pace than most of our CMs including Cesc, and when push comes to shove, he has several tricks up his sleeve to unleash. For a team based on dynamism in play, he is a much better fit than Song is at the moment.

    I have noticed that things tend to happen in the general direction of Arshavin. As an intelligent player, he is more trusting of his skillfull teammates and that is how magic happens. We are yet to see how good a partnership on the left side of midfield when we have all inteligent and skillfull players on the side. I said here once in the begining of the season that certain players would benefit alot from having Denilson in the middle, and Arshavin, Eduardo, Vela, Rosicky, RVP and Nasri could get a 2-5% boost from Denilson that could be a joy to watch. Lets wait for Cesc to get back and we are in bussiness.

  23. @ TayGoon

    I dont mean that literally. I just want to see a little more physicality from Denilson, i want him to get stuck in there.

  24. Time to Gloat! Sorry Fellas, I can’t help it!

    Soon after Eduardo’s injury I kept saying that Eduardo would come back even better than before if he can regain the physical fitness to play, because a break for an “inteligence” player is merely physical and they find themselves play the games in their minds alot hence improves their sharpness. That is why I even said Cesc absence might give us an even better Cesc. I am not worried about Rosicky too, and Theo seemed a bit sharper than he was when he got injured. I know we haven’t seen enough of Theo already, but his first 3 touches convinced me he is going to be a better player than he was. I have doubts about Ade though, although he may come back more determined.

    RVP needs to ballance power and subtlety. He THUMPS everything!

  25. @ Taygoon

    For me, Song’s ‘overly defensive’ approach is the attraction. We have all been screaming for a DM for months; someone who is defensive minded enough to actually protect our defence whilst at the same time being able to pass the ball. Yesterday, it seemed like Song stepped up to the plate and solved our problem. The fact that he can play CD is a testament to his defensive capabilities.

    The way I see it, when you have four defenders (two of which love going forward) who all have the odd scary moment, you need someone who can stand in front of them. This lets the other 5 players go forward and do their thing with freedom. Our other 5 players are all so creative and attack minded that we need a defensive midfilder who knows how to defend and cover ground first, be creative second. For me, Song does that better than Denilson.

    Anyway, the main thing is we have remembered how to score again! With the players we have, we should be able to outscore most teams. I mean Adebayor is out and I honestly don’t think we will miss him, such is our plethora of attacking options.

    Can’t wait until Wednesday!

  26. @ Filipino Dan – spot on buddy, I totally agree with you about Song and Ade. I don’t think Ade’s heart’s in it any more, I think he’ll go in the summer and I don’t think we’ll miss him. He’s had a crap season compared to 07/08. He seems to believe all that pony in the papers over the summer about every other big club wanting him and it seems to have gone to his head. We’ll need to buy an experienced replacement, as I don’t think Bendtner’s ready yet.

    @ Taygoon – I doubt whether Eduardo, Fab and Walcott are actually better players as a result of being unjured, but they will come back raring to go, and will be fresh. Other teams may start to get players missing through injuries as the season wears on, whereas our returning players are fit and keen to make something of the season. With Aston Villa having a fairly thin squad, this might just be the difference between who gets 4th and who gets 5th.

  27. A good sign of confidence returning is the courage to try fancy flicks – even without the comfort of a goal lead. How many back-heels did you see? I counted three, but that was just on the highlights.

  28. Sory, a little typo there. I did of course mean that “I couldn’t DISagree more with this guy” :p

  29. @ Fatboy;
    I don’t mean that they are better by being injured. What I mean is the absence make you think about your game alot at the same time observe what other’s do and formulate your own “what if I was there and did this” scenarios in your mind. In that process, you do like a computer simulation and depending on how many itterrations you go through, you may come up with what works and what doesn’t work, or what need to be done to make it work. It gives you a heads-up/edge in decision making when you are back because you may have thought about the scenarios several times and you don’t have to think about it too much in real-time. Also, for a growing player, you “grow” without being at the receiving end of the ooh! aah!, and boos from the crowd which lets you grow at your own more efficient pace. The trick is, when you get to the business end, do you have the guts to put what you hypothesized into practice? If you do, you are good, if not, I am affraid there will be little improvement. Both Eduardo, Cesc and Theo needed to grow at least in confidence into their respective new roles. Eduardo wasn’t as free as he seems now, he had just got into the team and was a lillte bit apprehensive. Same goes for Theo who was just getting to make the starting berth his own. Cesc needed to observe and grow into the captaincy without the preassures of delivering week-in week-out. The time on the sideline will make all of them come back with a new sence of purpose, determination and self-belief. It is self-belief which will give them the guts to put theories into practice.

    @Filipino Dan;

    Don’t you think it is more efficient to allow a more advanced player to push forward rather than a defender? Midfielders are generally more skilled, able and better rounded footballers than defenders are. If I want someone to push forward, i would like to have a striker, or Midfielder, closer to the goal than a defender for maximum impact and at the same time I woudn’t want to have a MF or a striker as the last line of defence. I would want a proper defender to defend first. Our problem(fans) is that we want to offload defensive duties to midfield and attacking duties to defenders. They play their respective roles for a reason and that has to do with what they do best. Before I have Gallas maraud forward, I would preffer my strikers first do it, then the midfield and lastly the defenders, which brings us back to the fact that should the defender concentrate on defending, they don’t need any protection infront of them whic is akin to have a dog protect a lion. For a defender to go forward, they cover the entire field up and down while for a midfielder it is only half the length. Our CDs are the oldest players we have and their recovery time might be a bit slower that is why they tend to be caught out of place whenever they play strikers. As a team, when one person runs out of gas, the rest have to work hard to cover for the tiring player and it is detrimental to the team. That is why I Prefer a forward thinking MF with just enough defensive accumen to pepper the early cracks and let professional moppers do the rest.

  30. Besides cold freaking weather everything went well yesterday. Really enjoyable game. Even Song and Eboue had a very good game esp. Billong Song. He was everywhere. Oh Dear, eboue scored again…

    Eduardo’s goal was awesome. Once again he proved that he is a hell of a finisher. Cheecky volley. Reminded me of Bergkamp’s days.

    Same with Vela. Anyone who can consistently chip the ball in from of goal at such a young age has class. This is not the first time I have seen his chipping ability. It was abvious to me during U-17 world cup that this guy has a good future.

    Arshavin also showed his class playing through balls all game. Gallas was immense. Everybody contributed for the same cause.

    Ya, we were playing championship side at Emirates. No matter what it was a quality game with extra-ordinary goals. Was proud of my team.

    Had to come come and start hitting Polish Vodka shots like a crazy drunker because of cold.

    Waiting for Roman Troops…..

  31. Ladies and gentlemen Roma are scared. All of these quotes in the media, trying to convince themselves of their superiority and the advantage they have at home… I honestly feel like they are worried about us. And they should be. We are going to win this game as long as we are focused on not conceding like last game. I want RVP and Eduardo both starting up front, even if that means no 4-2-3-1. They are both deadly and will surely steal a goal on the road. Put Diaby and Denilson as our ballwinners then Nasri and Vela/Walcott/ Eboue on the other side. We are going to win this game.

  32. @ MoMONEY – I don’t think Eduardo will start. I think Bendtner was rested for a reason and will get the nod. However, it’s hard to argue with the side you suggest. It looks good.

  33. I hope you are wrong… We need someone with the character and audacity to go in there and score. I like Bendtner but he isnt there yet. Think about Milan last year- we were dominating but it was only Cesc who could break the deadlock because of his character and composure… I hope Eduardo starts alongside RVP… I think its key

  34. And you lost a fiver…


    The critics just drop after this game. Eboue, Song, Strikers..

    Just love the Game!

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