Revitalised Arsenal have now fully recovered from loss of Fabregas and Nasri, says Song
Published 25/11/2011 | 15:10
The destabilising summer exodus and then the extraordinary goalscoring feats of Robin van Persie would naturally inform any analysis of the fall and rise this season of Arsenal.
Yet scratch beneath the surface and there have been other less obvious, but still hugely significant, factors. Injuries to Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Thomas Vermaelen took a considerable toll at the beginning of the season but, with the exception of Van Persie, no-one has shaped Arsenal’s fortunes like Alex Song.
Easy to forget now but, when Arsenal were slumping to damaging defeats against Manchester United and Liverpool, Song was watching from the touchline as he served a ban for violent conduct. That stamp on Joey Barton was to leave as much of a mark on Arsenal’s season as it did on the back of the then Newcastle midfielder’s leg.
Yet Song clearly returned with a motivation to repay those he let down and, in his 16 Arsenal appearances this season, the team have won 11, drawn three and lost only twice. It is actually a superior win ratio than when even Van Persie is playing.
Song believes that a cloud has been lifted on Arsenal’s season, and he can now reflect on his indiscipline against Newcastle as an important learning experience.
"Of course it was always very difficult when the team was playing and you can't play at all," he said. "This game [against Newcastle] helped me a lot because I was out for the three games and it was not easy but I tried to learn from the mistake I did. I wanted just to push myself to help the team. I'm happy today."
Song believes it was also inevitable that the new signings - Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos, Gervinho and Per Mertesacker are all now regulars in the team - should need time to settle.
"We started very badly and it is not easy when you have new players coming in," he said. "You need to give them time and we see that we are not like three or four months ago. We have very good cohesion. I think that is very important.
"When we started we lost two big players and it was not easy to have players like Cesc [Fabregas] and [Samir] Nasri missing. They were very important but in football it happens all the time. You need to forget about it and give confidence to the players you have got."
As a holding midfielder, Song’s influence is often less obvious and eye-catching than in Wednesday's 2-1 win against Borussia Dortmund, when his exquisite dribble and cross set up Arsenal's first goal. And with Abou Diaby now returned from his ankle injury, and Jack Wilshere hoping to be available again before the end of the year, competition for central midfield places is intensifying.
Song, though, is relaxed about his situation and will know that no Arsenal player has been selected more regularly by Arsene Wenger over the past three years.
"When everyone comes back we will be very good and more strong," he said. "I think Jack is a very good player and we need everyone. When we have everyone fit we are more strong and confident. When everyone comes back we will see another Arsenal play."
That other Arsenal, according to Song, will be aiming to challenge the two Manchester clubs at the top of the Premier League.
"Maybe some people are very hard on Arsenal - I don’t know why," he said. "When you play for a team like Arsenal you want just to finish all the time the top of the league. We have the Carling Cup [against Manchester City] next week and we have to win every game."