Forums / The footytube Blog
Order: Newest / Oldest
There's Nothing On Song About This Protracted Transfer
Footytubeblog (Blog) 4 years ago
When sifting through the gossip columns, every now and then you stumble across a deal so odd, you can only assume its fiction. And whilst the whispers surrounding Alex Song’s proposed move to Barcelona isn’t quite in the same league as say, Carl Cort moving to Newcastle, it’s certainly amongst one of the most bizarre rumours of the summer.

But taking the tongue out of the cheek, there isn’t anything funny about Song moving to Barcelona. Because if Song thinks moving to Barcelona is a good move for his football career, he’s been sold some pretty poor advice. However, if he thinks a switch to the Camp Nou will boost his bank balance to title winning levels, then he’s on to a winner. This is football in the modern era and the realities of it aren’t particularly pretty.

It’s necessary to point out at this point that this is no attack upon the qualities of Song as a footballer. The Cameroonian has always felt like a misunderstood quantity, especially to the neutrals of the Premier League. A standard holding midfielder, nothing particularly special and not someone you’d be too bothered about not having in your team. Arsenal fans have always been able to afford themselves a smirk at such a view. Last season must have seen Song culpable for a nationwide shortage of humble pie, for the remaining supporters who’d yet to be convinced.

Song has been a prominent figure in this Arsenal team for a while now and in that time, he’s steadily grown in confidence and composure. An immensely physical presence, his ability to read and break up play has always been a core asset since he first broke into the team. But he’s always possessed a little more stardust than your average Premier League destroyer. He’s been bred in the Arsenal way since he joined as a 17-year-old and subsequently, and he’s got the technical skills to create moves not just negate them.

And last season we saw that in spades. Wenger has been happy to take the shackles off Song and he’s been paid back with a more assertive, influential central midfield figure than what he’s had in recent seasons. Robin van Persie will take the plaudits for last season, but the 24-year-old Song’s contribution cannot be understated. Chipping in with 11 league assists would represent a return most wingers would be proud of. Song did it from a deep midfield position. It’s not hard to imagine Tito Vilanova considering the Cameroonian as an option with stats like that.

Although for all his improvement, you need to engage in a reality check before he starts feeding Lionel Messi in an El Clasico. The glove fits at Arsenal; Arsene Wenger has spent a lot of time and money developing Alex Song and he owes the Frenchman an eternal amount of credit for the way he’s shaped him into a formidable Premier League competitor. But the brutal truth is that he’s not going to walk into one of the best midfields ever assembled in recent history. The fact is, he probably might not even crawl in.

Sergio Busquets currently occupies the position in Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation that Alex Song will be vying for. Busquets has played a prominent role in three La Liga titles, two Champions League titles and a World Cup and European Championship with Spain. Song is not going to displace a man who was literally crafted in La Maisa, born, to play that holding role. He does it better than most people and comfortably better than Song.

Unfortunately for Song, Barcelona also bestow another superior holding player- in central defence. Javier Mascherano doesn’t get wheeled out in midfield quite as much these days, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be used there. The recently departed Seydou Keita represents the ghost of Christmas future for Song and it’s a one that spends a lot of time on the bench. His old mate Alexander Hleb isn’t a particularly bad vision of the future for Song to look at either. If you are to put your deeply cynical hat on, any Barcelona interest in Song feels akin to them looking around for a cheaper alternative to Javi Martinez as Busquets’ back up.

Everything about this proposed move feels wrong and although it’s difficult to second-guess what’s going on behind closed doors, you can’t help but feel it’s money that is the fuel here, not ambition. The Michael Owen school of thought denotes that just being part of the very best, is better than playing a full part for the slightly lesser. When you’re aging, injury-prone and potentially past-it, maybe that view has some gravitas. But when you’re a fledgling talent on top of your game, it is rendered ridiculous. The chance to be part of a Barcelona team as outrageously gifted and successful as the current one must be tempting- but not if you’re going to be watching the success rather than playing it.

So how does it work? After 11 assists last season, has someone suggested that Song may suddenly be worth a little more? It’s easy to sit here and pan the agent fraternity, but it’s almost impossible not to. Stir up a move to a team like Barcelona and you increase your bargaining position for a new contract. Best-case scenario, Song and his agent become very rich men. Worst-case scenario? Song and his agent go to Barcelona and become very rich men. The issue is that it isn’t an organic rewarding of talent. Barcelona might like Song, but they don’t need him.

Ultimately, it is the club that founded Song, which might end up paying the heaviest price. Wenger made him who he was today and although that is now a very good Premier League player, both the manager and the fans have endured several long periods of mediocrity on the way. The reward? They either loose an integral part of their team or cave into the trappings of greed.

No one is saying that Alex Song is some intrinsically greedy footballer and who knows, maybe he is truly driven by a belief he can go to Barcelona and play an integral part in winning silverware. Although the situation offers some uncomfortable questions for both club and player. The only real winner in this isn’t either Song or Arsenal- it’s the man in the suit playing the matchmaker.

Written by Sam Antrobu

This blog does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of footytube or its partners.
ILikeTurtles (Arsenal) 4 years ago
Really good blog, and the reference to Dein at the end is spot on
Otownballer (Arsenal) 4 years ago
Yes, yes, and yes. Great piece. I just hope Song makes the right decision and stays at Arsenal
ManOnDMoon (Manchester City) 4 years ago
Anytime a top player leaves a club, one or two of his former mates come out with the inevitable "I'm going as well". We know Van Persie was leaving since before the Euros, so I assume I missed something in the transfer rumours. If I didn't, then I just see the Song story in this scenario
Jeroen (Barcelona) 4 years ago
Although I applaud your fluent writing, I don't agree with your statements. Yes, it is quite predictable a Barcelona fan defends a potentially future player, but that's because I probably have a different view on 'my' team than you do - assuming you are the same Sam Antrobus who supports the Spurs as the writer from FootballFanCast.

In my humble opinion, Barcelona were indeed looking for a versatile midfielder with the vision and technique required to make it in the team. The replacement for the replacer of replacers, Seydou Keita. Despite the fact Busquets' position seems almost untouchable, this does not mean Song will be a B-player warming the bench more often than stretching his legs. I'd like to point out that Seydou Keita was the player who played the most games in the 2010-2011 season, and I can see Song walk a similar path in a year's worth of time. Sure, it will take adaptation to the game Barça plays, but not much. Like Cesc and Henry, he'll fit in just right I think. Hleb was quite simply overrated when we bought him, which was centuries ago in football-terms anyway.

In time, I see Song become a central defender, much like how Guardiola converted Yaya Touré before him and how he did the same with Mascherano now. Being a good defender for Barcelona doesn't require great man-marking skills, but it requires great concentration as the defensive line is pushed up high and great positioning and anticipation to pressurize players and intercept passes, which is the key to our defence
Juno (AC Milan) 4 years ago
Good article. At the moment, I can't forsee anyone walking into this barca team and taking away a first team slot. However, it does not mean Barca can't buy someone to sit on their bench. With the top notch quality they have in the first 11, they needed people who have similar standards that's capable of stepping up with the goods when the calling comes.

For the players who joined Barca, players like Hleb, Afellay, they have to accept that they can't always be playing with the qualities of the players in front of them. The earlier a player accept his place and learn the required standards needed, the faster he'll be integrated into the team. Hence player like Mascherano and Keita to an extend, Sanchez and Villa, integrated faster.

I'm not sure Song belongs to which group, but if he knuckle down and work hard, I wouldn't be surprise if he usurp Busquets(should his form fades) in the future
Tanmay (Footytube Moderator) 4 years ago
I don't think Song will take Busquets' place, but that does not mean that he will not get to play. People thought the same about Fabregas, that there is no place for him as long as Xavi and Iniesta are around, but look how that turned out. Our defensive midfield has precisely one person in it - Busquets - if you allow for the fact that Mascherano is basically a full-time defender now. Song will get more than his fair share of playing time
Jeroen (Barcelona) 4 years ago
Knowing that Song arrived not to replace Busquets, but to replace Keita, who played the most games in 2010-2011, it's highly likely he'll get playing chances soon too, and lots of them
Peteko 4 years ago
My least favorite player of Barca is Busquets. I will root for Song to replace him from the first 11.

But, about the topic. In our days if Barca calls you, it is hard to say no. It is a great chance and Song is looking forwards to the challenge. If he makes it, there's history to be made. If he doesn't, there is no shame in failing to make it Barca's first team.

(Of course, assuming that Barca will keep winning trophies and the golden age is still on.)

Kick4Life - changing lives through football