According to reports, Alex Song could be set for a return to North London after making just 22 appearances in all competitions for the Catalans he is – as my colleague described him – Barcelona’s highest paid spectator.
The Cameroon international made his name at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger and became an important first team regular but furthermore, since his departure, Wenger has failed to adequately replace him in the team.
Wenger opted to convert Mikel Arteta who had performed as a playmaker and attacking midfielder for the Gunners into a holding role with more defensive responsibilities as Santi Cazorla was drafted in and Jack Wilshere returned from injury.
However, the Gunners’ leaky defence this season could be reason enough to offer re-employment to their departed midfielder. Song was not so much an enforcer as one would describe Claude Makelele but he did offer more protection to the back four, giving more freedom to the attacking midfielders to get forward.
Arteta has done a remarkable job for Arsenal this season but I have to admit it seems like a waste of his talents. He is exceptionally gifted passer and has the vision to find the forwards in dangerous positions. He doesn’t mind a tackle but it’s not his best position as the most defensive of Wenger’s midfield trio.
The only genuine replacement Wenger has for Arteta is Francis Coquelin who, when he has played this season, has worked hard and looks to have developed his game.
But he’s not really the calibre of player that would make the first team on a regular basis at any other top club in the Premier League.
Alex Song also gave Arsenal some attacking impetus – he delivered 13 assists last season, which, for a player in his position, is impressive. His runs from deep areas and his determination to get the ball forward was a major factor in Robin van Persie’s goal tally last season.
The PFA and PWA Player of the Year enjoyed the provisions his teammates provided him in scoring opportunities and Alex Song was an important part of that.
Would Arsenal take him back? I think there would be a resounding ‘yes’ if you asked the fans. He didn’t leave under a cloud of bitterness or perceived betrayal the way the Dutchman did and he made them a healthy profit which we have come to know is something the club pride’s itself on.
Barcelona paid £16.5 million for him and, after a season spend largely on the bench, I doubt he’d be offloaded for that now. But, if Arsenal didn’t want him, I’m sure there would be plenty of other suitors.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald