Posts Tagged ‘Alex Song’

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1 – Na na na na na na…

05/12/2010

Post match thoughts on Arsenal v Fulham.

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Both of Samir Nasri’s goals were wonderfully taken; on each occasion his close control getting him past several players before providing a finish with either foot. I think part of Nasri’s ability to score such goals stems from his comfort shooting off either foot. It doesn’t limit his direction as he knows whichever route he’ll take, there will still be an opportunity to fire a shot on goal. Beyond Andrey Arshavin, there isn’t a player in the Arsenal squad as two footed. This versatility is a big factor in Nasri’s terrific start to the season.

He's run out of fingers to count his goals this season.

Arshavin himself also had a pretty good game, and has also had a pretty good season thus far. Yes he is a luxury and yes he often stands around but he makes things happen and is often a step ahead in terms what he’s trying to pull off. It might be prudent to play someone a bit more defensive in tough away games but at the same time he is more likely to produce something out of nothing.

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Fulham played pretty well on the whole and with a little more ambition could even have won the game. The main tactic of trying to play in Kamara behind the defence didn’t work often (mainly due to Kamara’s tendency to mistime his runs and caught offside) but it did result in Fulham’s goal. I can’t complain that the game wasn’t stopped for Koscielny’s head injury, ultimately he hadn’t fallen to the ground and so it was difficult to know the full extent in the short space of a few seconds.

It was interesting that at 1-1 and with control of the ball in midfield, Fulham would often play it all the way back to Schwarzer in goal. Similarly they would spend an age over every throw and goal kick – it was clear that Mark Hughes considered a draw a good result, but that lack of ambition has seen him become the draw specialist in the Premier League.

Ouch.

I was impressed by Johan Djourou when he came on for Koscielny. He’s been good when he’s played this season but Wenger is obviously being cautious with regards to playing him every game. He was authoritative in the air and seems to have made a conscious change in terms of attacking the ball/player. Clichy and Sagna were also solid, the former having his best game in quite some time. Perhaps the fit again Kieran Gibbs has focussed the Frenchman’s mind somewhat.

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The game was closer than it perhaps should have been but in part this was due to the poor performances of Arsenal’s midfield. Wilshere looked quite tired after playing against Wigan and faded as the game went on. Rosicky was fairly anonymous but neither were as bad as Alex Song who seems to have forgotten what his role is.

There were plenty of misplaced passes from him and his tendency to wander forward unnecessarily remains unabated. This often left the defence exposed both in terms of Fulham attacks but also as an option for them to pass to. He needs a few games where he curbs his attacking instincts, especially if you consider the upcoming games against Man Utd and Chelsea.

Just 72% completed.

The tension made for a better atmosphere in a way. For once Arsenal had got going early in the first half and produced a number of chances (and indeed the goal) which got the crowd going. But as Fulham came back into it, mistakes were made and calls were not received from ref Chris Foy, meaning there was considerable crowd noise generated. The crowd often feeds off the team but I think it works both ways.

I should mention Theo Walcott briefly too. He was only on for 15 minutes but it was one of those horrible games were nothing he did came off. The worst thing was that his job was to play off the last centre back/left back but he seemed unwilling to do that, and simply jogged around not wanting the receive the ball or to make any runs. With Van Persie returning and Nasri and Arshavin in such good form, it’s tricky to see where his starts will come from at the moment.

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T.

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Season Previews 2010/11 – Arsenal

12/08/2010

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere

Needs  A Big Year: Laurent Koscielny

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts: TThe biggest story at the Emirates this summer was whether Cesc Fabregas would leave Arsenal and join Barcelona. After a fifth year without a trophy and a particularly spineless end to the season, Arsenal’s captain decided he had had enough and was going to rejoin his boyhood team.

Fine you might say, Cesc had given fantastic service and no one could begrudge him wanting to win things. However Barcelona were clearly not well versed in how transfers work, where if one club wants one of the best midfielders in the world, they have to pay what he’s worth, especially if he still has five years left on his contract.

Still an Arsenal player for now.

Instead, there were two derisory bids, and a daily quote from a Barcelona player about how Fabregas was being held prisoner, had Barca DNA, and Arsenal should just let him go. Seeing as Arsenal were very much in the position of power and Barcelona had spent what little money they had on David Villa, it meant Fabregas has to stay another year.

Is this the most important decision of the summer? Well yes and no. Nobody can deny Cesc’s influence and he had his best season for Arsenal, finishing as top scorer having played an advanced role. This will no doubt continue, as whatever his personal ambitions may be he’s professional enough to still do his best for Arsenal.

However the decision not to have a new goalkeeper in place for the opening day game with Liverpool has far greater ramifications. Yes, there’s still over two weeks of the window left, but despite being linked with the likes of Schwarzer and Marchetti, it is not guaranteed that a replacement will come in.

Crap meets crapper.

Manuel Almunia, for all his faults is still better than Lukasz Fabianski. While they are both the proverbial good shot stopper, neither seems able to deal with the mental pressure of big games and the physical pressure of high balls swung into the box. That Wenger views Fabianski as having the attributes of a No.1 keeper is worrying to say the least.

The lack of new keeper and the dearth of cover at centre-back (Campbell, Sylvestre, Gallas and Senderos out – Koscielny and fit again Djourou in) mean the same issues from last season look likely to rear their ugly head. As an Arsenal fan, it’s most frustrating. Knowing we are so close to winning the league but not addressing the clear issues preventing us from doing it is careless to say that least.

If you consider that they lost all four games against United and Chelsea last season, but were still in the running until late throwaway defeats to Wigan and Spurs, suggests that it only needs a player or two to help with that final step – that player or two being the aforementioned goalkeeper and extra centre back.

Needs to quickly adapt.

The talk emanating from the club over the summer suggests that it’s finally got through to the players what’s needed. No more slacking off when two goals up, no more being bullied by the more physical teams in the league, etc.

I think the impact of Sol Campbell’s half season cameo shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the squad and showed what it takes to achieve something you want; that there’s no escaping hard work if you want to win. Though he’s left, his attitude seems to have rubbed off.

In terms of the squad, things generally look quite good. Marouane Chamakh has finally joined and should be an improvement on the departing Eduardo. The Crozillian never truly recovered from the horrific injury he sustained and coupled with hypocritical reaction to his dive against Celtic meant a change of scene was probably best. Chamakh is by no means prolific but gives a different option, and should prove useful in tough away games.

Vela stays for now and gets an upgraded squad number but the important news is Robin van Persie being fully fit again (albeit a couple of weeks behind in training). His injury really hurt Arsenal last November. Remember all the talk of how Arsenal could score 100 goals after all the big wins early on? The goals per game ratio went right down after RvP was out. They continued to challenge without him but with Bendtner also out at the time, you had the bizarre situation of Andrey Arshavin playing on his own up front, which was no fun for either player or fans.

Arguably Arsenal's most important player.

The Russian had an average season, nearly always played out of position. I think bigger things are expected this season. The midfield is boosted by Fabregas staying and Wilshere being ready for regular first team football. I would expect him to be ahead of Rosicky in the pecking order sooner rather than later.

Two players who failed to make their respective World Cup squads will be particularly determined to shine this year. Samir Nasri looked very sharp in pre-season and has a previously unseen seriousness about him. Similarly, Theo Walcott will want a season where he doesn’t pick up lots of small injuries. A run of 20-25 games in a row would do him a world of good. If he hits his target of 20 assists he’ll have had a great season.

Bounce back seasons ahead.

Once you factor in Song, Diaby, Eboue, the emerging Frimpong, Denilson and the hopefully returning Ramsey and you have more than enough options.

As discussed earlier, it’s defence where there are issues. There are currently just three centre-backs, at least one more is a must. Full backs are covered with Eboue and Gibbs being the reserves for Sagna and Clichy. Gibbs in particular excites me, I think he’ll be the first choice left back by the end of the season.

In terms of tactics I think Wenger will slightly adjust the 433 of last season seeing how overrun it caused the midfield to be. The benefits it brought to Fabregas and van Persie’s game make it worth sticking with but perhaps a slight switch to make it a 4231 instead with Fabregas advanced behind van Persie and two attacking midfielders/forwards playing either side of them will do the trick.

Arsenal don’t really have natural wingers who can play in a 442. You just get central midfielders or wide forwards out of position. It might be case of dropping an extra player (Diaby or Denilson) back to sit alongside Song with Fabregas ahead of them. Van Persie will be the central striker with any two of about eight players filling the wide roles in the 3.

It worked very well when the Dutchman was fit and the added bonus is Chamakh could take up the role were he to get injured. I would like to see more solid set-ups when playing the big teams as last season Chelsea, Man Utd and Barcelona had much fun drawing us out of position and hitting us on the break. In these games a four or even five men in midfield would work; there is enough pace in the side that the lone striker would never be too isolated.

Yes it is five years since we won a trophy but my players have great potential.

In terms of prospects, despite what many writers are saying, I think Arsenal will improve on last season if they sign a keeper before the window shuts. A simplistic theory you might think but if you consider that a top keeper is worth around nine points a season (that’s three match-saving performances – not unrealistic) then Arsenal will be very close indeed.

A slight tactical adjustment and they’ll be pretty close to that elusive trophy. Maybe even close enough to win it. No new goalkeeper or centre-back and it will be the same old problems and the usual 4th place.

T.

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs

Needs A Big Year: Cesc Fabregas

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts:

World Cup Bet Of The Day – Day 5

15/06/2010

Running Total: -0.8 units

Another day, another wrong prediction for a match winner. I can’t help it if Paul le Guen in all his infinite wisdom chooses not to play his best midfielder (Alex Song) whist also deciding to play his best striker Eto’o out on the right-wing. I think I’ll avoid picking teams to win until the second set of group fixtures.

There was some success with choosing a goalscorer the other day so I’ll try my luck again. Brazil face North Korea tonight (quite why Portugal vs Ivory Coast isn’t prime time I’ll never know) and it’s likely to resemble shooting fish in a barrel.

Robinho for some reason tends to play twice as well in international games as he does in club football (well before he moved to Santos anyway) and should have some success against a team I know nothing about. Luis Fabiano is obviously another good shout as is Kaka, as is etc, etc.

Let’s go with Robinho over Fabiano due to the marginally better odds. Again I’m playing safe and backing anytime goals rather than first or last.

Bet of the day:

Robinho to score anytime vs North Korea @ 11/10

T.

World Cup Bet Of The Day – Day 4

14/06/2010

Running Total: +0.2 units

Finally a betting tip came off yesterday with Miroslav Klose getting the second goal in Germany’s 4-0 thrashing of Australia. The man is a born World Cup scorer, how I wish he was playing for the country of his birth… Anyway, the returns mean we’re in profit, albeit by a fifth of a unit. Got to start somewhere huh?

A quick one today. Cameroon face Japan in the mid-afternoon game and should be far too strong for them. Japan have never won a World Cup game on foreign soil and are pretty goal shy at the best of times. Despite throwing a pre-tournament hissy fit, Samuel Eto’o hasn’t pulled out and should get plenty of opportunities to get on the score sheet today. Alex Song meanwhile should be able to negate Japan’s main threat Keisuke Honda in central midfield.

I think Cameroon should be odds on to win this, yet they’re only at around evens. Those odds are good enough for me, you are doubling your money after all.

Bet of the day:

Cameroon to beat Japan @ 11/10

T.

The Unsung Heroes: Alex Song

20/04/2009

In the business of blog writing, you obviously want people to read what you say. Therefore you have to write about something that people will be interested in reading. In the football blogosphere that usually translates into posts talking about the ‘Big Four’, the Champions League and the stellar names of the modern game’s multimillionaires – Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi…and weirdly enough, Julio Baptista (Sportboys’ most searched for player).

As this football season comes to an end, it is time to look back on those players who have been unheralded by the mainstream media. Sometimes it can be difficult to pick these guys out unless you have been watching a team week-in, week-out but over the coming weeks I will give a big-up to those that have caught my eye. There is no better place to start than with the team that suffered defeat this weekend, in part because they decided to drop their unsung hero.

Alex Dimitri Song

Alex Dimitri Song

 

‘We have only got one Song’

The man that started off this season as one of the most vilified of Arsene Wenger’s younglings has become in the past 10 games, the foundation of the Gooners’ resurgence. When Mathieu Flamini and Gilberto departed for AC Milan and Panathanaikos respectively last summer and Arsene Wenger decided not to buy a replacement, the defensive midfield position became Arsenal’s heralded weakness. Where was the bite, fight and might going to come from now to complement the finesse, vision and technique of Cesc Fabregas?

Alexandre Song (full name Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong, according to that trusted source Wikipedia) arrived at Arsenal from french side Bastia in 2006, aged 18 and with a hefty reputation. I remember laughing last season recalling the story that Alex Song had received his work permit to play in England (as a Cameroonian without enough caps for his country) because he was ‘an exceptional talent’. Despite being brought up by his legendary uncle, Rigobert Song, after losing his dad aged three (thanks again to Wikipedia) and gaining over 30 caps at Bastia as a teenager, Alex didn’t seem to be cut out for the pressure of first team football for the Gunners. Song didn’t seem to have a position, lacking the defensive awareness and positioning to play at central defence, while also lacking the dynamism that made Mathieu Flamini such a valued player in that position last season. Although he showed glimpses of class in a more advanced position while at loan on Charlton, Arsenal fans weren’t too enamoured with Wenger’s claim last summer that buying a defensive midfielder would ‘kill the chances’ of Song developing.

This is the funniest picture I could find of Song

This is the funniest picture I could find of Song

 

Filling the void

Denilson started this season as Cesc Fabregas’ chosen partner in the centre of the Arsenal midfield and although the young Brazilian has shown moments of class, he hasn’t offered the back four the protection it needs and continues to be known as a bit of a poor man’s Fabregas. Luckily for Song, Cesc Fabregas was sidelined for two months and perpetual niggling injuries for Abou Diaby opened up a berth. Since getting his chance, Song hasn’t looked back. He has brought much needed strength, tackling and aerial presence to Arsenal’s midfield alongside his natural composure, tidy distribution and impeccable reading of the game. Furthermore, unlike the archetypal Makelele player, Song is actual a threat when he goes forward (see his recent goal against Wigan).

It seems to me that Wenger has really improved his positional awareness and encouraged him to play to his natural strengths. Where he was once a lackadaisical player, now Song zooms round the pitch with intent. There is no doubt that Song’s performances over the past 15 games or so have contributed to Arsenal’s defensive tightness, forcing Gooners to eat humble pie (including the Sportboys and the Football Guy) and filling the terraces with chants of ‘we only have one Song’. So when Wenger left Song on the bench for Arsenal’s semi-final against Chelsea there were questions raised over team selection. The Blues proceeded to out-power and out-hustle Arsenal’s midfield. I am not saying that Arsenal would have won with Song in their side and I am certainly not suggesting that Song doesn’t have a lot to improve in his game but it can take a match like that to realise how important a team’s unsung hero can be.

 

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