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A Song to look forward to

A Song to look forward to

Songs goal against City at the weekend reinforced an observation made by many this season that he doesn`t seem to be restricting himself to the more recognised defensive role of a holding midfielder. It isn`t an entirely new development as much the same could be seen last season on occasions with negative consequences whenever we conceded. But as a pattern of play it has become too evident for it to be a maverick action from Song. He must be acting under instruction.

It can be a little alarming when players don`t fit the labels anointed in a perceived standard formation. Holding midfielders are conventionally seen simply as defenders playing in front of the back four but it seems the role has become more flexible. The Uefa technical report on the 2009-2010 Champions League picks out an increasing tendency for teams to line up with two 'screening` midfielders. It also highlights the need for flexibility to, on one side maximise the effectiveness of counter attacking strategies, and on the other nullify opposing counter attacks. The report refers to the success in which players like Zanetti and Toulalan could adapt to the patterns and demands of the game being screening midfielders that contribute to attacking needs.

It has concerned me at times to see players like Cesc , Denilson and Diaby to varying degrees having to cover Song`s arse but then it should only really matter if they don`t do so successfully. If Song is winning the ball higher up the pitch then the players behind him, whether Wilshere as of late, Diaby or Denilson more familiarly, and even Cesc and Nasri have more room to play and pull others out of position. One way or another it seems to be a defined tactic and in many ways just what we have come to expect from Wenger`s teams. As much as Henry or Bergkamp could become midfield providers as well as strikers or Overmars and Pires could become strikers perhaps holding midfielders that attack while attacking midfielders hold is just another step in changing a formulaic approach to the game.

Thinking back neither Vieira nor Petit would confine themselves to sitting in front of the back four. Though Petit was the more schooled in defending it was a role they were able to successfully share. As long as players react to each other`s movement and the shape of the team can be maintained then having three midfielders all rotating their roles could provide the unpredictability needed to open defences. It requires a high level of understanding and training but the players have been together for some time now so familiarity should be there.

I suspect it will still take me some time to feel comfortable with Song in advanced roles but as long as the opposition aren`t comfortable seeing him there either and someone is balancing the defensive needs then I`ll be happy to see him up his goals and assists tally. It seems he isn`t there by accident.

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Date:Wednesday October 27 2010
Time: 10:27AM


Until recently I thought he was just going gung-ho, but the last two games clearly show he's under instruction as the players covering his role when he advances have stuck to their task as they should without complaint. As I said in the forum it seems kind of wasteful when Song advances when Jack Wilshere is in the same midfield. Jack can tackle and appears to me at least to be more productive on the ball and less likely to give it away, but with Cesc, Song and Denny in the middle of the park it seems to work a treat.
27/10/2010 10:38:00
Top, top post Amos! One of the best I've read up here. I've noticed a more Essien type feel to Song lately with either Denilson or Wilshere being the more defensive of the 2. As long as he does it well then its fine, but he does tend to lose possession a lot, which is a real concern.
27/10/2010 10:39:00
Very good observation Amos I did notice the same my self few weeks back and it seems to be working so far. Even Jack,who is new to the midfield group, seems to have fitted into this system quite easily which may suggest that this has been planned for some time and pushed through the ranks to make it easier for younger players to fit into this system.
27/10/2010 10:43:00
I think in a way it makes sense to have a Wilhere or Denilson type sit deeper. They can more acurately and safely start attacks due to their better range and ability of passing. It's the same as what Milan did at their recent peak with Pirlo sitting deep and Gattuso pressing high, except that Song is a far superior attacking force than he was. My theory is that Arsene has began to employ this tactic in response to the Barca game at the Grove last season, where they smothered us in midfield with relentless pressure high up the pitch and didn't let us play our passing game. It worked well against Chelsea (if you ignore the result), where Song was our best defensive player despite operating mostly in our forward half. If it works successfully it will also help us break down packed defences and attack quicker, which we've seen a fair few times through direct balls to Chamakh already this season, by winning the ball closer to goal and creating space for our real playmakers.
Ozi Gooner
27/10/2010 11:03:00
I think you're right Ozi, there's been a definate improvment in the faster paced pressing in defence. I've never seen a team work so hard as I did when Barca came to the Grove, it was a blitz that was very impressive to watch. If we can keep that up every game then people aren't only going to hate it when we've got the ball, they'll hate it when they have it also.
27/10/2010 11:06:00
Which I think is the aim. Arsene is a proub man, he's also smart enough to know when he's beaten and adapt. He clearly admires Barca, and was one of the first club managers to realise the switch in the way the game was going and adopt the 4-3-3/4-5-1/W-W formation they've used so well in recent times. I think he saw the future of pressure football that night and sought to emulate it. The thing that may even work better for us if we can perfect it is, our midfielders are generally more fit, fast and athletic than Xavi, Buquets and Iniesta.
Ozi Gooner
27/10/2010 11:10:00
Yes, but for it to be totally affective, then the laziness we see so often from Diaby and Arshavin needs to be stamped out. As well as the complacency we saw against West Brom.
27/10/2010 11:17:00
I love Arshavin, but Rosicky definately should be in ahead of him for now. Tommy can tackle and also has the silky passing skills of Andrei. AA is more deadly going forward, but man that dude could saunter for his country. I don't think it should be an indefinate replacement as he's more capable of winning games, but he does need a kick up the arse.
27/10/2010 11:34:00
Our style is definitely not Barca style yet. I feel Barca take more risks and are generally rewarded for it. The way they pressed the ball when we played them was incredible. We were beaten at our own game, rushed in making passes and unable to keep possession. Maybe we lacked some experience/confidence there. I have to say I wasn't comfortable with Song so high up the field but he proved me wrong with his goal, just the same as he might prove me right next time he loses the ball and gets stranded in a counter-attack.
27/10/2010 11:45:00
27/10/2010 11:50:00
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