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(Alex) Song of the Week
Song & Vermaelens’s 1st half Touches at Everton
BendyTheViking - The Premier League is well and truly under way with most teams having already played two matches. While it is still too early to really know or predict anything, some strengths have been displayed, some weaknesses discovered, and some statements made. It is no different at Arsenal where despite scoring 8 goals in our last two games, the real story is at the back where Arsenal have been very strong and resolute. Going into this season everyone’s top worry was going to be the defense and the holding position. We clearly conceded too many goals the past two seasons, something even the attack-loving Arsene Wenger brought him self to admit. But this season Arsenal so far seem to have a new found commitment to defense and a steel in the middle that has not existed in the past two season. Step forward Alex Song and Thomas Vermaelen.
Anyone who knows me knows my love of Alex Song. I would say the moment I became a Song fan was at the end of the 2007/2008 season. We were up at Old Trafford and Song was given a surprise start at the back. He impressed me that day and since then I have thought he would have a future at the club. At the start of last season I will admit I was a bit frustrated with him at times. He started the campaign slow and seemed to not want to put in the effort. But I reminded myself. He is 20/21 playing an important role for one of the top teams in England and in Europe. In addition, he is like a new signing in that the 2008/2009 season was Song’s (and Denilson’s for that matter) first real season in the Premier League. Sure they were in the Arsenal squad but in the season before they barely played. I knew it would take a while for them to adapt and I held out belief that Song would come good. I was rewarded against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge where he seemed to have an amazing second half performance and once again when we played host to the Scouse. After Cesc left at half-time, Song really seemed to kick on. Clearly there was potential. The only issue was he was drifting in and out of form, one good game and then one poor game. Finally however, in February he really came into his own. From February through the end of the season it seemed like something in him just clicked. He was playing fantastic football and I can hardly remember a particularly bad game between then and the end of the season. Song’s development at that point was certainly encouraging.
We entered the preseason all wanting a new defensive midfielder but Arsene stayed the tried and true path and stuck with Song and to my eye, he did not disappoint. By the end of preseason I was utter convinced he could do the job. When the season kicked off last Saturday, so did Song and to the surprise of some, he had an amazing game. He bossed the midfield, battled on the ground and in the air and even had solid distribution. He essentially marked Fellaini out of the game and was smart in his tackles. It was a great start for the young man but many questioned how he would be up for it against a better side in Celtic at a stadium like Parkhead? Well, Song went a long way towards silencing his critics that night by putting in another impressive shift. He shut down the Celtic midfield, along with the help of his team mates, and was the shield for the defense we were craving the season before. Two games, two outstanding performances and with the game against Pompey looming Song surely has won many fans over
Vermaelen was completely unknown to me. When the speculation started to come in, I was a bit worried. He was only 23 and he was not the big brute many, including myself, thought we needed. To his credit, he was the captain of Ajax and the experience of leadership was something I thought would bring something to the back line we have been missing. In addition, having a left-footed center-back could bring a little bit more balance to the back. So Arsene signed him up and in he came. He started preseason with the team and as the first whistle blew up at Barnet everyone was keen to take a glance at him. Not really much to do, to be honest but looked composed. Preseason dragged on and I was anxiuos to see Vermaelen in action. His minutes were limited but from what I had seen, I though he would make a good squad player. I still wanted another center-back because I was unconvinced he could walk in on day one and do the job. How wrong I was. Not only did Vermaelen do his job, he excelled at it. He bossed the air, he attacked the ball, he protected the goal. He loves a header, and he does have a fantastic leap. He reads the game very well and just looks like a guy who enjoys to defend. He had a wonderful match against what was an admittedly poor Everton team, even getting himself on the score sheet. But again, as good as he was, it was only one game and I waited to see how he would respond at Parkhead. I was not disappointed. Another assured display from the back full of crunching tackles and die-for-the-cause heroics.
Both these players, Song and Vermaelen, have gotten off to outstanding starts and both were players with large question marks over their head this summer. They have performed admirably and have restored some confidence and offered more hope in the defense both on the pitch and in the stands. And while it is too early to tell now how their full season will go, if they continue on this trajectory, it is sure to be a season which the fans and the boss will not forget. But tests still do lie in the wait for these two and the team. Celtic and Everton are good teams but it remains to be seen how Song and Vermaelen will hold up to better opposition. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long as the lads travel up to Old Trafford in just over a week to take on United followed by another trip to Manchester to take on Moneybags FC in our next league game. Suffice it say we shall know much more about both of these players after those games but until then we can rejoice in the fact that it seems we have found two solutions to our two biggest problems. [digg=http://digg.com/soccer/Alex_Song_of_the_Week]