Last night Arsenal celebrated a famous victory in the Stade Velodrome over Marseille but both sides will go away feeling there is considerable room for improvement. The game was lethargic to say the least and it took the introduction of Aaron Ramsay to change it.
The one glaring improvement that must be made on Arsenal’s behalf is the performance of Alex Song. The Cameroonian international is a good player but lacks the discipline to play as a defensive midfielder against the very best sides. In the second half I lost count of the times he was out of position which resulted in Arteta covering as defensive midfielder too many times.
It is a position that has now become an integral part of modern day football. The finest exponent of it in recent times was Claude Makelele and it is now often referred to as the Makelele role. The idea is to be the last line of midfield before you get to the centre backs; they are there as a screen/shield to bolster the defence. It is a role that requires very good positional discipline and concentration as one error can result in serious ramifications. This is the problem with Alex Song.
He is a very good player and I do not want to be over critical but as someone who admires the position and the attributes required it is frustrating so watch. On numerous occasions when Arsenal went forward Song was the furthest player forward besides Van Persie. Whilst the energy and commitment shown is admirable he is forgetting his sole purpose; to protect his defence. The game was very scrappy and attacks were broken up frequently with Marseille counter attacking almost at will. If the French side had more about them this space could have been exploited more efficiently but Arsenal escaped.
It also resulted in Arteta (Arsenal’s most creative player on display last night) having to fill in for his team-mate. This in turn then meant that Arsenal lacked the penetration in the final third to really hurt their opponents. I have continually stated to Arsenal fans for a long time that Song is not good enough to play that role at the highest level and it appears they are finally beginning to take note.
The best example in world football at the moment is Sergio Busquets of Barcelona who is an incredible defensive midfielder. In my opinion the DM should never stray too far from the centre backs and at all times the three of them should form a neat triangle. When Song plays there are triangles but some of them stretch 50 yards which is simply not good enough.
At a time when Arsenal are not at their fluid best they need to ensure they are disciplined and hard to beat. The result last night should increase their confidence but they will not face many easier games this season. If they are too improve Arsene Wenger must ensure Song remains disciplined, he is a good player but must focus on his own job rather than getting involved all over the pitch.