My reaction to the rumor that Alex Song would move to Barcelona was dismissive. I am generally spiteful of the rumor mill that characterizes the transfer window.
When the rumor persisted, I felt compelled to contribute my opinion on the issue.
I thought the move wouldn't make sense in the light of the fact that Arsenal need to move from the building years, the years without a trophy, to a new era of consolidation.
This, I believe, would forestall the constant need every season to build a new team, a reality that may have caused the team the maximum three points in this season's opener against Sunderland at the Emirates.
Here, the introduction of three new players to the lineup didn't quite work as would have been expected. The need for settling down and cohering was too evident, a problem that time, of course, will solve.
But imagine a situation where this need for cohering wasn't necessary, a situation where, ideally, Arsenal had been able to retain Robin van Persie.
One would think that he would have started and that at least two of the new players would have come on only as substitutes.
It doesn't require profound imagination to realize the importance of retaining a team over a stretch of time.
In the Van Persie case, any objective person must admit that Arsenal had little chance but to sell the player, even if that person, like myself, would have preferred a refusal to sell.
Pragmatically, though, one must know that £23 million for a player prone to injury isn't bad at all, especially when considered in the light of the possibility of eventually losing the player for nothing
I understand why Robin van Persie, Arsenal's erstwhile talisman, was sold, even if I don't like that it had to be to a rival, but I do not understand why Song had to be sold, nor do I buy the spurious accusation being flung at Song. Getty Image.
The Alex Song situation, another important player to Arsenal, is different.
Since the player had at least two years left on his contract and was willing to discuss new terms, I find it difficult to understand the rationale behind his sale.
The reason being offered for his sale is that he had become unruly during preseason. That he refused to follow the manager's instructions, that he was too excited about the Barcelona connection and that he became too lazy.
What has become disturbing about the situation is the absence of the qualification, "preseason" in a shift to a wholesale claim of laziness.
The impression now (and the narrative being advanced) is that Song was a lazy player. I find that unacceptable, disingenuous and disgraceful.
For one, Song was one of about three players last season who played almost every match. If you subtract the matches Song was out on suspension for his early red card last season and perhaps one other, you'd see that he played every match for Arsenal.
But not only did he play, he performed at a high level and didn't even show signs of burnout. This is remarkable if you compare him to both Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky, two players that drained out too quickly as a result of being overplayed.
Even Robin van Persie, who had a remarkable season, showed signs of wearing out towards the end of the season.
Only a player at a top level of fitness could achieve what Song did.
And how is fitness maintained but through hard work? To then say that Song has been a lazy player at Arsenal is not only unfair but arrant bull.
Moreover, I do not believe that there's any sensible person out there who'd deny the fact that Song has been Arsenal's most improved player in recent seasons. How do you achieve such a remarkable improvement bar hard work?
This insinuation does not befit Arsenal fans. I direct this to any Arsenal fan who has bought into this attempt to tarnish Song. The player is gone, and yes we are bound to be angry, but let's leave it at that.
In the past, the misconception was always that black players are lazy. Are we unconsciously reverting to this absurd misconception? I am not saying that's what is going on necessarily, but I can't help but wonder.
(If you feel compelled to give me some stick for saying this, I wouldn't blame you too much.)
Alex Song has completed his move to Barcelona. Getty Images.
Even Matt Scott of The Telegraph appears to be taken aback by this turn of event.
The reports about Song’s attitude were unusual. He is only the latest to tread the path from north London to Catalonia following Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Alex Hleb and Cesc Fábregas last season, yet none other has been accompanied by negative articles.
Not even Samir Nasri, a pariah among Arsenal fans following his turbulent transfer to Manchester City last summer, was subjected to disparagement through the press about his attitude.
On Sunday, The Mail had this to say about the situation.
Club sources claim Song’s levels of professionalism had dropped significantly in recent months and Wenger decided enough was enough earlier this summer.
Sources also say Song regularly arrived late for training, took a half-hearted approach in sessions and did not follow instructions from the management staff.
What the reader would note here is the qualification, "in recent months," which one must conclude to be the context for the following sentence.
For one must be constrained to ask: Has Song always been half-hearted and deaf to instructions from the staff?
A "yes" answer cannot be feasible; that would be illogical. A player who has stayed at Arsenal for eight years and has improved most remarkably can't have displayed these negative traits consistently. It just doesn't compute.
Both The Mail and the earlier referenced Telegraph offer explanation for this drop in professionalism:
Having established himself as arguably the club’s second-most influential player behind Van Persie, Song felt he was entitled to an improved contract and tried to open talks over a pay rise.
Few, I believe, will begrudge the fact that Song felt he should be offered an improved contract, being arguably the second most influential player behind Robin van Persie.
(Criticism about unprofessionalism) has provoked an angry reaction from the player, who hotly denied the suggestions.
“Alex Song was massively committed to Arsenal; he loved the club and was dying to sign a new contract. We tried six times to renegotiate his contract. They kept saying it has three years to run.
They’d say things like ‘we’ll sit down in September, October,’ when at first they’d said it would happen in the summer.
Then Barcelona came in and yet Alex still said he wanted a new contract. When they said we’d all sit down on 1 September that was the final straw.
That shows disrespect to the player. Barcelona is a once-in-a-lifetime thing; you have to jump on that train when it comes.”
The failure of the effort by Song and his representatives to get even a sit-down with Arsenal on a possible improved contract has prompted them to draw the following conclusion.
They’re covering themselves because they’re being killed by the fans. I know it’s (a senior Arsenal executive) covering his ass.
The fact that Song deserved a pay rise seems incontestable to Song's representative, quoted above and below:
He was one of the worst paid at the club. He was on about £55,000 a week and his performances deserved a pay rise. He became dissatisfied and upset. You can work out what’s going on there—the same’s happened with Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri.
In the past, Arsenal have been forced to sell players such as Emmanuel Adebayor. I believe it is difficult to advance such a narrative in the case of Alex Song. Getty Images.
In the article mentioned in the beginning, I concluded thusly:
"If Arsenal were to sell Song, I'd be shocked, and a great deal of my belief in the team and in Wenger would be shattered."
The belief I had cultivated was that, indeed, Arsenal were transiting from the stadium years to a new era of competition, which can only come via an attempt to retain important players where the situation permits.
I fail to see how the Song situation constitutes a sustained attempt to retain a player I consider very important to Arsenal's endeavor.
Quite certainly he is replaceable. But replacement isn't the issue here.
The issue is maximizing your strength. You don't weaken it on the understanding that "I can always recover." Payment in the form of the time to recover can prove too steep.
Consider, moreover, that even if Arsenal were to succeed in signing Nuri Sahin on loan from Real Madrid, a scheme that saves them a chunk of money, that would constitute a mere stopgap solution.
The report that the deal is being pursued with an eye for a permanent purchase only reveals the folly of the situation.
You must ask how much the move would cost. In other words, would Real Madrid sell Sahin for just £15 million?
Possible as that may be, the follow-up question in regard to how much the club would have to pay Sahin in the event of a permanent move (or any other replacement for that matter) must be considered.
Would a quality new signing settle for just the £55,000 a week Song was earning (mere pittance) in the light of this era of over-inflated wages?
Would Yann M'Vila settle for this?
My suspicion is that it is unlikely.
Then add the fact that any player brought in as replacement has to undergo the rigor of adjustment and you see that Arsenal should have stuck by Song, especially since his first option was an improved contract, which I think he thoroughly deserved.
Are Arsenal selling Song so they can recoup some of the money they used in purchasing three players, including Santi Cazorla? Getty Images.
What is worrying for me is the attitude I have suspected from Arsenal since, an attitude that borders on nonchalance and foolishness.
The nonchalance is evident in the fact that the club does not take decisive action to ensure that its best players are not put in a condition to force a move. "Are not put" is advanced from the perspective of the players.
I hazard a guess that any player who exerts influence on the team in any given season would feel entitled to a reward. Such a reward must come, of course, in the form of bonuses and improved wages.
(It is the exact thing that happened in the case of Mikel Arteta. Is Arteta more deserving of an improved contract than Song?)
Therefore, when the club fails to reward the player, a feeling of discontent has to surely arise. That's simple human psychology.
The reports from both The Telegraph and The Mail indicate that instead of patting Song on the back and rewarding him with an improved contract, ensuring that the club retains him, and also that the necessary positive atmosphere around the club isn't disturbed by any negativity, the management of the club chose rather to turn up their nose at the player.
Considered strictly from the human perspective, 95 percent of people would react the same way that Song did.
Some players go on strike (Clint Dempsey reportedly), some refuse to train (Luka Modric). The underlying denominator in all this is that most human beings look to advance themselves, especially financially.
Moving to Barcelona has done this for Song. Moreover, playing wise, he is moving to a better team, and I say this not wanting to take anything away from Arsenal.
The hedging around by Arsenal's official was undoubtedly aimed at pinching pennies for the club, but will the situation ultimately save the club money?
I am not apt to believe that it will, especially if the supposed replacement costs the club more and if the replacement is paid more in wages—a possibility that Arsenal might not be able to escape—and more especially if the club settles for a player of less quality, a player that'll require years to develop.
Challenging for titles and actually winning something require that, as much as possible, the club hangs onto its best players; it also requires that teams possess sufficient depth to enable them to negotiate injuries and burnout that long campaigns engender.
I do not see how the sale of Song helps Arsenal do that, especially since no one can guarantee that Abou Diaby will stay fit.
My disappointment does not come from the fact that I love Song as a player; it comes from the principle of the situation.
It is time the powers-that-be at Arsenal stop pinching pennies.
When the club's new signing Santi Cazorla opines diplomatically but strongly nonetheless that "obviously it’s important to replace players like (Song and Van Persie) because they were so important for the team," he articulates what must be a confidence-sapping situation for the squad.
As a player, you want to look around the squad and see quality and depth everywhere. This brings confidence, confidence that the team can play and beat anyone, that the team has realistic chances to trophies.
I don't see how the sale of Song breeds this kind of confidence.
Nuri Sahin. Is he coming to Arsenal? Getty Images.
To end, I must say it is shameful that blame in the Song situation is being placed where it doesn't belong. I hope sensible Arsenal fans desist from advancing this spurious narrative about the player.
This is an area I believe the board (those in charge of maintaining the squad) deserves to be blamed. The notion that the board is too concerned about profit isn't helped by this situation.
To deflate the situation, it is expedient that someone be signed to replace Song. Nuri Sahin (if secured) will be a proper starting place.
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