Alex Song: What the Ex-Arsenal Midfielder Brings to Barcelona

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Alex Song: What the Ex-Arsenal Midfielder Brings to Barcelona
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Given the sheer magnitude of Robin van Persie's summer move from Arsenal to Manchester United, it is little wonder that the fuss made over Alex Song's subsequent exit for Barcelona paled in comparison.

While Van Persie's decision to leave the Gunners and join the team who have been their biggest rivals in the Premier League era caused shock and no little vitriol, Song's departure was on the whole met with ambivalence or resignation.

The Cameroon midfielder trod the same path walked by Cesc Fabregas last season, and Aleksandr Hleb, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars before that. Along with Spain left-back Jordi Alba, Song is one of just two additions to the first-team squad in Catalonia this summer.  

But what are Barcelona getting for the £15 million fee they paid out for their latest purchase from Arsenal?

For starters, they are getting a player who is still young—he turns 25 in early September—but already has 180 league appearances to his name. The vast majority of those have come in the Premier League, where he was a first-team fixture for the last four seasons and amassed some 41 Champions League appearances.

A two-footed midfielder coached under Arsene Wenger from the age of 17, Song is well used to playing in a team which likes to pass the ball to feet quickly and accurately, even if he is not the most consistent exponent of that approach himself.

Still, last season he was still able to notch up 13 assists in all competitions, five more than the previous total for his entire career. While Van Persie's expert finishing no doubt aided that figure, Song still created the chances to be finished. With players like Lionel Messi and David Villa in front of him, Song can hope to rely on similarly lethal marksmanship to help his assist count in La Liga.

Although he is not the type of defensive midfielder to sit back and shield the defence, Song is also capable of dropping in to play at centre-back, the position Wenger initially had Song earmarked for when he signed him from French club Bastia in 2005. Given Barca's fondness for playing Javier Mascherano or Sergi Busquets in defence when one of either Carles Puyol or Gerard Pique are missing, that adaptability is a definite plus.

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Song's strength should be more than sufficient to compete successfully against the vast majority of rival midfielders in Spain, and his reasonably clean record with injuries should mean he will be available whenever called upon. For a place on the bench is likely to be one Song will become familiar with at the Nou Camp with the aforementioned duo of Mascherano and Busquets well established.

It remains to be seen how content Song is to be down the pecking order, initially at least. However, reports in the British press following his Arsenal exit suggesting his attitude to punctuality and training were poor could work to Barca's advantage.

The Sun quoted Song denying such reports by saying:

I woke up and read those things in the paper and was really surprised and disappointed. I love Arsenal, I never wanted to leave.

I was ready to commit my future to the club. All I wanted were talks about a new contract but each time we were due to sit down, the club postponed it. I was fobbed off.

I wanted a new five-year contract at Arsenal. In the end I got one—at Barcelona.

If Arsenal thought I wasn’t enthusiastic in training then maybe it was I didn’t understand that I was contributing on the pitch and they didn’t want to sit down with me.

Song will have a point to prove at his new club, and the fact he never won a major trophy during his seven years at the club—having arrived the summer after they won the FA Cup in 2005—should provide extra motivation for him should any more be required.

And, if his recent efforts are anything to go by, Song should add a dash of colour to the Barca squad with one of his many outlandish hairstyles, though there is the real risk of one of his dye jobs clashing with the club's new multi-coloured kit.

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