Why Re-Signing Alex Song from Barcelona Wouldn't Be Wise for Arsenal

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2013

SO KON PO, HONG KONG - JULY 29:  Alex Song of Arsenal FC reacts during the pre-season Asian Tour friendly match between Kitchee FC and Arsenal at Hong Kong Stadium on July 29, 2012 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Alex Song’s Arsenal story is an extraordinary one. Few players have been so maligned and then subsequently so cherished.

When Song first took to the field in an Arsenal shirt as a gangly, awkward teenager, he was met with incredulity by the supporters. Few could understand what Arsene Wenger saw in the shuffling midfielder. On one occasion at Craven Cottage, Song was so poor that he was booed by his own fans and withdrawn at half-time. 

No Arsenal fan could ever have believed that one day Song would end up at Barcelona, sharing a midfield berth with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. When Song completed a move to the Camp Nou last summer, it represented the completion of an incredible turnaround.

However, Song’s move has not been quite the dream he might have imagined. With competition for places far stiffer than at the Emirates Stadium, he has been restricted to just 11 La Liga starts, three of which have been at centre-back.

Inevitably, this has led to rumours of a possible return to Arsenal.

It’s not something Arsene Wenger should give too much consideration.

I understand the temptation. In his final season with Arsenal, Song was a key player. In the absence of Jack Wilshere, he forged an impressive partnership with Mikel Arteta and produced a series of sumptuous assists for Robin van Persie.

Arsenal are in need of a player with Song’s skill set. With Abou Diaby out with yet another long-term injury, the Gunners require cover in the midfield. Allowing Johan Djourou to join Hamburg on loan has created another vacancy in the centre of defence, and although defence is not Song’s preferred position, he is certainly capable of providing cover at the back.

However, Arsenal ought to remember the reasons that Arsene Wenger was willing to allow Song to depart in the first place.

As the Cameroon international added more and more technical skill to his style, he seemed to lose some of the positional discipline that is integral to any defensive midfielder’s game. The lofted passes and drag-backs were undoubtedly attractive and certainly caught Barcelona’s eye, but Song occasionally neglected his primary responsibility: protecting the Arsenal goal.

Some speculated that this was in part due to an inflated ego. The increasing levels of adulation appeared to impact upon Song’s progression: as the approval rose, his effort levels declined.

A spell with Barcelona will have done little to improve Song’s humility.

Arsenal do need a defensive midfielder, but should look to sign a specialist who is prepared to concentrate on the role’s less heralded aspects.