Many Arsenal fans have recently called for a signing of a defensive midfielder with rumours pointing towards Yann M'Vila, with Song going forward
The wonders of Alex Song have exploded onto the scene this season. Currently he plays in a deep role, behind the more attacking duo of Rosicky and, although also playing fairly deep, Mikel Arteta. However Song's game does not halt at defensive duties, according to ESPN he has eight Premier League assists and more successful through-balls than David Silva, Luka Modric and Juan Mata. He has been given the nick-name "Songinho" by fans with the example of his assist against Dortmund providing evidence that he has some Brazilian-like magic in his game. Yet some fans are calling for a new defensive midfielder like Yann M'Vila, often arguing that Song should be pushed into a more attacking role but I don't think this would help Song or the team for a number of reasons.
One particular element of Song's game has come to light this season. His magnificent balls over the top of defenses have created winner's this season on two occasions against Everton and Liverpool. In both of these goals, he picked the ball up from deep as you can see in the pictures.
For even more evidence look at Song's recent assist against Villa. In all of these he picked the ball up in his favourite position, in defensive midfield. Look at the position of the other, more advanced midfielder and notice the pressure these two players are under, yet Song is free to play any ball he wants. If he were to move further forward he would no longer be able to pick out the strikers over the top of the defence, and would find it much harder to find the space to be at his creative best. Imagine it was Yann M'Vila in his place, who doesn't have the passing abilities Song possesses. The ball would have gone wide and a chance missed with Song missing out entirely as he'd be crowded out by defenders. This new-found skill has won us two games this season gaining us six points. Why would we then take this element of his game away from him?
Song naturally tends to sit in front of the defence, meaning that if he were told to play further forward he may drop deeper looking for influence in the game. Not only would this clog up the areas where Song used to operate as there would be a new defensive midfielder but it would force us to sit much deeper on the pitch as the lack of attackers would mean opposition defences could sit higher. Furthermore, the higher defence of the opposition would mean it would be far more easy for defenders to pick up Song.
We would also miss Song's tackling if he were to move forward. He currently serves as a rock between the back four and the two other midfielders. The skills required to fulfill this roll include his physicality and tackling, attributes that would be used far less if he were to play further forward. Song's willingness to go in hard and break up attacks means moving him forward could cost us dearly, losing the midfield balance we currently maintain. His tackling stats have commonly been the best in the Arsenal midfield. In 2008/09 he boasted 76% tackling success and this season he has 73 tackles the most in the midfield, more than Thomas Vermaelen and equal with Laurent Koscielny.
One thing we wouldn't miss so much is his shooting. Now of course he doesn't get too many opportunities given his current position but he does already find the time to get forward now and then. He has a not particularly outstanding one goal this season compared to Mikel Arteta's five and even Tomas Rosicky, who is famously goal-shy, has more. His shot stats don't help him either with his accuracy being lowest of our midfielders both in 2008/09 with 41% and in 2009/10.
At the moment our midfield, particularly Song and Arteta, switch positions throughout a game. Arteta fills in when Songinho comes to town, meaning that we are hardly ever caught out on the break as we used to be so often. We currently have seven straight wins in a row the form of those playing in the middle forming no small part in that awsome run of form. So why change something that isn't broken?