Vermaelen’s Vow And Song’s Second
It’ a regular old summer for Arsenal already. The cacophony of discontent among a section of Arsenal supporters continues to grow now that there are no matches at the weekend to distract the fault-finders. The Gunners’s seven-year trophy drought, inability to sign M’Vila already and lack of progress on Robin van Persie’s contract situation are all merged together to point towards the club’s lack of ambition especially at a time when Roman is out with his trolley, shopping in the supermarkets of the world.
Amidst all the doomsday predictions, there was one piece of welcome news yesterday; Thomas Vermaelen’s wish to remain a Gunner forever.
I will stay at Arsenal forever. There will be no transfer for me. I love London. I’ve got a house there, I’m happy there and I don’t see any reason to ever leave the club.
It’s a loyalty statement rarely issued these days. In a commercial football world where clubs try to squeeze the best value out of their recruits and agents try to maximise their clients earnings over a relatively short career, it’s surprising to hear an international footballer commit to the club so openly. There is no mention of how many trophies we may win, no talk of wanting new signings to push for titles, no mention of being paid on par with other clubs. Just a plain old declaration of allegiance.
Of course, the counter argument is that the club wouldn’t show the same loyalty to the player if he failed to produce consistently or if a better offer came along. While that may be true for other clubs, it’s certainly not a charge you can level against Arsenal. The Gunners have stood by players through injury, loss of form and periods of self-doubt. In fact, it can be argued that sometimes we’ve done so at the cost of achieving success. For a player to reciprocate that support so openly is certainly a reason to be optimistic that certain values still persist in modern football.
Elsewhere, Arsenal’s defensive midfielder Alex Song has been voted the Gunner’s second best performer of the 2011-12 campaign. The Cameroonian had a breakout season in terms of his attacking play, notching up an impressive 14 assists over the course of the season with Robin van Persie scoring as many as five goals from Song’s assists.
I think Arteta’s deep-lying role has helped Song immensely in his attacking forays. After the Tottenham result in early October, Song and Arteta were not too adventurous initially as the need to gain points and to develop an understanding brought in a more conservative approach. But as the partnership grew, Song started to become a real attacking threat with Arteta providing superb cover.
While Song’s attacking play was breathtaking at times and some of his through passes and over-the-top assists were a joy to watch, his transformation into a more complete midfielder still requires some work. As the below chart shows, Song’s involvement in defensive duties has been steadily decreasing over the years. If he intends to become the kind of player Mikel Arteta is currently, Alex will need to find a balance between attack and defense.
But so consistent has been his presence in the Arsenal midfield in the last four years, that’s it’s easy to forget that he’s still only 24 years old. And it’s also easy to forget that he too is entering the last year of his contract. In my opinion, tying Alex Song down to a new contract is as important as agreeing an extension for Van Persie.
Will Alex Song demand Arsenal to make a statement of ambition as Van Persie is reportedly asking us to do, or will the Cameroonian make his own statement of desire to stay at the club as Vermaelen has so publicly done? It’s another question that will be answered before the summer is through- hopefully, the answer will lean towards the latter.
P.S. Apologies to email subscribers if you received an unintelligible post in your inbox this morning; it was a direct result of not having morning coffee before commencing the day’s post. Like Arsenal’s defending, I promise to sort it out in the future.