Tom Moseley questions if Barcelona need Alex Song.
Alex Song had a great season for Arsenal last year, you can't really deny that. He can still improve, as I still feel he can be sloppy on the ball and be a bit lazy when getting back, but no one's perfect, right? You should credit where credit is due, and Alex Song deserves credit, he was a key player for Arsenal last year, which is a good thing, until rumours start circulating. One of the main transfer rumours, behind the on-going sagas of Van Persie and Luka Modric, is the rumour that Barcelona want Alex Song, want him they might, but do they need him?
Lets think about who Barcelona currently have occupying their midfield, some of the best midfielder in the world, no question about it. Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Busquets and Javier Mascherano, who has recently signed a new deal at the club, now, that's some line-up, would Alex Song really fit in?
I personally think he would, I'm not saying he's a guaranteed starter, but I think the club may see Macherano as more of a centre-back/sweeper now, as last season he made 38 appearnces at centre-back compared to 2 in midfield. Then I think they also prefer to push Fabregas and Iniesta forward into more attacking roles, which again you can see as Fabregas spent only 11 of his 33 games last season in centre-midfield and Iniesta spent 16 of his 35 games there, which only leaves Xavi as the primary centre-midfielder, with Busqets operating deeper. So, he would get games, not as much as he would at Arsenal, but he would get games.
Now, lets move on to the player in question, Alex Song. He should certainly fit into the Barcelona style of play, as it's not too different to how Arsenal play, with the emphasis on possession and 'keeping the ball on the deck'. Which, as we saw from Song last season, he can do, with an average 60 passes per game last season, in all competitions, and a pass success of 83.8%, which could be better, but then his frequent attempts at 'Hollywood Passes' could be partly to blame for it being relativey low. However, you can complain about his Hollywood Passes being a waste of possession when something simpler was on (like I do) or you can think they were also extremely valuable to his team, as he seemed to have good chemistry with Van Persie, with the two always on the same wavelength, leading to some great goals by Van Persie, because of Songs exquisite passes. He got 11 assists in 34 games last season for Arsenal, a great record, providing the bit of creativity they needed after Fabregas' departure last year. He also finished the season with the most accurate through balls per game, with 0.7, a great achievement, as he despite being more advance than previous years, he is still playing a much more conservative position to someone like David Silva, who finished in 2nd place. Along side this, he also finished with 1.4 key passes per game, another great feat for a more defensive midfielder.
However, I don't think it should be all praise for the Cameroon international. Defensively, stat-wise, he is pretty great, with 2.9 tackles per game and 1.9 interceptions per game, however, I do think he could improve a lot. I think he gives away the ball too easily, with what looks like half hearted passes, or he doesn't track back (quick?) enough, leading to gaps in the Arsenal midfield. If he didn't have the disciplined Arteta next to him, they would have been punished a lot more times than they were and I can't see them being too happy with this at Barcelona, as there is quite a lot of emphasis on the high-pressing, so he couldn't get caught out doing this. However, you could turn that on its head and say he would be more disciplined with a more creative player next to him, like he was with Fabregas. So, I do feel there are aspects of his game that need improving, but they're not things to do with ability, more mentality, which can be better.
What would it mean to Arsenal if he left? I've seen lots of tweets from Arsenal fans on my timeline about this rumour over the past week or so, and the reactions don't seem to be very mixed! The majority of fans don't want him to leave, they think it would be taking a backwards step, even after signing Cazorla. Then, a few others say cash in, he's replaceable. I personally am on the fence. I think he is important, and it wouldn't be great to sell one of your key-players, especially to a team who you want to be competing with. However, I do think he's replaceable, because he does have his faults, so they could cash in, sign someone else and do just as well. It's a tough one, I think it's less about him leaving and more about who would be joining that would help me decide. For example, sell him and sign Yann M'Vila, definitely, he's a couple of years younger and can do the job just as well, but if the replacement wasn't quite as good, I'd be less willing to cash in. It all comes down to how highly you rate Alex Song, because as I've said, he's good, but not brilliant.
So, do they need him?
I think a good point to take into consideration when answering this question is they've just sold Seydou Keita, who could defend and attack and had a bit more physical prowess than their other players, sounds a bit like Alex Song doesn't it? So in signing Song, they would have another player who could do this, who would be extremely useful to them and only 24 years of age.
However, you also have to think Barcelona like to promote their own players and have named their 25 man squad, things can change, but they might prefer it if they didn't, and then give one of their younger players a chance in the role, like Sergi Samper or Sergio Roberto, two La Masia graduates and carry on 'The Barca Way'.
To answer the question, do they need him? Not necessarily. But he would make them stronger, as well as offering something different.