29th November 2006 – The day which Alex Song hit his lowest point in football. He was still a fringe player in the Arsenal squad at this time and had been selected for their trip at Fulham to come into a struggling side. Song’s performance was below par and he became the scapegoat for the team’s loss and poor start to the season. He was booed by a section of the away fans, shamefully, and was hauled off at half time by Arsene Wenger. It’s reported that the embarrassment didn’t stop there.
In the dressing room, Thierry Henry shouted at Song in front of the whole squad to the horror of the manager. It is widely thought that this is the main reason Henry was dropped for the coming games. However, it has been a near constant rise since that night for the Cameroonian. This was his only start in the Premier League for the club that season and in January, he moved to Charlton on loan for the rest of the season. It could be said this was the making of the strong defensive midfielder.
He made 12 Premier League appearances and despite Charlton’s subsequent relegation, Song starred and showed the fans of all clubs, especially Arsenal, that he was better than that performance in West London earlier in the season. Many outings were made in a central defensive position which he had much experience of in the past but was not his preferred position. He strengthened their defence and went from strength to strength with regular Premier League football the key to his progress.
Going back to Arsenal the next season proved difficult as he still found league appearances hard to come by and the midfield partnership of Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini seemed impenetrable. Then came his chance and emergence as Flamini rejected a new contract at the club and left for A.C. Milan on a free, to the dismay of Arsenal fans. This gave him the chance to challenge Denilson for the central midfield spot beside Cesc Fabregas and he made 31 league appearances in a breakthrough year for the then 22 year old.
Although, the 2009-10 season was one in which Song truly made himself a first team fixture and became a key member of the Arsenal midfield. Wenger changed his tactics from the favoured 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation which gave the team more solidity and meant they could keep possession a lot better domestically, and crucially, in Europe. This was perfect for him as there was now a truly defensive midfield position in the team where he could be trusted to sit in front of the defence and give the creative players a platform to attack.
The team started strongly, scoring 10 goals on their first two games, with Song starting in midfield with Denilson and Fabregas. Despite two unlucky away losses to the Manchester clubs, their strong start continued and these were their only losses in their first 11 fixtures. He was constantly improving and doing a fantastic job of protecting the infamously fragile Arsenal defence and providing a shield against attacks and starting attacks himself.
He became one of the first names on the team sheet and was key in Arsenal’s impressive season where they were in realistic contention for the title until the last 5 or 6 games where they faltered amid a defensive injury crisis which led to the comeback to the club of Sol Campbell.