LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Alex Song of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong entered 2010-11 with high expectations for his performance at the defensive midfield position that he had made his own. Arsenal, however, made a significant tactical shift this year in their 4-3-3 system, moving to more of a 4-2-3-1 as Jack Wilshere slotted in alongside Song in a double pivot supporting the playmaking of Cesc Fabregas. On paper, this meant that Song and Wilshere would take it in turn to move forward and stay back, and in practice, it meant that suddenly, Alex Song was able to attack more than he had in the previous two seasons.
Song would play most of his 42 appearances at that midfield position, but occasionally, as against Blackpool in August, he would deputize at center back. But at midfield, it would not take long for him to open his scorebook, as he chipped home in Arsenal's 3-1 win against Bolton Wanderers. October, though, would be his best month of the season offensively, as he scored against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and an important goal against Manchester City in Arsenal's win. His biggest goal, though, came in the 1-0 victory against a stubborn West Ham, as he stooped to head home Gael Clichy's cross in the last minute of regular time to seal the three points for the Gunners.
On the defensive front, Song played customarily well, although at times he would find himself out of position and have to resort to a late foul to stop a counter attack, often earning a yellow card (or two) for his troubles. But on the balance, his defensive play was again solid, his size and strength in duels on the ground an asset for an otherwise smallish central midfield.
One of the high points of Arsenal's season, the 3-1 victory over Chelsea in late December (possibly the team's finest match of the year), was sparked by Song on the offensive side again. Jack Wilshere tried to chip a pass through to Cesc Fabregas just before half-time, and in the scramble on the edge of the area, the ball fell in front of Song, who had also been breaking through, and he powered a shot over Petr Cech's outstretched leg and into the far corner for the opener.
The second half of Song's year was marred by niggling thigh and knee injuries; one wonders if the outcome at St. James' Park would've been any different had he been in the midfield. Song missed all of March and part of April as his knee injury kept him out, and despite playing on a few occasions, he was unable to exert a lot of influence on the team at the end of the year, although he did play well in Arsenal's 1-0 victory over Manchester United, winning the ball back to start the attack for Aaron Ramsey's winner.
Overall, it was another solid year for Song, despite his injuries and occasional defensive and positioning slip-ups. Mostly, these were few and far between, and his contributions on the offensive end often came at high-leverage moments. When fully healthy, Song is a vital component in the club's system, and he is only 23 years old, so there is more to come from the Cameroonian.
Ted's grade: :)
Beltran's grade: B+