SO KON PO, HONG KONG - JULY 29: Alex Song of Arsenal FC reacts during the pre-season Asian Tour friendly match between Kitchee FC and Arsenal at Hong Kong Stadium on July 29, 2012 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Arsene Wenger has today confirmed speculation that Alex Song was about to leave Arsenal by saying that Song is free to go. Speculation about Song's imminent departure had been rampant, and with Wenger saying that "Song can go", there is no doubt that the Cameroonian will be sold, provided Barcelona come up with a decent price and not their usual DNA and "wear and tear" rubbish.
Wenger also confirmed interest in Nuri Sahin, saying he is "one of the players we are following", though, whether he's being followed as a replacement for Song or insurance for Jack Wilshere is unclear.
Obviously, Song and Wenger have had some sort of falling out, either over personal reasons or footballing reasons. It's quite a shame, as Song was a very crucial player last season, who worked well in a double pivot with Mikel Arteta and also played lovely through passes for Arsenal's attacking players. But if Wenger wants him gone, and clearly he does, for Wenger never says that about a first team player, Alex Song probably will go.
Song is replaceable. He's been a great player to watch develop over the past few years, and he does get some undeserved criticism for Arsenal's goal conceded number, but Arsenal can improve. The question, though, is will they, and if so, who? I don't think Nuri Sahin is the player to replace Song; he's much more of a deep-lying creative player who makes interceptions, not physical tackles. And, quite frankly, in the Premier League, you need a physical player in the midfield. Arsenal had it in their great team of 1998, with Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, and again in 2004, with Gilberto Silva and Vieira. Manchester City have Yaya Toure, Chelsea have John Obi Mikel, and had Michael Essien at his best in 2005-06.
Song gave them that physicality, and Arsenal will probably need to replace that. Francis Coquelin is a wonderful prospect but he isn't yet that player. So whether it be Yann M'Vila, or Etienne Capoue or Victor Wanyama, Arsenal will need to sign a physical player. If that happens, losing Alex Song won't make a huge difference. If it doesn't happen, Arsenal might be in for a tough ride.
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