FC Barcelona: Where Does Alex Song Fit Into The Club?

"You want my position? You're going to have to fight for it!"

After days and days of speculation, tonight Barcelona announced the signing of Alex Song from Arsenal. At €19 million, the Cameroon international is the most expensive signing of Barcelona’s summer and by any La Liga team (at least until Luka Modric completes his move to Real Madrid). However, where does he actually fit into the Barcelona system? Is there a place in the XI for the industrious midfielder, and at €19 million, was Song really the best option for the club?

You will all have your own opinions, although at current, the general feeling towards the transfer is simply one of confusion, a sentiment I share. Over and over, I have repeated the three questions (above) in my mind and still I am no closer to an answer – perhaps that’s why Tito Vilanova is manager and I am not. Regardless, here is the opinion of both myself and Barca Blaugranes Editor, Inder Methil as to where Alex Song will fit in at the club.

Arron's View:

RB

CB

LB

CDM

CM

RW

LW

ST

1

Dani Alves

Javier Mascherano

Jordi Alba

Sergio Busquets

Xavi

Alexis Sanchez

Pedro

Lionel Messi

2

Martin Montoya

Gerard Piqué

Adriano

Alex Song

Andrés Iniesta

Isaac Cuenca

David Villa

Cesc Fàbregas

3

Carles Puyol

Carles Puyol

Eric Abidal

Jonathan Dos Santos

Cesc Fàbregas

Pedro

Cristian Tello

David Villa

4

Marc Bartra

Alex Song

Thiago Alcântara

Dani Alves

Isaac Cuenca

Alexis Sanchez

5

Marc Bartra

Alex Song

The above is a depth chart of the current 25-man Barcelona squad – minus Marc Muniesa. However, as with all depth charts, this is merely my opinion. Assessing each position in greater detail, one thing becomes obvious: Barcelona do not have a problem at full-back. Dani Alves has the right-back berth nailed down, and in Martin Montoya, Barcelona have a suitable back-up. The story at left-back is similar – Jordi Alba is expected to establish himself as the starter, with Adriano as back-up. Eric Abidal is in the squad, but with no set date for his return, it makes sense to label him as the third choice. Tito has a plethora of options for each wing – and this is even before we consider Gerard Deulofeu who could be knocking on the first-team door sooner than thought if he continues his early season form.

However, none of that was really relevant, as we expect that Song to contest for three positions only – pivote, centre-back and centre-midfield. Now where does he fit into each position?

Song played as a defensive midfielder for Arsenal, but I think every Barcelona fan will agree that he is light-years behind Sergio Busquets. That isn’t an insult to Song’s ability, merely an acknowledgment of the talent Busquets displays week after week, so at best, Alex Song can expect to be the first-choice back-up at pivote.

Moving onto central midfield, one could argue that Song is better offensively than he is defensively, although what difference does that really make? In moving to Barcelona, he has moved to the club with the best midfield in the world – possibly of all-time. Xavi and Andrés Iniesta are the undisputed starters in the centre of midfield, and rightly so. The two Spaniards are widely acknowledged as the two of the best midfielders in the history of the sport and their partnership is the stuff of legend. Behind Xavi and Iniesta is Cesc Fàbregas, and it goes without saying that Cesc is a better player than Alex Song, so at best, Alex Song could be the fourth choice in the centre of midfield. Then again, is he really a better option than Thiago Alcântara? Thiago has played in the Barcelona system his entire career and even at 21 years of age he has featured in some very important games. For example, Thiago started the first three league games of last season, played 90 minutes against Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid (on two occasions). In fact, he even started both matches in the FIFA Club World Cup and also both legs of the Copa Del Rey semi-final with Valencia. Thiago has proved himself for the Blaugrana, and I would argue that this puts him ahead of Alex Song on the depth chart; at least once he has recovered from injury.

So what about the centre of defense? Could Song establish himself as a starter ahead of the likes of Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué and co? Despite his troubles over the course of the past season, Gerard Piqué appears to be at the forefront of Tito Vilanova’s plans. The worst definitely appears to be behind the ex-Manchester United defender, and he has arguably had the best pre-season of any Barcelona centre-half. Javier Mascherano established himself as a starter last season with his magnificent performances in the heart of defense, and in pre-season was very much a starter for Vilanova’s side. Then we have Carles Puyol – El Capitan. Unless the great man is (God forbid) struck down by injury, he is third-choice at the very, very least. That makes Song fourth-choice in my book, hardly worth the €19 million outlay.

My Opinion: Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Alexander Hleb, Keirrison, Henrique, Zlatan Ibrahimovic; it would be a tough list to crack, but even before a ball is kicked, I would argue that Alex Song is pushing for a place in the top five worst FC Barcelona transfers of the past five years. That being said, with low expectations, the scene has been set for Song to surprise us all; I just hope his arrival doesn’t come at the expense of Thiago.

Inder Methil’s view:

The only statistic that sticks out about Alexandre Song is that he has 17 sisters and 10 brothers! That's right, his mother is nothing short of a living miracle to have 28 children and still presumably healthy. The Cameroon international at 24 years of age had a season among seasons for Arsenal last year. It was a case of, in my opinion, Arsenal lacking the personnel or funds to replace the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and therefore, Song was expected to take more responsibility.

He had the most number of assists as a Central Midfielder in the premier league. Song's profile will probably read:

1) Good with the ball at his feet

2) Competent in aerial duels

3) Competent in tackles (although he concedes too many fouls)

4) Positioning is questionable.

5) Lacks goal scoring instinct (when compared to Seydou Keita, for those of you who expect him to be the Malian's replacement).

After an interesting discussion on twitter, a conclusion on Barcelona's purchase of Song was reached:

The idea was to get a versatile player who is capable of playing centrally (from CB to DM to CM). A player who is defensive in nature and has a certain level of physicality in his style of play to help solidify midfield if necessary. Said player must be cheap and within Barca's financial constraints (26 million Euros if the rumoured 40 million budget is to be believed). The ideal situation would have been to buy a specialist. In short, a centre back. However that wasn't possible due to a few reasons:

1) Not too many world class centre back's around that can be bought for the budget Barca have. Thiago Silva and Javi Martinez would have been ideal (in that order) but both would have cost around 40 million.

2) Due to Eric Abidal's illness, Barca were forced into buying a LB. Unfortunately there aren't too many players like King Eric around. That is, a player who could play LB and CB, has a mind boggling combination of pace, athleticism(read:physique to out muscle the likes of Cristina and Angel) and positional sense. In short, we lost a world class defender and had to buy. So Jordi Alba was a must. In fact, Alba could turn out to be a blessing in disguise cause of his attacking prowess

Anyhow, I'm digressing. With Silva and Martinez out, Barca (the management) opted for Song. Personally, I can't see it – especially because of Song's questionable positioning. It is the one prerequisite for all defensive players in Barcelona. We play a high line and defenders/defensive minded midfielders have to have a great positional awareness and/or pace (to make up for lack of the first attribute). Busquets is slow but by far the best in world football to read passes before they happen and he is always at the right place at the right time. Mascherano is almost as good and makes up for it via pace and ability to pull off last ditch tackles consistently. Puyol is Puyol, enough said. Pique is great in aerial duels, great positioning, decent pace and superb at passing and hence getting out of hairy situations when the back line is being pressured. Song isn't really any of these.

Moreover, why Song? Why not Daniel Agger? Or Capoue or a number of other players. This is me hoping that Tito and Rosell have a plan that goes beyond just calculating the risk involved in a purchase and one that actually adds something to the squad and gives the team more options. As of now, I simply cannot see it but then that's probably why I get to write this out of the comfort of my home while Tito tries to win trophies for Barca.

Since it's confirmed, I'm left with no choice but to welcome Alex Song (and if he's even half as tough as his supermom, then we made a great buy). To the fans reading this: It is safe to say that Song is not what Barca usually goes for, so be ready to wait a season (at least) to see any dividends because it will take him time to adapt to our ways. That and let’s all hold hands and pray that Tito pulls off a Pep, converts Song to a world class CB à la Mascherano and forces me to repent.

Inder’s Opinion: Song is an expensive player that doesn’t seem to suit any particular role. Might take a while before we can really judge him.

Well, that’s our opinion, but what do you think about the signing of Alex Song? Vote on our poll below and comment with your thoughts as well. One thing is for certain though, in Tito we trust!


Similar: Official: FC Barcelona Sign Alex Song From Arsenal FC | Follow Barca Blaugranes on Twitter


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