Songs goal against City at the weekend reinforced an observation made by many this season that he doesn`t seem to be restricting himself to the more recognised defensive role of a holding midfielder. It isn`t an entirely new development as much the same could be seen last season on occasions with negative consequences whenever we conceded. But as a pattern of play it has become too evident for it to be a maverick action from Song. He must be acting under instruction.
It can be a little alarming when players don`t fit the labels anointed in a perceived standard formation. Holding midfielders are conventionally seen simply as defenders playing in front of the back four but it seems the role has become more flexible. The Uefa technical report on the 2009-2010 Champions League picks out an increasing tendency for teams to line up with two ‘screening` midfielders. It also highlights the need for flexibility to, on one side maximise the effectiveness of counter attacking strategies, and on the other nullify opposing counter attacks. The report refers to the success in which players like Zanetti and Toulalan could adapt to the patterns and demands of the game being screening midfielders that contribute to attacking needs.
It has concerned me at times to see players like Cesc , Denilson and Diaby to varying degrees having to cover Song`s arse but then it should only really matter if they don`t do so successfully. If Song is winning the ball higher up the pitch then the players behind him, whether Wilshere as of late, Diaby or Denilson more familiarly, and even Cesc and Nasri have more room to play and pull others out of position. One way or another it seems to be a defined tactic and in many ways just what we have come to expect from Wenger`s teams. As much as Henry or Bergkamp could become midfield providers as well as strikers or Overmars and Pires could become strikers perhaps holding midfielders that attack while attacking midfielders hold is just another step in changing a formulaic approach to the game.
Thinking back neither Vieira nor Petit would confine themselves to sitting in front of the back four. Though Petit was the more schooled in defending it was a role they were able to successfully share. As long as players react to each other`s movement and the shape of the team can be maintained then having three midfielders all rotating their roles could provide the unpredictability needed to open defences. It requires a high level of understanding and training but the players have been together for some time now so familiarity should be there.
I suspect it will still take me some time to feel comfortable with Song in advanced roles but as long as the opposition aren`t comfortable seeing him there either and someone is balancing the defensive needs then I`ll be happy to see him up his goals and assists tally. It seems he isn`t there by accident.
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