If you didn’t think this season could get any better, West Ham went and beat the champions on Saturday to secure yet another win, keeping the side in the top four with confidence growing throughout the team all the time.
Once again, it was a faultless performance from every West Ham player on the pitch, who showed grit and determination to see the game out after the David Silva goal.
One player who may not necessarily grab the headlines, but did a brilliant job against City nonetheless, is the Cameroonian midfield maestro Alex Song. He has arguably been the signing of the season in terms of offering solidarity and composure in the middle of the park, combining well with the likes of Mark Noble and Cheikou Kouyate. He produced his best performance in a West Ham shirt against City and was one of the main reasons why we limited Manchester City to scoring just the single goal.
One of the main attributes that dominates Song’s game is his strength in the tackle. He was incredibly strong against the likes of Yaya Toure and Fernando in the midfield battle, breaking up the momentum of their attacks and putting West Ham on the front foot. He attempted the most amount of tackles on the pitch (7), getting in the face of a team who can thrive when they have time on the ball. He also recovered the ball 11 times, more than any other player on the pitch.
This kind of stat showcases how he is economical with the ball by reading the game well and winning it back to start new attacks, whilst also balancing his efforts with getting stuck into the tackling side of the game.
The economical side to Song’s game isn’t just defensively minded. Although he only attempted 8 attacking passes, one of them was the precise pass that allowed Valencia to square the ball for Amalfitano to score West Ham’s first goal. This is the type of quality play Song provides. Although he may not play an abundance of attacking passes every game, he does have the ability to play a perfectly weighted pass that can result in a scoring opportunity.
The midfielder clearly relishes playing in the deep lying playmaker role, something that he excelled in at Arsenal and showed glimpses of featuring for Barcelona. Song is also very calm and composed in possession, something that will come naturally playing for two of the best passing teams in Europe. He adds an overall sense of quality that works well with the energy and stamina of both Noble and Kouyate, making the West Ham midfield incredibly difficult to overrun and dominate.
It looks like Song’s teammates appreciate playing alongside the midfielder as he was involved in three of the top four West Ham pass combinations against Manchester City. This shows that players are now looking to provide Song with the ball, especially against tougher opponents due to his ability to keep hold of the ball and pick the right pass under pressure. His stats from the weekend’s game do not scream man of the match but his positional awareness and ability to numb the effect of a top class opposition shows that he was West Ham’s main man on the day. Without Alex Song on Saturday, I doubt we would have beaten City.
David Gold has been public in voicing his determination to sign Alex Song permanently and it would be a fantastic signing, especially if West Ham qualify for the Europa League or, dare I say, better. Having said this, it’s all very early days but the immediate signs have been hugely impressive and Alex Song will hopefully be at the forefront of a number of strong performances like the City game across the rest of the Premier League season.