From Barcelona outcast, to West Ham hero, Alex Song’s loan move from to the club last summer was seen as a real coup – and would spearhead the philosophical movement from long ball tactics to on the deck tika-taka, or so it would seem anyway.
For our strongest part of the season, the first half, Song was the lynchpin that held the team together in midfield. Showing great desire and tenacity to get about the opposition and win the ball back in crucial areas, whilst also displaying an acute eye for a pass in the attacking third. Song epitomised the new West Ham.
Whilst the team endured a never-before-seen plummet down the Premier League table, which coincided with an astronomical decline in Song’s form, we saw flashes from him and what he can bring to this budding young team going forward.
Song’s never been a consistent performer, wherever he’s been. His move to Barcelona was really the product of several highlight-reel assists he provided to eventual Premier league top scorer Robin van Persie that gave the Catalan club the belief that Song can play a defensive, yet creative role in the side.
It didn’t work out that way, branded the worst signing in La Liga that season.
A player like Song has an ego. An ego that drives him to believe he’s on a level above what his play warrants, which is what I think was the driving force behind his dip in form in 2015 – as some of the Premier League’s top clubs were reportedly keen on signing him the following summer.
It now appears that the holding midfielder will have to ‘settle’ for Europa League football at Upton Park. A move for a nominal fee is being discussed, but of course, when you sign a player of his perceived calibre, the wages come with them.
Rumoured to be on in excess of £100,000-a-week with Barcelona, Song would have to take a dramatic wage cut in order to fit into the club’s wage structure, which currently see’s record signing Andy Carroll as the top earner at £80,000-a-week.
Comparing Song to the player that is likely taking up his role currently for next season, Mark Noble, there’s not much to separate them with in terms of production.
On average per game, Noble completed 42/49 passes (85.7%) which edges out Song’s 33/44 (75%). Song loves a ‘Hollywood’ pass – looking for that piercing through ball between the lines from deep, which more often than not is misplaced by the slightest of margins and intercepted.
I’m a fan of this though, we don’t ask the question of the defence enough. We need more forward-thinking players.
Defensively, Song comes into his own. The Cameroonian averages 3.3 tackles per-game, as opposed to Noble’s 2.5, as well as 1.5 interceptions per-game; Noble falls behind with only 1.2 interceptions per-game.
The best attribute of our early season side was its work ethic. Tirelessly careering up and down the pitch, hassling opponents and pressuring them to relieve possession, and that’s what Slaven Bilic also asks of his teams, especially the midfields.
We need Song in the team, as the anchor who mops up in front of the back four while Pedro Obiang and Cheikhou Kouyate do the heavy lifting.
Who are we realistically going to get that’s better than Alex Song? That’s a very shortlist of players. If we can get Song in, I’d take the gamble on him that he can sustain his performances. We’re an infinitely better side with him than without him.