Is Alex Song An Anti-Footballer Then?
After all the furore over Eduardo's dive over Celtic, Arsenal manager Arséne Wenger chose a unique way to defend his player: he launched an attack on Manchester United. Of course, his gripe had a lot to do with the fact that we had just beaten them at Old Trafford but his central theme was how diving was less of a problem than persistent sneaky fouls.
'There are other points that, for me, are more urgent - players who play only to make fouls and who are never punished; players who make repeated fouls and who get out of the game without a yellow card. That, for me, is more anti-football than a player who did what Eduardo did.'
'I have seen a player who plays only on the pitch to make repeated fouls. Look at how many deliberate fouls some players make and get away with. I think that's a bigger problem because it cuts the flow of the game. And people come and pay to see football. They do not come to see free‑kicks.'
Fast forward to January 2010 and you will not find a single Arsenal blog not praising Alex Song, his newfound maturity and his excellence in breaking up play and protecting the back four. All Gooners were profoundly relieved when he returned from the African Nations Cup in time to be available against us.
And what did he do? Well, what he always does: tackling, breaking up play, often with niggly little fouls. He was even more effective against Chelsea, most of his fouls sneaky enough to be ignored by the referee but my God he was snapping at those ankles.
Is he an anti-footballer then? Or is he doing the same what all specialist defensive midfielders, like our very own Darren Fletcher, do? Is it possible that Mr. Wenger is actually a hypocrite? Surely not!
(Oh, for the record, I actually agree with Wenger on this count: the specialist defensive midfielder is actually a danger to the beauty and enjoyment of the game, niggly and persistent fouling which most of them are expert at can ruin any football game. It's just that you're either a purist or a pragmatist, there's no middle ground. If he gets all high and mighty about these gamebreakers then he should drop Song and play Denilson in every game instead. That would be fun!)