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A Song of praise

ON SONG: Alex Song in action (PA)

ALEX SONG’S loan move to West Ham has been an inspired move on both sides. Not since Carlos Tevez dragged the east Londoners clear of Premier League relegation in 2007 have West Ham been in possession of such a talented individual.

Since joining from Barcelona the 27-year-old has seen his stock rise to levels unseen since his tenure at Arsenal with a series of accomplished performances in midfield.

Sam Allardyce’s side are able to pick off teams in moments, be it from set pieces or a rapid counter-attack, and had done so with admirable consistency during Song’s recent month-long absence with a knee injury, but the Cameroon international provides a level of control that will be crucial if the Hammers are to maintain their challenge for Europe.

With Song at the heart of matters, supplemented by the likes of Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate, West Ham are able to dominate opponents and, as was the case during their 3-1 dismissal of Swansea, can enjoy greater possession than sides more renowned for their ball retention.

Song has been instrumental in altering perceptions of Allardyce as a long-ball merchant.

In attack his touch and vision enables the fluid functioning of Allardyce’s varied tactical plans, whether he’s playing raking passes to Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell in wide areas or seeking to release the rejuvenated Stewart Downing through the centre.

This has been a facet of his game since he established himself at Arsenal but had been neglected at Barcelona, where he was never likely to break up La Masia cartel of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in midfield.

The Catalans esoteric tactics often saw Song reduced to playing a central defensive role on those rare occasions when he made the starting XI.

For a player who showed minimal defensive appetite at the Emirates his time in Catalonia was a disappointment.

It was never Song’s game and Arsene Wenger still struggles for suitable personnel in front of Arsenal’s back four.

Yet he has been a reassuring presence in front of West Ham’s defence, showing greater tactical restraint than during his previous stint in the Premier League.

Whether this is down to Allardyce or the defensive nous he picked up in Spain is debatable but should his performances in claret and blue continue there will be widespread interest next summer.

West Ham fans are enjoying Song while he is one of theirs.

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