Who can replace Alex Song?

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Amid the jubilation of signing Santi Cazorla less than 24 hours ago, the good times at Arsenal were seemingly cut short as news filtered through of Barcelona’s renewed interest in Alex Song and Robin van Persie’s impending departure, most likely to rivals Manchester United.

If the Dutchman were to leave then Arsenal would at least be able to fall back on their copious resources in the attacking department – the arrival of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud to add to the likes of Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner (for now) at least gives the Gunners some options.

Perhaps a bigger blow would be the departure of Song. With a host of Arsenal midfielders perennially injured, Song was a linchpin in the first XI last season, with his trademark passing over the top providing more than a few goals as Arsenal secured Champions League football.

Arsenal have been linked with a series of players since rumours of Song’s potential departure emerged, but who is best suited to filling his shoes if he decides to leave?

Nigel de Jong, Manchester City

Having previously enjoyed a similar standing to Song in the Manchester City team - in as much that he was the focal-point -  Nigel de Jong’s fall from grace has been fairly dramatic.

Now in and out of City’s starting line-up De Jong is seen as somewhat limited, especially when compared to Yaya Toure, and at Euro 2012 his positioning appeared flawed despite his strict instructions to protect the back four.

De Jong can get box to box like Song but is unable to offer a similar level of creativity, and while Song wasn’t perfect in his defensive work, the Dutchman simply isn’t rounded enough to be considered a genuine replacement.

Yann M’Vila, Rennes

Will he, won’t he? It appears at the moment that he won’t, but in a transfer saga as undulating as this, there is still plenty of time for things to change.

Yann M’Vila’s quality isn’t in doubt, but his attitude is. A midfield metronome that would be perfect at keeping Arsenal ticking over, M’Vila is an excellent tackler and defensive shield, qualities that have helped him become the hub of France’s national team, but he often finds himself in trouble off the pitch and that is something that Arsene Wenger is keen to avoid no doubt.

The on again-off again nature of the deal could be a clever ploy by Wenger to drive his price down, and if he gets his man he would probably be the best replacement out there for Song available at a reasonable price - but there are huge question marks over his temperament.

Ki Sung-yeung, Celtic

‘The South Korean Steven Gerrard’ is being lined up as a replacement for Song, according to the latest batch of reports.

Ki has impressed since making the move to Celtic from Seoul in 2009, and at just 23 has plenty of room to develop into an even better player.

While the comparisons to Gerrard may be a little premature the South Korean does have a good range of passing and shooting, although his goal tally of nine in 66 games for the SPL champions suggests he needs to improve his accuracy.

Also linked with Liverpool and QPR, it would be interesting to see how he makes the step up to the Premier League, but if Arsenal really are interested, it is difficult to see Ki being dropped in at the deep-end given the size of the role he would have to fill.

Victor Wanyama, Celtic

Another Celtic player, Victor Wanyama has been touted around more than a spare Olympic ticket. If reports are to believed the former Beerschot player is on the radar of Liverpool and Manchester United as well as Arsenal.

Wanyama is certainly a decent prospect, and is versatile like Song having played at centre-back in Celtic’s 2-1 win over HJK Helsinki last week.

However despite his potential there seems to be something a little dubious about the names than have been linked with Wanyama this summer, and although Arsenal may be interested, it is highly unlikely they will splash £7 million on the 22-year-old.

Nuri Sahin, Real Madrid

Not exactly a like-for-like in terms of replacing Song, but Sahin is certainly more than capable of filling a space in Arsenal’s midfield should he arrive on loan from Real Madrid.

Sahin has endured a disrupted season in Spain and has seen his stock tumble, but that shouldn’t detract from the quality he possesses.

The Turkish international is a wonderful passer of the ball, likes to find runners from distance, and is a brilliant defensive shield. He may not be as mobile as Song but he is probably a better distributor of the ball than the Cameroonian.

One aspect of his game that is under-rated is his defensive ability - Sahin is not the most robust player but is a fine tackler. If Arsenal can land him on loan without having to spend a single penny then it would be an excellent deal, but that appears some way off at the moment and may not happen. Although not a long-term option, Sahin would be a perfect fit in Arsenal’s midfield.

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Alex Song
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