Opinion from the stands

The Alex Song headache: Unplayable against the big teams, lethargic against the rest?

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As sure as Bubbles being sung before a match at the Boleyn, so Alex Song had a blinder against one of the so called ‘big’ teams.

The midfielder was at his controlling best against Manchester City in what was a rare start for him. He was able to effortlessly break up play, and pull the strings alongside Mark Noble with sensible, quick balls out of the back.

His ability on the ball and composure when shielding the defence has never been in doubt. The problem is, this level of performance is never guaranteed.

The 28-year-old has a lethargic presence on the pitch which is often interpreted as lazy and uninterested. Whether he is actually less motivated or not, his performances certainly do appear less effective against the perceived weaker clubs in the league.

Former manager Sam Allardyce recruited Song with the intention of bringing leadership to the midfield, and to provide a commanding influence.

The aim was for him to add a professionalism that would ensure standards did not slip when playing less high profile matches.

And his arrival last season coincided with a rich vein of form, which sparked talk of a top half finish and the potential of a cup run. He was consistent, and so was the team.

The problem was, when his performances dropped off, so did the team’s.

It could be argued there were a few players who failed to fire in the second half of the season, but certainly Song’s dip was the greatest sign of what might have been.

What this suggests is his work rate and impetus can be a driving force. He can lift those around him, and nullify most threats from the opposition.

If West Ham are to kick on this year, Alex Song needs to drive that.

Sure, the creative assets now at the club speak for themselves, but it is the former Cameroon captain who can inject the class in the centre of the pitch that can elevate good performances into great results.

He has been limited to just nine appearances this season, mostly due to injury problems, and Saturday was the first time he has completed 90 minutes in the league.

The reality is, he is a luxury player. We have enough players in his position, and when he is absent, he is not really missed. But if he can come in and show a consistently committed attitude, he becomes a huge asset.

With the club embarking on a cup run whilst trying to hold on to a European qualification place, he will likely be called upon a lot more.

His ability is undeniable, it’s simply his application. However, there would be few who doubt that if he is on form, the club can ensure last season’s tail off is not repeated.

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A lifelong West Ham supporter, Kevin is a journalist and editor from Essex now based in Sydney. Defying the time difference, he watches every game, and keeps a close eye on everything happening with The Hammers.