By Avenell Dave
There was so much to enjoy last night against Shakhtar Donetsk.
As the goals started to flow, the pace and movement started to come back and we looked like the side who started the season, full of threat and menace.
The difference, of course, apart from the inability of our visitors to cope with our movement, was the appearance of Cesc Fabregas.
Jack Wilshere deserves plenty of credit for his determined display – I got a text from a Liverpool-supporting friend suggesting he looked like a young Paul Gascoigne and a superstar in the making.
There’s no doubt that if he curbs his occasional careless tackling while maintaining his improvement and confidence, we will have some player on our hands.
But our captain is such a lynchpin and while Jack may well be asked next season or the season after to fill Cesc’s role, the Spanish international is the difference between us being a coherent and threatening side and struggling to break down the better sides we have faced.
Arsene Wenger made a very good point about the brilliance of the Cesc-Jack tandem and it’s a shame that we will miss that from our next three domestic games.
But if that duo is to work, it relies on an enforcer shielding the back four and allowing the more talented midfielders to push forward.
Alex Song has grown immeasurably in recent years to the point where he has deserved his first choice billing as a winner of the ball.
Just as Samson lost his powers when his hair was cut, so Song’s game has gone to pot since dying his hair grey ahead of the Blackburn game earlier this season.
I was mystified this morning to read such praise of his performance last night.
Try watching the game again and see how many times he finds himself chasing the ball as Shakhtar pushed forward and had got ten yards ahead of him.
Song should be sitting in front of the back four and never find his opponent goal side of him, yet that happened so many times last night.
So many times he dived in as his opponents skipped his challenges or won a foul against him.
It's as if he has forgotten all that made him the fine player he has become.
It’s all very well making countless errors such as that against inferior European opposition, but against competent domestic sides, we will get torn apart.
Song has to throw himself in the way of shots, stand off and guide opponents into wide areas where they cannot cause damage rather than allow them a run on goal, and he has to remember that he is a defensive midfielder, not a playmaker.
Alex, we know how good you can be, and chipping in with a couple of goals a season is something we would all welcome.
But your job must primarily be one of shielding the back four and helping the team to increase the number of clean sheets that this current team have found so difficult to come by.