Every story is only part of the whole story. Or as Carl Sagan once said, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” For example, the Hobbit is a wonderful story which only covers a small sliver of an entire world with a complicated history that Tolkien created. Even within the story of the Hobbit, Tolkien hints of a story about the battle between Gandalf and Sauron which is going to be made into a third Hobbitt movie. Further, Tolkien doesn’t name him in the Hobbit, just refers to him as the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, you have to read the Silmarillion to find out about all this.
But there’s a principle of infinite regression at work here. You can continue to look at smaller and smaller specks until you lose sight of something meaningful and interesting or you can keep demanding “the whole story”. But the reality is that whole story is unwieldy and frankly boring. The Hobbit is a good book because it is tight and focused on one thing: there and back, a Hobbit’s journey.
As it is with the Alex Song story that’s circulating at the moment; that he had become a Billy Big Bollix, wanted a new contract, started showing up late for practice, and stopped doing the things that the manager asked him to do both in practice and on the field. Arsene had grown tired of his antics and by January of last year was actively shopping for his replacement. So, when Barcelona came knocking this summer, the club got rid of him quickly and for a massive profit.
But Arsenal supporters are never happy with any story about the club and this one about Song, which has a whiff of club spin, is being picked apart just as eagerly as Tolkien nerds who examine every word in all of his works, looking for any hole in the theory.
Why, if he’s such a disruption, is he getting an upgrade to Barcelona? What role did the fact that Darren Dein is his agent play in the movement of the player? Why is it that Arsenal haven’t had a prototypical defensive midfielder since the triple departures of Gilberto, Diarra, and Flamini in 2008? On and on, just like any densely constructed story there are many threads to pull on.
I do believe that the club has leaked this information about Song for strategic reasons. Fans demand an explanation of why Arsenal are selling the club’s most defensive midfielder, second best player on the team, who has years left on his contract, and who provided the only steel in the midfield. Arsenal gave them an explanation and naturally, the fans start to pick it apart.
But in my experience, if Arsenal stayed silent on the matter the reaction would have been worse because everyone and their brother would filled the void with whatever their pet theory of the day is: Arsenal are cash-strapped, Arsene is a tyrant, Kroenke is only in it for the money, the club lacks ambition, the ticket prices are too high, the announced attendance is a joke, Usmanov is actually Jesus, I like black scarves – do you like black scarves – let’s get some bin-bags and tie them around our heads like a security blanket!
I’m not sure how much of the official Arsenal story I believe. I definitely think there is bad blood between the player and the management – what the cause only Arsene and Song know. And as for the player’s discipline on the pitch I’ve always forgiven Song and attributed that to Arsene Wenger’s playing style, though it is possible that both Wenger and Song were to blame. We know that Arsene’s system is not rigid so a player like Song could get it into his head that he can do what he want and that it’s other people’s responsibility to cover for him when he goes forward.
If I start to go down the road of imagination, I can see that leading to fights in the dressing room. I can see Bouldy asking the two deepest midfielders to hold back more (I saw Arteta drop into the center back spot when Vermaelen went forward and that’s not something I’m used to seeing at Arsenal). What happens if on the training pitch, Song is asked to do that and he says that he was Arsenal’s leading goal creator and that it’s not his job?
But it’s all just me imagining things. Who knows what really happened? And honestly, who cares as long as the club get in a replacement and quickly?
Unfortunately, this story isn’t done yet. I’m sure the Song camp will respond as soon as his contract is signed. Barcelona are already spinning the deal as if they have signed the new Yaya Toure — which is absurd. And Arsenal need to get a player of high quality in who can hit the ground running.
Even after all that, this story will still be largely untold. We’ll have to wait for Wenger’s Silmarillion to know the truth behind this, Cesc’s departure, the Nasri deal and so much else we all wish we knew.
Which we will then proceed to pick apart endlessly.