Reports all day have suggested that Arsenal were very close to selling midfielder Alex Song to Barcelona, and now they are beginning to crystallize into something immediate and legitimate. According to David Ornstein, though a fee has yet to be agreed officially, Alex Song will leave. Jamie Sanderson is also on the case, reporting that Song has already left the team and will likely officially be moved over the weekend.
Song and Arsene Wenger met today after training to discuss the player's future at Arsenal, as we mentioned yesterday, but Song refused to commit to the club and asked to be allowed to leave. Wenger has agreed to sell, and moved forward quickly as the player has already cleared his locker and the deal is nearly agreed. Sanderson says the likely fee is £17million.
Arsenal do not plan to be left without midfield cover, though, as moves to reinforce are already in motion. Both reporters say that Nuri Sahin, midfielder for Real Madrid and target of Arsenal and Liverpool, is lined up to join Arsenal on a season's loan. A deal with Madrid doesn't appear to be agreed, but the player has chosen Arsenal over Liverpool amid reports that his manager, Wenger nemesis Jose Mourinho, had pushed him to join the Merseyside club. Jamie Sanderson reports that Arsene Wenger personally phoned Sahin to convince him to play for Arsenal, and the "personal touch has worked." Sahin is more than adequate as midfield cover, but Wenger would still like to bring in a real defensive midfielder as well, with names like Yann M'Vila and Etienne Capoue near the top of the list.
The timing here is not spectacular. To have Alex Song taken out of the running for the team hours before the season opens is damaging, as the team now has to scramble to replace him. Obviously the team has to stand pat for Sunderland tomorrow, which leaves us short as I said in the match preview. But any new signing will take time to blend in, and with the team going through a massive make-over, we may be due for more early-season growing pains this year. On the positive side, most of the deals were dealt with early, so hopefully it won't be too bad.
As long as Arsenal are successful in replacing Alex Song, this shouldn't be a disaster. Song is not peerless. But he did have great understanding with his teammates here, and even if rumors of his disruptive influence of late are true, he was important. A replacement must be found.