Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is wary of Alex Song’s qualities ahead of his side’s trip to West Ham.
Sixth-placed Arsenal trail Sam Allardyce’s side by a solitary point and 5th-placed Southampton by 2 points but can cover ground over the coming days, when they visit both sides immediately above them.
The French boss, 65, signed the Cameroon international in 2005 and gave him his Premier League debut at the age of 18.
Song left the Emirates Stadium for Barcelona two years ago, following a difficult spell at the Camp Nou; he was loaned to West Ham in the summer. The Hammers have played attractive football this season and are fifth in the table.
Song is in line to return to West Ham’s starting XI against his former club at Upton Park on Sunday and Wenger needs no reminding about the midfielder’s attributes.
“He didn’t play on Friday against Chelsea,” noted Wenger. “He was certainly rested for us. I think he was a very good player when he was here but he didn’t play a lot when he was in Spain.
“I brought him here at the age of 17 and kept him despite all the opinions against him. You don’t need to convince me he’s a good player.”
Olivier Girioud is suspended for three matches after getting a straight red card for head-butting Nedum Onuoha during the win against Queens Park Rangers on Friday.
Wenger made two changes for the Boxing Day fixture and will be expected to shuffle his squad further, with another visit to fourth-placed Southampton on New Year’s Day set to follow the trip to West Ham.
“It’s very tight now and it’s down to consistency now. We know every game now is down to consistency and reproducing the performances. We need to prepare quickly, focus quickly and that is an ability we want to show a West Ham,” Wenger explained.
“The plan is to sleep well and recover. We want to stay in the game. We’ll train on Saturday morning and on Saturday night we go to the hotel. It’s very quick and interesting as well.”
Laurent Koscienly “has a chance” of playing at West Ham and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain “has an even smaller chance” according to Wenger.
“(Theo Walcott) was in the squad on Friday but it was difficult to bring him on when it was tight and we had to defend. He’s not far away,” he added.