ALEX Song says Arsenal's Champions League progress demonstrates they have turned a corner after their 8-2 defeat to Manchester United in August and the frantic transfer deadline day signings following the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
The Arsenal midfielder was instrumental in creating the first goal for Robin van Persie in his team's 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night which means Arsenal are not just the only English team already qualified for the first knockout round of the Champions League, but group winners as well.
It was Song who was retrospectively banned for three matches for a stamp on Joey Barton that went unseen by the referee Peter Walton in Arsenal's first game of the season against Newcastle - an absence which contributed to his club's dire start. However, he has hit form in time to galvanise a revival that has been built on Van Persie's remarkable goalscoring record.
Song said: "We started [the season] very badly and it is not easy when you have new players coming in. You need to give them time and you can see now that we are not like we were two months ago. We manage very well and we try to help each other out. The players that joined [in late August], have tried to be the best and we have very good cohesion. I think that is very important.
"Maybe some people are very hard on Arsenal - I don't know why. We are just trying to do the job and winning [against Dortmund] shows everyone [who were critical] they were wrong. Everything is working and we don't want just to keep it like this, we want to look forward. When you play for a team like Arsenal you want just to finish all the time the top on the league. We have the Carling Cup soon and we have to win every game."
On finishing top of Champions League Group F with a game to spare, Song said: "Of course [it is important], because last season we dropped some points [finishing second] and this season we didn't want to make the same mistake. It is very important for us to finish the job and we did, so everyone is happy."
Crucially from the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's point of view, he will not lose Song to African Nations Cup duty in January after Cameroon, traditionally one of the strongest football nations on the continent, failed to qualify for the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea for the first time since 1994.
Asked whether Wenger was glad Cameroon had not qualified, Song said: "You will have to ask him but for me it is not good, because Cameroon is one of the big teams in Africa. For him, I don't know whether he is happy for me to stay here ..." With Gervinho due to be called up by Ivory Coast - as well as Marouane Chamakh (Morocco) and potentially Emmanuel Frimpong (Ghana) - Song's availability will be significant for Arsenal
In the absence of the long-term injured Jack Wilshere, Song has struck up an effective midfield understanding with Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey. However, the Cameroonian says the club need Wilshere back as soon as possible.
"Jack is a very good player and we need everyone," Song said. "When we have everyone fit we are more strong and confident. We need every player because we have a lot of games. Everyone has their job to do in the team. When everyone comes back we see another Arsenal play.
"We never know who is starting the game. It is just the case that the boss makes the choice. If Jack comes back he will be welcome into the team because we need him, we need everyone."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.