Arsenal fans love scapegoats, rightly or wrongly. Invariably these have been players on the fringe who the fans can’t wait to have a go at, from Perry Groves, Ray Parlour and last season Emanuel Eboue. Towards the end of last season and for this season the bête noire of the fans has been Abou Diaby.
There is no justification for this. When Diaby arrived he was automatically associated as Vieira’s replacement purely because he was big and was billed as a central midfielder. There the similarities end.
Diaby is more attack minded than Vieira and is never afraid to shoot. He will always look to go forward and has immense confidence in his own ability to dribble past players. It is this last attribute that infuriates Arsenal fans, because he will lose the ball in his attempt to go forward. But the same criteria are never used against Arshavin or Walcott when they lose the ball, and if someone looked at the stats, they will see that Diaby loses the ball fewer times than Walcott or Arshavin or van Persie.
Diaby is a great midfielder and Arsenal fans should be proud to have him in our team. His career at Arsenal has been blighted by injuries and he has often been played by Wenger a wide attacking player. Now he is playing in a more central role, we are starting to see a different type of player; we are seeing the true Diaby. Abou has already scored three goals this season and could have a few more, so it will be no surprise if he finishes the season in double figures.
Can he slot in to play the holding midfielder role that Song is playing at the moment? I doubt he can perform that role as effectively as Song. Diaby’s instincts are to attack, whilst the holding role requires discipline from the player not to go forward and leave his defence exposed.
What I say to the Diaby critics is judge Abou in three months time and then be objective about his contribution to the team. As many people have commented he will become a truly world class midfielder.