For the second big game of the season Arsene Wenger has deployed Abou Diaby as a winger. Whilst the big man played there last season and has also been deployed in that position this season, he is not and never will be a winger.
Diaby’s best performances have either been as a central midfielder or playing behind the main striker. The size and strength of Diaby scream out central midfielder. A few weeks ago Arsene praised Diaby’s performances and compared him to Vieira. We all thought that Arsene had seen the light and would stop playing Abou all over the place and focus on using him as a central midfielder.
Alas both the FA Cup semi-final and the Champions League semi-final have shown that Arsene believes that Diaby is suited to playing out on the wing. In both games the tactic did not work and Diaby’s performances have been questioned. If the idea was to use Diaby to negate the attacks of the opposition, then his services would have been better employed in the centre.
Diaby is strong; he shields the ball well and can shoot. When he sees space he uses his speed to rip through defences as he showed away to Aston Villa and Newcastle. Use his strength in the middle alongside Fabregas and we have the ideal partnership.
I have stated before that there is so much to come from Diaby but Arsene must play him in central midfield. Using his as a winger is a waste of talent and only serves to confuse the player.
This season was set up for Diaby to partner Fabregas in central midfield and show everyone finally that he is the player we have been looking for.
Wenger has played Diaby behind the striker or on the wing, but central midfield is the place for him. When he has played in central midfield, he has been strong and he uses his upper body strength to shield the ball. Diaby is not short of pace and is not scared of shooting when the opportunity arises. He has very good close ball control and his passing has been improving.
Diaby and Arsenal have been unfortunate once more, in that Abou has suffered a series of small injuries. This has resulted in another stop start season. Some of his displays have been below par; this is because Wenger has not settled on whom he plays in midfield, resulting in Song, Diaby, and Denilson all rotating.
In his last two-three games, we have seen a different Diaby, a Diaby who is confident, who creates chances and threatens every time he comes forward. When he has lost the ball, he is quick to try to win the ball back, something that was missing earlier in the season.
Due to his size, Diaby has always been compared to Vieira, what people do not realise is that Vieira joined us when he was 21.whilst Diaby is only 22. Diaby is slowly developing into a “Vieira” type player.
“There are similarities [with Vieira],” said Wenger after the Newcastle United game. “They are the same stature and the same size and have the similar style. Also Patrick is from Senegal and Abou is from Ivory Coast. But there is a lot of room for him to get where Patrick was. He is only 22 years-old and Patrick is a good role model for him.
“In the second half he did well. Abou has power coming through the middle of the park and he showed that on the goal.
“That is interesting for me. I feel there are similarities with Vieira and I feel he is growing at the moment.”
Diaby is the perfect foil for Fabregas; they are both attack-minded players, with Diaby able to carry the ball forward, whilst Fabregas will spray the balls around the pitch. Let us hope Diaby can remain free on injuries and become a true Arsenal legend.
Having just recovered from injury and been such a dominant figure against Roma, it is disappointing here that once more Diaby is out injured. He left the pitch against Roma and groans went around the stadium as he had shown in his 60 minutes that he can, if he applies himself, be the answer to our central midfield dilemna. Diaby has a calf injury and will be out for the Fulham game (as reported yesterday), but Wenger expects him to return for the game away to West Bromwich Albion. Diaby is the key to our challenge for fourth place.
UPDATE Great news on Diaby, this afternoon he has been declared fit for the Fulham game.
Better news on the Walcott front, he will be back in training on Monday, Wenger expects he will be back for the Burnley game, though there is an outside chance of him being on the bench at the Hawthornes.
Also due back for the FA Cup tie is Eduardo. I hope Wenger does not push him too much in that game. No more than 45 minutes, or he will be in and out all season. We need to nurture Eduardo back to action slowly.
Finally, the big man, Adebayor will be back for the Roma game, whether he plays in that game, I doubt it, with Eduardo and Walcott back for that game, we do not need to gamble with Adebayor.
It is great to think that within 10 days we will have virtually a full squad to choose from.
The tall, powerful midfielder was signed from Auxerre in January 2006; he played in 16 games for Arsenal and scored one goal in his first season. The season ended in disappointment for Abou when he suffered an injury at Sunderland, this kept him out until January 2007. .
2007 was not much better for the giant midfielder as he only appeared in 18 games, again scoring one goal.
The 2007/08 season proved to be a start-stop season for Diaby, as he made 28 appearances, scoring four goals. Abou did not appear in his favoured central midfield, but was played on the left wing. The season once again ended in injury for Diaby.
With the departures of Diarra, Flamini and Gilberto, 2008/09 is a make or break season for Abou Diaby. Unless Wenger pulls a rabbit out of the hat, Diaby should partner Fabregas in the centre of midfield, a position that Arsenal fans have been pleading for Arsene to play Abou. When he has played in this position, many fans have seen how commanding he is, using his long longs to make vital challenges and his upper body strength to shield the ball. Diaby is not short of pace and is not scared of shooting when the opportunity arises. Diaby could be the powerful player that fans have been yearning for since Vieira’s departure. The two are not too dissimilar, though I would suggest that Diaby is likely to score more goals than the legend Vieira did.
Given the chance and a relatively injury free season, Diaby will be a colossus for Arsenal and France.