Abou Diaby, The Much Needed DM: Perfect Or Poisoned?

Diaby, the final piece of the puzzle for Arsenal this season?

Diaby, the final piece of the puzzle for Arsenal this season?

In the League cup game at Southampton, we saw Arsene Wenger deploy a three-man midfield composed of Rosicky, Wilshere and Abou Diaby. Indeed, the three midfielders are versatile enough to play in any of the three midfield roles – probably except Diaby.

Wilshere had been used by Roy Hodgson in the Euro qualifier against Switzerland in the defensive midfield role as the cover for the back four and he was widely acclaimed to have put in a solid shift. However, Wenger hadn’t followed Roy’s tactic in the subsequent Arsenal games Wilshere played. Rosicky’s verve and energy may suggest he is also capable of seating in deep positions, though on the basis of the penalty tackle of which he made a harsh. Diaby, in the opinion of many, is a dribbler, a passer and one who can be complacent at times.

Was it then a surprise and a wrong move by Wenger to have chosen him to play the DM role, with Wilshere his closest partner, and Rosicky further forward? Wenger further affirmed post-match that it was not by accident that he placed him there but was actually the preview to the future role he had for Abou Diaby in the Arsenal team. Does he actually have the ability to fulfill that much-needed role in the team or is Wenger just penny-pinching so as not to go for Carvalho, Bender or all the more renowned destroyers in the world?

The Diaby We Knew

Watching Diaby years back, you would never envisage that he will play anywhere near the defence. For one, his ardently addicted to nutmegs, and on various occasions, he hadn’t pulled them off all the time. Sometimes, we ended up losing the ball to the opponent and being hit on the break. He always seemed more of an offensive player, getting himself as close as possible to the spaces close to the opposition’s goal and attempting curlers from the edge of the D. Indeed, he has scored some very good goals – the two against Derby 07/08, in the home game against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals, not forgetting the solo run against Aston Villa in 2009. So, we’ve always known Diaby to be on the side of the attractive and attack.

The Diaby We Know

Eight years of about 40 injury occurrences have definitely affected the Frenchman in both confidence and ability. He tends to be slower and more cautious in his play. We have not seen an awful lot in 18 months to make a perfect judgement, but we know he had to fight his weaker senses by staying on to continue enjoying the beautiful game. We saw in the Southampton game that his passing is still very superb, his long balls from the deep position millimeters away from perfectly connecting with their targets. Well, we also know that he no longer wears 2, but 24.

The Diaby We Will Get to Know

By Wenger’s assertion, Diaby can adjust himself to perform in the DM role if he takes advantage of his build and his experience in the game. Though he has not always had a good reputation for tackling, Wenger believes that can be worked out through training sessions. His much declined pace should also not be a limiting factor, as the likes of Fernandinho and James McCarthy are not exactly 100m Olympians.

The Verdict

At 28, Diaby will definitely not be able to produce what he showed in promise during his first days at Highbury. An adjustment to a new role might just be what he needs to get back his game on track. It is an experiment which must be tried out sufficiently in training and in games of significantly less likelihood of defeat (if such a thing exists). It is very much a poisoned chalice, but if Wenger is willing to take a sip, it might as well turn out to be the much-needed anti-dote after a few gulps.

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