This week in his press conference Arsene Wenger announced the arrival of a new attacking midfielder to the Arsenal ranks. He comes with an impressive pedigree and enormous hunger to succeed in North London. Wenger seems to think he is ready to achieve his full potential and has a point to prove. He has top level Premier League experience spread over 6 years. He has a history of scoring crucial Champions League goals, is a full international and is the first name on the team sheet for his national manager. In his last full season he notched a highly creditable 7 goals in 38 appearances and provided a further 5 assists for his team mates. Sadly he will not be ready to feature against Wigan but could well be ready for action in time for the visit of Chelsea. If it is Chelsea it could be quite appropriate as they are the club we beat to his signature and he has a history with Chelsea skipper John Terry having knocked him out in 2007.
I am sure most of my awfully intuitive readership has guessed the name of the new player, but if you have not may I present Abdou Vassiriki Diaby, known to his close friends as Abou.
So why am I writing this now? Well Wenger has announced he will be back in full training along with Coquelin this week and knowing Wenger, as soon as the medics deem Abou to be fit ‘Le Boss’ will play him. Nothing is more certain and those who have erased Diaby from the reckoning for next season’s renewed tilt at silverware I feel are being naïve.
I have read many comments, blogs and tweets suggesting that Diaby is too injury prone and should be off loaded in the summer and we should invest heavily in the likes of M’Vila and others but I try to deal in reality and the important reality is what Wenger thinks. Wenger has never hidden is admiration of the tall French midfielder and after every one of his 28 separate injuries has immediately endeavored to integrate his enigmatic compatriot back into the fold. Indeed it might be argued that perhaps the combination of his own manager’s enthusiasm and the player’s own desire to repay the faith has caused injury recurrences or fresh niggles.
The absolute truth for me at least is that a fully fit Abou Diaby is a huge asset to the squad and we do not really have another player quite like him. He is certainly not the new Vieira has he has often been dubbed. The likeness is more in his build than in his play and Wenger himself dismissed the comparison in 2009 when Diaby was enjoying is best season for Arsenal, the season described in my introduction.
“He is more of an offensive player,” said the manager. “He is not a defensive-minded player and he’s not a holding player. He’s a player who crosses the field at ease, goes from box to box like it’s no distance and has good power as well.
“I believe Vieira was more of a passer of the ball. Diaby is more of a dribbler, more offensive and makes more penetrating runs. Vieira was more of a constructor. They have a similar elegance and type of play but are not completely comparable.”
In the 2010 World Cup, at the end of a superb season for the Gunners, Diaby played all 3 of France’s group fixtures in his nations disastrous South African campaign and the reality was that he was one of only a handful of players who returned home with his reputation enhanced. Let’s not forget that is was he who played the central attacking midfield role, which due to Fabregas he has not often played for the club. This was also a role coveted by his then team mate Samir Nasri who did not even make the squad. Indeed if and when Fabregas was injured or rested Wenger would turn to Diaby before Nasri for the advanced playmaking role.
The faith that Wenger has in the elegant playmaker is shared by the current French coach, Laurent Blanc, for whom Diaby has been a regular when fit. The belief however is so strong that its saw Blanc make an astonishing observation, last autumn, 7 months ahead of the summer European Championship;
“Diaby is an incredible player. I hope he will be fit soon, I want to bring him to Euros next summer.”