Abou Diaby dynamism adds a new dimension to Arsenal’s midfield
Reuben Lewis takes a look at Abou Diaby's impressive start to the season with Arsenal, and how the midfielder is set to blossom
Abou Diaby’s dynamism has added a new dimension to Arsenal’s midfield as Arsene Wenger’s new-look side starts to take shape.
On Friday, France boss Didier Deschamps hailed the Arsenal star as “a complete midfielder” after Diaby netted Les Bleus’s winner against Finland in their opening 2014 World Cup qualifier.
Deschamp’s views were backed by his predecessor Laurent Blanc, who stated during his spell in charge of the national team that the midfielder was a “fixture” in the side when fit – a huge compliment considering the vast array of midfield options the French possess.
Diaby arrived at Arsenal six years ago as an unassuming 20-year-old, fresh from the French system. His physical appearance and elegance on the ball – typical for a product of the famed Clairefontaine academy – inevitably drew comparisons to Patrick Vieira.
However, the player has refuted such claims. Vieira was a passer and aggressive in the tackle, possessing tremendous defensive attributes.
Diaby is a dribbler, an auxiliary striker on occasions. He has a rare ability to glide past opponents, and his touch is nothing short of exquisite, almost caressing the ball across the pitch.
“I believe Vieira was more of a passer of the ball. Diaby is more of a dribbler, more offensive and makes more penetrating runs,” said Wenger.
“Vieira was more of a constructor. They have a similar elegance and type of play but are not completely comparable.”
And finally, after a torrid few years blighted by injury, Wenger’s faith and persistence in the player seems to have been vindicated.
Diaby has built on his first solid pre-season in years, contributing with a man of the match performance against Liverpool last weekend.
With Alex Song’s departure, Mikel Arteta has diligently filled in as his replacement in defensive midfield.
This has opened a space ahead of the Spaniard, and it is here where Diaby can fulfil his potential, and burgeon in to the box-to-box midfielder he showed so much promise to be.
Ostensibly, with Song’s departure the Arsenal midfield is inferior to last year’s, however, with the arrival of Santi Cazorla and Diaby’s return to action, they have arguably strengthened in this area.
Arteta provides the “technical base” and this benefits Diaby’s game. His slaloming runs can speed up the transition from defence to attack significantly, which is something Wenger himself has stated.
Diaby’s other midfield partner, Cazorla, is also important to this equation.
The new signing has a tendency to drift out wide, as we saw for his goal against Liverpool. This then creates space in the middle, where Diaby can stretch his long legs into, penetrating the opposition in his own dexterity.
Diaby echoed this point recently: “I prefer to play with three midfielders because I can go forward and also defend. I think it is the position that will suit me best.”
The Frenchman brings a fresh dimension to the Arsenal midfield with his power and skill; a run of form could provide the Gunners with a real cutting edge. He is a unique footballer, an attacking midfielder trapped in a defensive players’ body almost.
Too often Arsenal have been criticised for being too predictable and one dimensional, but Diaby has the ability to counter these claims.