Arsenal as a Premier League side can be somewhat of an enigma. On their day they can outplay any side on the planet with their flowing pure football, however they also have the ability to crumble against the less glamorous footballing sides. Arsene Wenger’s squad has its fair share of confusing players, with Theo Walcott and Denilson being perfect examples. When on top form they can prove to be unplayable yet they are also guilty of disappearing in games and underperforming. An Arsenal player that has interested me greatly over the last year or so is Abou Diaby. The Frenchman has hit a good spell of form over the Christmas period however, is another whose inconsistencies have often been there for all to see.
In Arsenal’s last match against Aston Villa, Diaby was outstanding and his performance was possibly only overshadowed by the emphatic introduction of Cesc Fabregas. Against Villa, Wenger deployed Diaby in a central midfield role behind the lone Arshavin. The Frenchman used his power and pace to control the game and was able to push forward, having less defensive responsibilities with Alex Song and Denilson sitting in holding midfield roles. He assisted numerous attacks for the Gunners and in truth Eduardo should have opening the scoring in the early stages of the game after a Diaby run resulted in a clear cut opportunity for the Croatian.
Diaby can often epitomize Arsenal as a side. At the Emirates stadium he can usually be relied upon to put in a performance yet he is capable of disappearing in away games and his best position is still yet to be decided. Diaby spent much of last season utilised in a wide role and it was clear that it didn’t properly suit his game. Recent injuries have resulted in a reshuffle by Wenger and Diaby has excelled in central midfield in what I believe to be his best role. His power and pace, combined with a fleet- footedness and technical skill mean that he has all the potential to not only fit into the Arsenal side, but also become a key player for the Gunners. He wrapped up his performance with a great goal in the dying moments on Sunday, driving at the defence before striking the ball past goalkeeper Brad Friedel from 20 yards.
It is hard to believe that Diaby is still a youngster but at 23-years-of-age, that’s exactly what he is. The midfielder experienced an inconsistent season last term and in typical Arsenal fashion, he suffered from a host of stuttering injury troubles. Diaby undoubtedly has the potential and is fast becoming a popular figure at the Emirates stadium and I believe a consistent run in the team in his best position could see people’s opinion of the Frenchman dramatically rise. Tonight, in my eyes, is a big test for Diaby as it is the exact kind of fixture that has proved his downfall in the past. Portsmouth are likely to press on the big man and limit his time on the ball and he must make sure he does not panic and become a defensive liability. As with all Arsenal players, Diaby can be extremely dangerous in a flowing attack when his side are on top, but what makes a title winning footballer is their ability to perform in all environments. I am certainly one who will be keeping a keen eye on the Frenchman tonight.