The Abou Diaby conundrum
Abou Diaby is an interesting player. And by interesting, I mean incredibly frustrating.
All Arsenal fans must realise he’s immensely talented. Arsène Wenger agrees, and has persisted with the midfielder through-out his injury problems.
He has his fair share of detractors, and I’ve been amongst them. While his injury problems are frustrating, what’s also frustrating is how his attitude comes across when he does get on the pitch. Often he’s seemed vaguely disinterested, and his lackadaisical style leads to a lot of misplaced passes.
As I said, few people doubt Diaby’s talent. When he’s fit – and when he applies himself – he can be brilliant. I’d compare him to Manchester City’s Yaya Toure; a midfielder who, due to his appearance, physique and background, was pigeon-holed as a defensive midfielder, but is far more comfortable as a more offensive midfielder.
But the main difference for me, on top of the injuries Diaby has suffered, is application. When Yaya Toure plays, he seizes the game by the scruff of the neck, and imposes himself. Diaby, on the other hand, has often shied away from responsibility on the pitch and actually been fairly detrimental to Arsenal at times.
As mentioned earlier, his passing is often sloppy, and he’s sometimes very ponderous on the ball. In the past he has slowed down counter attacks and is regularly robbed of the ball while assessing his options.
There are some things he could do to improve this infuriating aspect of his game. He could make better use of his strength when shielding the ball, rather than timidly surrendering, but also improve his awareness – he needs to be aware of opposition players trying to win the ball, as well as being aware of passes to make, releasing the ball earlier rather than dwelling on it.
So far in pre-season, Diaby has looked good. He’s been able to play at the top of Arsenal’s three man midfield, and has looked purposeful and powerful, making use of his repertoire of attributes. His confidence seems back, and most importantly he’s swerved clear of injuries so far.
That confidence might be something I’ve over-looked in the past when criticising him. When you don’t get a run of games because of injuries, and simply can’t string one together, it must be difficult to build up any confidence, inhibiting your performances.
With the state that Arsenal’s midfield is in, Abou Diaby has a great chance to nail down a regular place in the side. Of course, that will depend on his luck with injuries, as few players have had such bad luck as he has (fellow Arsenal players Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky will contest that, though). But it will also depend on his attitude when given a chance.
He won’t be able to wander through games as a passenger, which he’s done far too often in the past. Arsenal’s number two (what a ridiculous number for a midfielder) will need to stamp his mark on games, and if he does he may yet revive his career in London.