Silencing the critics
Something is afoot in the mind of the man too often compared with Patrick Vieira. Physical appearances aside, Wenger himself has felt moved to document the radical differences in the playing styles of our current number two and our former captain. As a player whose confidence dominates his performances to an unusually high degree, removing this albatross from Abou Diaby’s neck might be just the trick to sustaining his recent fine form.
For large parts of his Arsenal career the midfielder has taken more flak than anyone in the side since the dark days of Emanuel Eboue’s fall from the fans’ affections. His passing has at times been woeful and his decision making sluggish, leading to suggestions he lacked the high-level spatial skills that lift the greatest midfielders above their peers – a complete awareness of the location and destination of each player and run on the field.
The charge most commonly levelled at him is that, for all the brilliance of his footwork and powerful, effortless running, the outstanding moments have been all too fleeting. Inconsistency has plagued his game. This hasn’t been helped by repeated injury problems, the worst of which – a broken ankle sustained against Sunderland – almost brought a premature end to his career.
Yet suddenly it’s all coming together for him. Scarcely a pass misplaced, no moments of utter madness (Old Trafford lives long in the memory) and no injuries. Diaby’s linkup play with Fabregas and Song has been exceptional, and with such complementary attributes between the players, this trio are looking like the most potent midfield in the league. As an incisive box to box threat, Diaby is fast setting the standard as one of the best in the business, something that has boosted Arsenal’s Premier League chances. The challenge is keeping him fit and focused. Wenger seems to have the latter under control. With a World Cup this summer there could be no greater incentive for Diaby to do all that he can to avoid further mishaps.
Meanwhile, in other sports news, the odds for this year’s Cheltenham Festival are already starting to hot up and could be worth keeping an eye on.