In every team there are brilliant players, average players and inconsistent players. Footballers can be brilliant, average, terrible and sometimes inconsistent all within the space of a month. A skilful and surprisingly speedy centre midfielder, Abou Diaby encapsulates all of the above criteria, but remains arguably Arsenal’s most difficult player to identify in terms of fixed position. The Frenchman picked up an ankle injury from a rash tackle by Paul Robinson in Saturday’s clash with Bolton Wanderers, and any injury added to Arsene Wenger’s growing roster will be frowned upon, but how impaired will the Gunners be from Diaby’s non-appearance in the next two games even further in the future?
Diaby has shown moments of extreme effectiveness, a man of the match display against Birmingham City in February 2006, twirling bursts out of the fray and long striding runs off the bench against Reading in March 2007 and arguably the best performance of his Arsenal career to date – the 2007 Carling Cup final against Chelsea. The League Cup final showcased a powerhouse performance from Arsenal’s No 2. The Gunners lead 1-0 through Theo Walcott’s goal, in which he played the one-two with the former Auxerre man to glide past John Terry, but Diaby was substituted in the 68th minute and Arsenal’s drop in quality was evident. The game turned on its head with Wenger’s boys losing 2-1.
While Wenger moulds his players into footballers with great variety, able to ply their trade in many different areas of the pitch, Diaby remains one player which fans are not 100% sure where he fits into the starting XI. Denilson and Alex Song often rotate next to Cesc Fabregas for the role of defensive midfielder while Diaby has often been played on the left wing, which has left him on the fringes of many games.
With so many playmakers forced out to the wing to make room for their Spanish captain, where does Diaby fit into the Arsenal formation? In October 2008, Arsenal swept aside Fenerbahce at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, Diaby earning his first start of the season despite only eight minutes of playing time so far in the campaign. The midfielder was deployed as a supporting striker alongside Emmanuel Adebayor, scoring Arsenal’s third goal – galloping through the Fenerbahce back line swinging his ever useful right boot. His man of the match performance was rewarded with a very rare standing ovation by the Fenerbah