Abou Diaby, A Surprise Starter Against Chelsea?

Since Abou Diaby’s 64 minutes performance in the 2-1 Capital One Cup loss to Southampton at the Emirates last month, the cravings from fans who want to see the player man the defensive midfield position for arsenal have grown tremendously. More than ever many Arsenal supporters believe that this time, Abou Diaby is ready to challenge for the midfield battles of the English Premier League. The French player, who has been sidelined for over a year now, has returned despite and had displayed some good performances with the U-21 Arsenal side. While many have called for caution and the slow integration of this gangling midfielder into the competitive English Premier League, more competitions and time for the player itself, is a strategy to full recovery.

There are speculations that Diaby could be Arsenal’s elusive defensive midfielder, drawn from Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger on his injury prone midfielder, Abou Diaby. The manager said: ‘‘I tried to develop Diaby in deeper role. I think he can do it. He can be very interesting because he has all the attributes to do it. I try to transform it, yes because I feel because he was injured for a long time and he has the physical potential to win the challenges, to face the game will be easier for him than to play with his back to goal with the injuries he had.’’ Now, with the injuries to Captain Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey, the starting line-up of Arsenal against Chelsea today, should see Diaby play as either the defensive midfielder or a box-to-box midfielder partnering compatriot Mathieu Flamini. While many would disagree and have the opinion that the lanky player isn’t ripe yet for this fierce and highly competitive derby, many others believe that the Frenchman is more than ready and ripe for this Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge. All through the summer Arsenal was reported to have been in the transfer market looking for a defensive midfield that could add more defensive steel to the Gunners midfield. However, this statement by the manager has got many Arsenal fans thinking if Diaby was just being prepared for the role all this while. Could Diaby be the defensive midfielder that would make all the difference and end all speculations? The answer may not be too far-fetched as a school of thought had predicted this earlier before now.

Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to bring in a defensive midfielder is thought to be hinged on the hope that Diaby would shake off all injury worries this term and claim the position made for him since he joined to replace Patrick Vieira on a long term plan. Proponents of this line of thought believe that Arsene Wenger will never buy another Patrick Vieira-like defensive midfield maestro until he loses patience with Abou Diaby and his worrisome injuries. It is believed that the manger has been buying time with utility players and make-shift players till Diaby is ready. However unfounded the origin of this line of thought is, trends in Arsenal support it. The Patrick Vieira-Gilberto Silva defensive midfield era was taken over by Denilson, Fabregas and Flamini, with none of the trio able to hold down the position with dominance and mastery like Vieira did. Then Abou Diaby was bought 8 years ago with the build, frame and style of Patrick Vieira, but his early injuries demanded caution, so Alex Song, who is a utility player, managed the role till he was sold to Barcelona 2 years ago. Then Mikel Arteta, who had been a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goals his entire playing career, was made to take the defensive responsibility of the Gunners midfield.

Against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, the midfield battle is poised to be a strong one with players like Nemanja Matic, Mikel Obi, Cesc Fabregas and Andrea Schurlle saddled with defensive and offensive responsibilities. For Arsenal, only Abou Diaby has the height and frame to battle aerially and on the ground to neutralize whatever Chelsea midfielders have in store for this match. Alongside countryman Mathieu Flamini in a double pivot defensive midfield, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, on the right left and heart of the Arsenal attacking midfield respectively, Diaby would help conquer Chelsea.

So, here’s what the Arsenal starting line-up would look like against Chelsea with Abou Diaby’s inclusion.

Wojciech Szczesny (GK)

Chambers  Koscielny  Mertesacker Gibbs

Mathieu Flamini   

                                                                                Abou Diaby

Chamberlain  Ozil Sanchez

Welbeck