Arsene Wenger’s team selection over the years has always been devoid of an element of surprise that would take the opposition off guide. However, to his huge credit, he did start Yaya Sanogo over Oliver Giroud in last season’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich at the Emirates. It was a joker that was working very well, as Arsenal could have gone ahead if not for Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty. Fast forward to this season, and Arsenal are facing another trip to Stamford Bridge. It is a match many are dreading due to the club’s poor record there in recent years.
However is there a secret weapon in the armoury that could give Arsenal an advantage in the tie? An element of surprise to put it but mildly.
Whisper it quietly, that element of surprise is Abou Diaby. Why Abou Diaby would be the obvious question? He is known to have trained with the squad, and he is ready to play after the hip problem that kept him out of the match against Galatasaray.
The French midfielder has something that is lacking in other Arsenal midfielders at the moment; which is height and some measure of physicality. All attributes that is in abundance in the Chelsea’s team especially when Nemanja Matic is brought into the picture. Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini and Alexis Sanchez are not the tallest of players, although they do not shy away from the physical side of the game either.
On the other hand, Abou Diaby on his day can be a match for any midfield. He is being mooted as a possible deep lying midfielder by Arsene Wenger, a position he played for an hour against Southampton in the Capital One Cup.
He (Diaby) could be the player which cuts out any long balls that would come over to Diego Costa before it gets to the defence with his height. It is doubtful that with an expected height disadvantage in Arsenal’s midfield whether, they can come up tops in aerial duels, which means the likes of Laurent Koscielny would have to move forward a bit to contest headers, which would leave space in behind for the other Chelsea players to run into if an header is missed, a scenario that was evident in the Manchester City match. However, with Abou Diaby’s height Arsenal’s defensive duo will not have to push forward for headers, but they can hold their ground further back while Abou Diaby does the contesting of headers. His presence could give less pressure to the defence in this regard. A midfield of Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby in front of Arsenal’s back four would have both physicality and height to match Chelsea’s midfield.
The 28 year midfielder should have been rested enough now following his exertions against Southampton. He could be the key to Arsenal getting a good result at the bridge if he is part of the team.