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Everyone has a favourite player, for whatever reason mine has always been Patrick Vieira, partly because of his intimidatory looks, his drive and incredible power. The amount of games I watched where Vieira was the most important person on the pitch without ever looking the most composed (or in fact that good on the ball) shows the merit of the man.
Imagine my delight when Vieira no 2 was revealed to be an Arsenal player, he has the height, the drive yet, until now has lacked anything like the consistency.
I have wanted Diaby to do well since I first saw him play, his likeness to Patrick in terms of physicality, gait and appearance is remarkable however, up until this season Abou has almost consistently looked like someone who would spend a career of moments of genius clouded by entire matches of incompetence. There have been those who questioned the wisdom of our great leader at purchasing a player purely because he looks like a legend but, from what I have seen this season those doubters are starting to dissipate as Abou's performances become yet more remarkable
In a team without Cesc, Abou was given his chance to shine in an attacking role against Hull and he finally stepped up to the plate with a performance that (possibly aside from Denilson) was the best on the park. He played his part in all three goals, scoring one setting up Eduardo and winning the free kick for Denilson to finish. His performance throughout was outstanding and deserving of high praise, mainly due to the fact it was a performance I, and many others never thought we would see him produce.
There were those who suggested we sell Diaby at the end of last season, the same no doubt who laughed at the suggestion of Song as a long-term replacement for Flamini and wouldn't have been disappointed to see the back of Denilson.
It is far too early to predict anything for this season from us as a whole but it is interesting that some of the most maligned players of last season are quickly developing into the ones the club couldn't do without and the more favoured (Almunia, Walcott, Bendtner) are the ones who could be accused of standing still.
Is Abou the epitome of Arsenal? powerful, inconsistent, slick and sloppy at the same time but on his day one of the best things to watch.
You tell me?
Mean Lean's Response
Firstly thank you for the article Roop and please accept my apologies for the delay in posting, I have had issues with articles hiding away in the junk mail section, hidden in between gain extra inches and winning lottery tickets that I wasn't even aware that I entered until now.
Patrick Vieira was also a firm favourite of mine as he was for many Gooners around that era. I remember one season, I think it was 1999, when he went through a phase of picking up the man of the match award in something like five consecutive matches. He was a warrior, an animal, a beast or whatever the tag associated with that type of player these days. His last ditch slide tackles, whipping the ball away from a flying opponent and then bouncing up and playing it forward to the feet of Henry or Bergkamp will be memories that are unlikely to leave my scrambled and slightly obsessed football mind.
Fast forward to 2009 (very nearly 2010) and Abou Diaby is a player I have very high hopes for, he is and has been a player that I have taken liking to, a player that I have appreciated since his arrival a few years back.
What Diaby is not, is the new Vieira. Similar in build and stature perhaps but totally different abilities. Diaby is an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal whilst Vieira was a graceful midfield battler.
Having said this, Diaby's defensive work has impressed me at least as much as his attacking displays.
Diaby has won the ball more times than most in the Arsenal squad and is doing a great job in being the link between the holding midfielder and his creative partner which is usually Cesc Fabregas. I admire what Diaby is currently doing because he is having to adjust his game. Naturally Diaby is an attacking player who wants to join in every attack and get himself into the box, he is having to be disciplined for the sake of the team and play a square pass instead of dropping his shoulder and running past his man. This is why in the last two games against Hull City and Aston Villa he has stood out to many of those who have been doubting his potential. In the previous two outstanding performances he has been playing as the attacking force with Song and Denilson playing the more withdrawn role, when Cesc is playing in the team, Diaby's job isn't primarily to attack it is to provide a balance to add cover to our attacking full backs.
Regular readers of Arsenal Vision will have heard me banging the Diaby drum over and over again even during Diaby's more inconsistent periods and my reason for this is the following.
Everyone knows that Diaby has fantastic talent but his problem in the past has been simple mistakes like decision making. He has given away sloppy passes or dribbled when he should have played it simple. These are not good enough reasons for a young footballer not to be able to make it in the game. Lack of natural talent is. I have always said that a player needs a run of first team football so he can iron out his errors, it can be painful at times because it can cause problems to the teams results but it has to be done.
I can remember when Alexander Hleb came to the club, he was dribbling into no mans land time and time again but eventually he learnt to use his skills at the right time. His talent was never in question the same can be said for Diaby and I think that Arsene's new disciplined role for him has made him step up to another level.
He is not there yet, he needs to keep his performances going over a period of time like his Spanish partner has done but make no mistake about it, he is very capable of doing so. He needs to stay clear of the injuries that have set him further back in his development and keep playing Arsene's way, then I have no doubt that he will be one of the best in Europe. The same goes for Song and Denilson who have had the very same doubts.
Those who have written off the likes of Song (which I include myself a few years back), Diaby, Van Persie (as a central striker), Eboue, Bendtner, Traore, Walcott and now Eduardo. Would you kindly consider the following points before choosing to verbally send them packaged to the scrap heap.
1. A young player needs to finish developing and will suffer from inconsistency and errors.
Alex Song is the perfect example of this point, he was a young kid with raw talent, he gave the ball away needlessly in certain matches and looked far from coordinated at times. Today he is gliding through games, setting the tone for his team mates.
2. Players need self confidence.
The Arsenal faithful are not always the most supportive of 'supporters' in the country and when you are young and trying to impress it is not always easy when you are worried about the next wrong pass or bad decision.
3. Players cannot perform at their best whilst suffering from niggling injuries.
Abou Diaby, Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky have more than suffered enough niggles to last a life time, it is no coincidence that these players have suffered from inconsistency in the last season or so when they have been out on the pitch. Footballers need momentum, they need rhythm you cannot reach the same level as your team mates when you are constantly playing catch up.
4. Players have roles and instructions from the management.
This is one that frustrates me enormously. It is not just from supporters but from pundits and media journalists. As I explained above, Abou Diaby has had to play a role that benefits his team and not necessarily his own game. Denilson was last years scapegoat and the criticism most attached to him was that he plays backwards and sideways, which is pretty difficult when he ended up with roughly seven assists by the end of the season, unless he was standing off the pitch behind the opposition goal.
Denilson's role last season was to intercept and break up the opposition, that was his primary role, his next job in the team was to keep the ball moving. To keep his side in possession of the football. His role in the team was not to play the Hollywood 40 yard pass with the outside of his weaker left foot. Andrey Arshavin's role in the side was not to win defensive headers inside his own penalty area on set pieces.
I am sure Carrick, Essien, Mikel and Macherano have played just as many backward passes as Denilson.
I guess my point is to think about the players position and role in the formation, set up before criticising him for not doing a,b or c.
I have probably missed out on some more criteria but for arguments sake I will pick out some Arsenal players who haven't been doing very well and number them with my above points. Theo Walcott (1,2 & 3), Manuel Almunia (2), and Eduardo (2,3, & 4)
Flip it around and pick players who are doing very well, i.e. Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Thomas Vermaelen you will struggle to find any categories for them. Let us learn from the many success stories at Arsenal and have patience. Abou Diaby is proving not to be the new Vieira but the new Diaby which is good enough for me.