Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday January 9 2008
News has just reached me that Lassana Diarra has again been omitted from the squad to face Tottenham tonight. I must confess to being very surprised to see him excluded from the Burnley squad on Sunday and felt that there may be something amiss. But I wondered whether he was merely being saved for tonight's Carling Cup semi final. Given that Diarra has yet to cement a place in the first team and that he has played in every other round of the League Cup, I do not think its mischievous to suggest that a transfer could be imminent.
Diarra has been all too vocal about his lack of first team opportunities in his uber short stint in red and white. I admire a player with the hunger to play, but Diarra must understand that the partnership of Fabregas and Flamini has been integral to our success so far this campaign and neither player can be dropped right now. To his credit, when Diarra has come in he has done a terrific job and, the dire team showing at the Swampside aside, has made a decent case for man of the match in every game he has played. But, in truth, I would argue the same for Mathieu Flamini who has played markedly more games. With Euro 2008 around the corner, one can understand Diarra's rapacity. However, Wenger's rather arrant dismissal of Diarra's concerns last week has me in full agreement. Nobody can come to a club like Arsenal and demand instant first team recognition, particularly when colleagues are in such impressive form. Diarra looks a quality player, who I think can make it at Arsenal if he is a little patient.
However, I fear he has tested the manager's patience with his latest outburst and the consequences on his career could be terminal. Diarra must assess his situation with a little more intelligence than he is currently exhibiting. Gilberto Silva will almost certainly leave the club in the near future, having served us so mammothly, he is at a stage of his career where he needs to play regularly. His cameos thus far have shown him to be ring rusty and perhaps short on confidence, with Arsenal's legion of young pretenders avariciouslly eyeing his mantle, he will likely depart with everybody's fondest wishes (I suspect from Arsenal and beyond). In the meantime, for all his excellent form, Mathieu Flamini has yet to sign a new contract and is now permitted to talk with other clubs about a transfer. Realistically, Diarra, Flamini and Gilberto are fighting out for one berth as the anchor in central midfield. From Diarra's point of view, it is virtually a given that at least one of them will depart in 2008, and there is a possibility that both of his main rivals could be gone before long. Should he decide to leave now, he will find himself at a small club like Newcastle or Tottenham where, granted he will be guaranteed instant gratification, but in the long term his career will probably suffer when one considers that he has a perfectly credible chance of making it at a club the size of Arsenal.
I have said all along that competition for places is paramount for a club like Arsenal. Diarra need only look towards the man who currently inhibits him. Mathieu Flamini has had to fight tooth and nail to be recognised amongst our talented pool of midfield resources and it has brought out the best in him. Not just in terms of quality, but attitude. (If you listen to any of Wenger's interviews, the words 'quality' and 'attitude' are rarely separated by anything other than a conjunction). Diarra has talent, now he must show attitude, if he has true confidence in his ability and truly believes he should be in Arsenal's first team, then surely he should have the gumption to stick around and prove it? This is where Nicklas Bendtner has excelled of late, the boy is fuelled not only by talent, but the fact that he quite possibly masturbates over videos of himself. Diarra needs to show a similar self confidence, if he doesn't feel he can show it, then it surely proves that he doesn't have the mentality to play for a club like Arsenal.
We fans can sometimes become too consumed with players as personalities. For instance, I love Gilberto as a player and think he is a damn honest pro in an age of sickening self gratification and aggrandisement. But do I feel sympathy for his current predicament? Not really, no. I rate Gilberto extremely highly as a player. But it makes me with giddy with joy that we have a defensive midfielder in such good form that I think Bert should be warming the bench right now. As affable a character as the Brazilian has proved to be, the team always must be at the forefront of any decision and I am very happy to chow down on the humble pie Matty the Flanimal is serving me. Are you telling me that if, somehow, Wenger were to unearth a better creative central midfielder than Cesc Fabregas (hard to imagine I know) that you would not want him to assume Cesc's mantle? In the case of Diarra, I would be sad to see him go because he has impressed me with his displays. But his attitude and lack of intelligence seem to point to a career at a smaller club. If he hasn't got the patience or the confidence to prove his ability, I say let the baby have his bottle.LD.
Date:Wednesday January 9 2008
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