Arsenal - It's Going To Be A Big Season For...Part 1
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It's Going To Be A Big Season For...Part 1

In the days building up to the season I will be writing a feature article on a player that has something to prove in the 2009-10 season. With our transfer activity once again looking to be laid to rest until 11.56pm on August 31st, Arsene will be storing faith in some players with whom question marks are still abound. Trips to Manchester United, Everton and Celtic will likely have been consigned to the record books by the time the next Arsenal recruit walks through the revolving door and that will mean relying on some questionably placed aces up the sleeve for the manager. With Rosicky edging desperately towards the cat-flap, limply searching for a quiet place to die and Nasri resuming a career long propensity towards the treatment room himself, the boss will be playing a few wild cards for some very important and tough fixtures. Thomas Vermaelen has well and truly nailed his colours to the Arsenal mast and proved he has Gooner credentials ebbing through his veins. Because he has injured his hamstring. Trust towards the boss and the board is slowly eroding and with such a precarious start to the season fixture wise, the possibility of not having many points on the board come mid September is a very real one and a prospect that will heighten the vitriol to unprecedented levels under Wenger`s stewardship. The purpose of these articles is not to create any sense of ecumenical harmony between the infuriatingly rigidly protocoled groups Arsenal fans have become obsessed with pigeon holing themselves into- the so called Wenger knows brigade versus the naysayers. But rather to consider the individual merits of some of the articles of Le Boss`s trust. First up, the enigma that is Abou Diaby.

In my match report for the Stoke City game in May, I wrote that one of Wenger`s challenges over the summer was to discover, "What exactly is an Abou Diaby and what does it do?" Too offensive to play defensive midfield, too careless in possession to play attacking midfield, too idle to play on the left wing, too ugly to join a boy band. Diaby`s charge sheet for crimes to Wengerball is too vastly populated for comfort. He`s lazy, he gives the ball away far too easily, for a physically imposing central midfielder he doesn`t win too many tackles and when he does try to he usually breaks bones. Abou Diaby is football`s answer to the wasp, the occasional sting in the tail all too often preceded by an eternity of buzzing around aimlessly and annoying the living fuck out of you. For instance, one of Diaby`s favourite tricks appears to be receiving the ball on the edge of his own area, weaving, ducking and diving his way mesmerically around five players, stealing away from his dumbfounded opponents manoeuvring himself into an acre of space and an ocean of time......before then spooning the ball out of play under no pressure. In a neat snapshot, this proves one over riding factor where Diaby is concerned; he has exquisite football feet but a lousy football brain. When left to run on autopilot, Diaby has few peers, surround him with opposing players or put him in any position where time is precious and scarce and the toes twinkle and his play sparkles. But when left to think, Diaby is more ponderous and unnecessarily long winded than another twenty minute Jimmy Page fret wank guitar solo. (Or one of my pointlessly over analogised sentences).

His lack of football intelligence is exemplified by the fact that he has been unable to carve out a permanent position for himself in the side. His stint on the left wing in the 2007 Carling Cup Final against Chelsea convinced you he could have a home in that position, weaving balletically between heavyweights such as Lampard (snigger) and seasoned campaigners like Ballack gave us hope he could offer a thrusting force from that position and add conviction to our midfield. Yet he has barely repeated such displays from there. Diaby has never been disciplined or conscientious enough to fill the defensive midfield slot- a position the manager tells us he was earmarked for in the summer of 2007 when Gilberto was on Copa America duty. The reason of course he was never slotted into that particular square peg was due to his most onerous foe- injury. Diaby has rarely been able to string together a series of games due to the persistent affliction. Ever since Dan Smith decided to go postal on Diaby`s ankle, niggling muscle strains have been par the course for the lanky French midfielder, which has disrupted him from establishing any rhythm. If Diaby is to prove himself worthy of his manager`s trust he`s going to have to sustain an adequate fitness level (and try his hardest not to break influential team mate`s legs in training).

Likewise Diaby`s performance as a support striker against Fenerbahce briefly elevated your optimism that Vassiriki Abou could play a prominent role in that position too. But then his limp displays in both semi finals last season from a similar area of the pitch retards your opinion of Diaby once again, leaving your estimation of him sagging towards the gutter once more. Plus, with Arshavin now on the scene, he is only ever going to realistically play second fiddle for that role in the concerto. Diaby is possibly the most frustrating player I have ever encountered in my time watching Arsenal. But one does not become so disgruntled with bad players- I can`t ever recall McGoldrick or Hillier frustrating me- I knew they were limited players and expected little more than the turgid fare they could barely scrape together. Diaby is a player I expect more from. It is said in some religions that of you take one step towards God, God will take two steps towards you. In my estimation, Arsene Wenger has taken a quantum sized leap towards Abou Diaby, so he must be waiting for a sagacious midfield player to break out of there somewhere. Diaby does have a lot of the qualities it is often bemoaned Arsenal lack, size, physical presence, balls the size of watermelons. (Figuratively speaking on the last point). Diaby has the power to dominate midfields; the problem is I`m not entirely sure he knows how to utilise that power.

Season 2009-10 needs to see Diaby become mentally disciplined and focussed- Arsenal are a team that is at its most effective when they move the ball quickly, Diaby can aid that with his sloping, gazelle like runs through the heart of the midfield, but he must also learn how to lubricate the Arsenal machinery by moving the ball quickly and being economical and accurate in possession. He needs to be more dynamic, track back and help his team mates more; basically he needs to stop playing the game like he`s waiting for the 155 bus to Streatham Common and start exerting himself more- that would tie in to tapping into his impressive physical artillery. The new 4-3-3 formation could give Diaby his best opportunity yet; slotted in a midfield three alongside Fabregas as the creative pivot and Song/ Denilson as the anchor player, Diaby could be freed from constraint somewhat, expected to predominantly be neither defensive screen or arch plotter. He could potentially add a bit of muscle in the defensive third when our opponents are in possession and maraud forward with impunity. He has served enough of an apprenticeship on the left side of midfield to plug the gap left by our left sided attacker (likely to be Arshavin). Indeed, Diaby started the game in Valencia at Denilson`s expense, which suggests he is being primed for precisely that role in the midfield triumvirate on Saturday in what is likely to be a physical contest at Goodison Park. If Diaby can discipline his game a little and start lubricating the brain cells and, above all, if he can stay fit, he might just repay his manager`s immense faith. But another season of injury and mediocrity will likely see him consigned to the scrap heap whistling his "coulda, shoulda, wouldas." In the words of Lloyd Grossman, Abou, it`s over to you.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday August 10 2009

Time: 10:06PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
there is no difference btw Diaby and Adebayor,jus dat Ade has a bigger mouth, They are both lazy,technically deficient,they constantly disrupt our attacks(either by losing possesion or straying offside) and are both basically CRAP. Am not very optimistic about this upcoming season bcos our team is still very deficient and if everyone in this forum cant see that. Positive thinking is great but in the face of obvious lapses,I cant continue to pretend all is well. What is the point of waiting till the last seconds of the transfer when by then we might already be several points behind our so-called rivals. Am sorry,will always be a lifelong supporter but I cant shake this negative feeling I have about this season.This is a make or break season for all of us,guys,fans,players,Wenger,the Board,everyone! Laughing stock or Respected club with worldwide acclaim. (am out)
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10/08/2009 23:57:00

Make or break season for us,guys! The fans,players,Wenger,the Board,everyone! Wild guess.Rosicky must be be next.
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11/08/2009 00:06:00

worst come to worst, we still can claim that at least weve won the prem league, where as liverpool have not.
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11/08/2009 01:52:00

I never knew there was so much to write about Abou Diaby? I really feel like i understand him better ... :|
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11/08/2009 03:13:00

So, £40 million received and only £10 million re-invested. A team then, you may think, that are champions of their domestic league. A team that must be drenched in success and absolutely dripping in silverware, that it needs so little tinkering. Alas, no my friends. I give you Arsenal. A team that contains Abou Diaby. Is there any ****ing point AW ? Honestly, is there ? Great piece as usual LD.
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11/08/2009 07:56:00

Wenger is looking for Flamini-esque improvements from Diaby, risky strategy because if the Flamini project had failed he had Gilberto and Diarra to call upon now he has........? Dont think Wenger will spend any money until after the Celtic game as if we fail to qualify the funds raised will make up the shortfall and he wont really need to spend to enhance a squad that is not competing in the champions league. We get through and he gets to play his favourite game of last minute transfer window bluff. I dont think Wenger believes in this squad as much as he would have us believe.
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11/08/2009 08:35:00

I think the whole Flamini one season wonder thing was a bit of a happy accident. Diaby was injured, Gilberto was on international duty, Diarra hadn't yet been signed and Denilson was still too raw. Flamini's career so far is showing signs of Viduka syndrome, he's only interested in the money so he's a "sing for yer supper" type. Lots of averageness punctuated by a decent few performances once his contract is nearing its end and he wants an improved deal. He did it to Marseilles and he did it to us. I can't see what's changed since Wenger told everyone at the beginning of the summer he wanted everyone on board before kick off. Failure to do that will cost us I think, more than squeezing another £32.63p off of original asking prices anyway.
Little Dutch
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11/08/2009 09:06:00

I'm sure there's no one in this planet currently feeling more down than Rosicky himself. The last thing he needs are the persistent less than savoury comments made from none other than the club's fans. I mean, it is not like his choice to nurse one lengthy injuries after another. Other than that, good analysis on Diaby - especially "Too offensive to play defensive midfield, too careless in possession to play attacking midfield, too idle to play on the left wing". Apt.
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11/08/2009 09:15:00

Rich, if arshavin's fee was an "advance" expenditure of 09/10, then I think there aren't much left in the coffer if indeed the transfer kitty is only made up of the "profits" AW made so far (and not from the budget sanctioned from the board). Just another perspective.
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11/08/2009 09:19:00

don't forget "too ugly to be in a boy band" ...i mean, look at the photo, it almost makes me feel sorry for him.
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11/08/2009 09:21:00

As I've said before, I like Rosicky, very good player (he used to be anyway) seems a genuine bloke and looks to be popular within the squad. But it's not my job to to fetch baby a blanket, it's not my concern whether our players are jolly nice blokes or not. This is competitive sport and I can only judge them on that basis. The manager doesn't help him by constantly christening him as "like a new signing" every time he gets up off the sofa without any help.
Little Dutch
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11/08/2009 09:35:00

Judge by all means and be as pragmatic as need be. Agreed that this is a competitive arena and it may be too much to ask for empathy and sympathy. I'm just saying that we can leave rosicky alone if there's nothing encouraging to say. It is ok if one can't find the time to support a glass that is on the verge of tipping over the edge of the table, but the least that we can do for our very own player is don't be the one to pull the plug, yes?
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11/08/2009 09:55:00

I personally don't think he is that good to be honest, I always maintained that. Yes, he is clearly better than what he shows us at time, but he is no troubled world class player, he is just a dumb idiot who has some skill and power.
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11/08/2009 11:20:00

is anyone actually confident about this season? I wish I could be
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11/08/2009 11:32:00

I am!!!! but then I always am at this stage. Ask me again at the end of August.
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11/08/2009 11:34:00

I do feel sympathy for the guy, I am only joking. But on the other hand, whilst Arsenal continue to penny pinch and wait for transfer deadlines in the interest of saving a few quid, which will genuinely hurt our chances of getting positive results in a tough start to the season, it's frustrating that this guy is still one of our highest earners, plus we must have put hundreds of man hours and no small amount of expenditure into his recovery. Sod Rosicky being like a new signing, we should have got rid of him a year ago and spent that time and money on a player who is fit to play. Harsh maybe, but true. Not Rosicky's fault of course, but I think he's a big enough and brave enough boy to take the odd hint of sarcasm in the extremely unlikely possibility that this reaches him.
Little Dutch
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11/08/2009 11:36:00

I agree LD. I love the player and the guy to an extent, but he should have been sold. Now he is here, we may as well give him every chance, but I suspect he will be gone at the end of this season, or dramatically reduce his wage.
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11/08/2009 12:29:00

I really believe that unfortunately, it will be Tomas' last year with us. I just hope he can stay fit for a large part of the season and contribute as much as possible. A fully fit Rosicky, in an Arsenal side zipping the ball around, is a helluva player.
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11/08/2009 13:55:00

"It is said in some religions that of you take one step towards God, God will take two steps towards you. In my estimation, Arsene Wenger has taken a quantum sized leap towards Abou Diaby, so he must be waiting for a sagacious midfield player to break out of there somewhere." This is true, but the problem is that Wenger should be the 'God' of this analogy. The player must put in the work before Arsene gives him the chance. He's always been part of the first-team set up since he's been here, and doesn't seem to want to work to become a regular. I think we should just leave him out for a few games and tell him to start busting a gut in training and in matches to get into the team - pretend he's an 18-year-old unknown again and let him earn our respect ala Kieren Gibbs. I haven't got a clue how we'd go about doing this - it's probably too late now - but that would certainly force him to improve.
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11/08/2009 16:17:00

I know Wenger puts an awful lot of stock in what he sees in training. Nicklas Bendtner is widely considered to be the best trainer at the club, hence the reason for Wenger's patience with him when he went through a dodgy spell last season. You could argue that this sometimes for him miscalculating a player's mentality in a competitive environment. For instance, Manninger and Senderos had all of the talent to be world beaters in their positions, but unfortunately it would appear they allow their mistakes to scar and haunt them- ultimately you don't find that sort of thing out about a player until you take the training wheels off.
Little Dutch
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11/08/2009 16:21:00

Which will be the making or breaking of young (I am FINALLY older than some Arsenal players) Jack.
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11/08/2009 16:27:00

That's true, but it doesn't explain why he keeps on selecting Diaby. I'd be very surprised if he was a good trainer. With Manninger and Senderos, their mistakes were largely due to being constantly in and out of the team, like Diaby. Maninger did very well when Seaman had a long-term injury, as did Senderos when Campbell was out for a long time. However, the two outfield players you mention - Senderos and Bendtner - play as though they really care. Diaby is so uninvolved in games he never has the opportunity to make a big mistake!
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11/08/2009 16:35:00

Maybe Diaby is a good trainer, it's more likely that Wenger sees some juicy goodness that he is desperate to squeeze out in big games. Like I say, Diaby does appear to have some talent. I'd agree with you on Manninger and Senderos, the big difference is their mistakes were usually proceeded by a couple of games looking visibly shaken. Bendtner for instance, doesn't give you that impression, when he misplaces a pass, he instantly wants the ball, when he misses a chance, he instantly puts himself back in the box, when morons starting booing him against Bolton he got himself in the box and scored a crucial goal. I really do think this season is Diaby's last chance, I believe he's good enough for a role at Arsenal, it depends on how much he wants it.
Little Dutch
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11/08/2009 16:49:00

It also depends on whether Arsene sits him down and tells him this is the most important season in his career, because I really don't think he has the mental capacity to work that out for himself. As for whether he is a good trainer, I obviously don't know for a fact, but it seems unlikely to me that he works harder in training than he does in a CL/FA Cup semi-final...
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11/08/2009 17:16:00

Nice one LD. I've generally kept my opinions to myself in the last few months which has been largely dominated by the asininity of football punditry gone mad, drunk with the transfer window booze. But you, my dear fellow gooner, are a breath of fresh air. Diaby has always shown the requisite skills, its the brains that has sadly never been evident, and whilst I trust Wenger to do the right thing, I'm not going to hold my breath on this guy discovering himself. The Romford Pele had few skills, but he had an amazing football brain. If Wenger can find a way to graft the skills of Diaby to Parlour's brains(the football one that is) we'll have a world beating all round footballer on our hands.
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11/08/2009 17:47:00

I actually thought last season would be a breakthrough for Diaby, after Flamini's exit and he disappointed me. The reasons why I had that expectation are outlined nicely by LD, but I simply dont have that faith and belief in Diaby anymore. Very frustrating for a fan, coz the lad has so much potential, if only he can harness his strengths well. Lets hope he proves me wrong this season.
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11/08/2009 18:32:00

one thing everyone seems to be forgetting is that he has chosen not to got on vacation this summer, instead he stayed and worked on improving himself from his finest level to his passing game. I get the feeling he knows and that's why has taken the time to improve. If can avoid those stupid niggling injuries, expect to see a different Diaby this season. He better back me up on this or i'ma pay him a visit(LOL).
Youngest in Charge
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11/08/2009 18:58:00

Whilst they are my favourite kinds of players, we do seem to have an abundance of overly technical type players who love to play balls to feet and be twinkle-toed. Of course, that suits our game but perhaps Diaby can add some of the more penetrative stuff, like Arshavin does. Rosicky knows when to play it simple and first time too. Have to say that our transfer activity is hardly a statement of intent as to our desire to be serious challengers for the CL and PL. I fear we'll experience more of what we've had the last few seasons.
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11/08/2009 22:55:00

I have no idea if it will work, but i get the feeling that if Diaby may excel anywhere for Arsenal on a consistent basis, it would be as the third, attackin midfield player in a 4-3-3. Denilson (or other signing) sitting back and playing out of defence in the Pirlo/Mascherano role, Cesc as a natural CM in the Xavi/Alonso mould, which he plays his best football in and Diaby being the more advanced of a midfield three. Who knows if it will work, or if Arsene will even use him there, but I feel that this would provide adequate central midfield defensive cover for him to feel free to make his great runs. He still has much work to do on both his tackling and ball releasing/short passing skills though if any substantial improvement is to be made.
Ozi Gooner
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12/08/2009 03:29:00

I'm amazed, honestly, that so many Gooners weren't sad to see Adebayor go. I think he is a top striker and he will do great at Manchester City.
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14/08/2009 00:49:00

Adebayor will do well at Citeh, but not well enough to bring you Champions League glory. He will score some of the goals his midfield provides him, so if you want him to score alot you will need to provide him a crap load of chances. Something that City's midfield cannot do.
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14/08/2009 04:12:00

I am not sure any true gooner is sad to see Adebayo go. What we want is total commitment to he cause. Sure we will miss his goals but not the person.
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14/08/2009 15:30:00


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