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It Was A Big Season For.....

You may or may not recall that last summer I produced a three part series of articles entitled It`s Going To Be A Big Season For…. Focussing on three players in particular for whom the 2009-10 season represented a huge opportunity to plant their flags firmly into the Arsenal turf. The first player I exuded focus on was Abou Diaby. Diaby is a player who frustrates Arsenal fans like no player I have ever witnessed. In the linked article above last season I explicated that the reason for that frustration is the fact that we all recognise how talented he is. Amongst my suppositions that he was "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" was the ultimate conclusion that, "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 **** out of you." So, what of Diaby in 2009-10? Has he found the elusive mistress consistency? Both of form and fitness?

Well, as ever with Abou Diaby there really isn`t a straight answer. The birth of the 4-3-3 seemed to be Diaby`s big chance in a formation where, as an "in-betweener" in the midfield three, he would be asked to neither predominantly attack nor predominantly defend. However, early in the season, despite contributing healthily to Arsenal`s free scoring form prior to the injury to van Persie, however, he appeared to forget his place in the triumvirate- often marauding forwards to support the three attackers when that function was primed for one Senor Fabregas. Denilson`s long term back injury sustained in the September defeat at Eastlands presented him a chance to cement his place alongside Song as one of Arsenal`s midfield minders- yet it turned out that by not being asked to dedicate his talents to the sole purpose of offense or defence, Diaby thought he would just idiosyncratically attack at will. He was one of Arsenal`s more culpable players when the Gunners complacency allowed West Ham to claw back a 2 goal deficit at Upton Park. One week later, with Arsenal leading Spurs 2-0 at home, Diaby, unperturbed by the traumas of the week before, continued to maraud forwards like a dog with two dicks, culminating in the quasi legendary sight of Wenger screaming at him and throwing his jacket down in frustration.

That act of conniption appeared to represent a watershed. After being left to feast on scores of lovely carrots by the manager, Arsene very publicly gave him the old fork in the eye. From there on, Diaby was a player transformed. Defensive discipline, good ball retention, he stayed on his feet as opposed to diving into tackles. In the winter, Diaby was looking to be the player Arsene Wenger could see on the training pitch. In a tough, nip and tuck match at Turf Moor in December, Diaby was Arsenal`s warrior, hunting down the opposition when they were in possession, releasing the ball intelligently to attacking players before maintaining his position. His milieu of skills were being allied with signs of a brain for the first time in living memory. Perhaps his best individual performance of the season arrived just a few weeks later when Aston Villa came to the Grove. With Cesc only fit enough for the bench, Diaby was charged with taking control of the middle of the park, a challenge he rose to consummately with a dominant performance. But what was most impressive was that when Fabregas was called from the bench to win the game (natch), Diaby was asked to drop back and play a more defensive role- which he did seamlessly. Fabregas` came was of course ended by an injury recurrence, so when he came off again, Diaby was again asked to be the station master. He responded with a superb solo goal of his own. What magical universe is this where Abou Diaby shapes and moulds his role according to the needs of the team at a particular time?

His new found form of course was aided by two important components. Firstly, that he had a run in the team in his favoured position of central midfield- something that had never happened before in his Arsenal career. That component of course was contingent to the fact that he actually stayed fit for a prolonged period- another scarce occurrence of his Arsenal career to date. By the time Denilson returned from injury in January, Diaby had done enough to merit his place ahead of the Brazilian. In Alex Song`s absence due to the African Nations, the defensive duty fell even heavier on Diaby`s shoulders and for most of the month, he was assigned the role of anchor man and again, he performed the role satisfactorily. It was suddenly clear as to why Wenger had earmarked him for the position in the summer of 2007, when Gilbert was at the Copa America. A delightful headed winning goal against Liverpool in February appeared to confirm Diaby`s stock was on the up and up and that he had carved himself a firm place in the starting line up.

But thereafter, Diaby appeared to hit a bit of a lull. As Arsenal`s title credentials turned from wet cement to concrete, Diaby appeared to become a more listless presence, wading in with a series of fair to middling performances. Once the title chance receded to once more and the season drew to its close, Diaby went from unimpressive to pretty diabolical. His abject display at the JJB was probably the worst and most complacent of a poor and jolly arrogant bunch. His idle amble towards his own penalty area to "mark" Ben Watson was possibly one of the most distressing sights of the season as the Latics were allowed back into the game with a morale boosting goal. Diaby became the picture of apathy as the season petered out into a mind numbing patter. Having won his spot in the team, with little to play for and with the manager`s jacket throwing antics now a distant memory, Diaby lapsed back into the idle, thoughtless player we had this time last year. It leaves me with the conclusion that Diaby is a player who needs the constant presence of the stick to perform. When he has something to prove and something to play for, he is a quality addition to our team and a much needed physical presence. But once he has reached a certain ceiling, he appears to again drift back into lazy habits. Diaby can be a fine player, he can be disciplined and he can stay fit, he has proved all of these things this season. Yet I am left asking myself the question, does a champion need his manager to throw garments around to make him play? Does a champion pick and choose which games he contests and which he strolls through? Truth be told, despite his talent, I think I am about 95% of the way to giving up on the idea that Diaby can be a successful Arsenal player in the long term. Yet there`s still juts that lingering 5% on me……LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday May 25 2010

Time: 1:35PM

Your Comments

Nice write up LD, thank you. I personally lost my 5% of hope on Diaby at Wigan. He is a nice enough bloke it seems, and yes, he probably will turn into a ' fine ' player. It just wont be with us that's all. If he were to stay fit and play an entire PL campaign, his 38 games would break down like this. Outstanding games = 4, good games = 6, average games = 10, bad games = 10, and shockers = 8. Not what I am looking for, for a player with his number of starts and number of years at the Club.
Cockney Rich
Motivation issues. Same with Pav and Berbatov. All the same, if anyone can motivate him, Wenger can.
DubaiSpur
Agree with CR. We just dont know what to expect from him and its just too much of a risk to continue to gamble on him. Wenger should get rid.
True-Gooner-Blood
It seems that when he is out the team and has something to prove he rises to the challenge with his performances. Once he establishes a run of games/is a starter that he takes it for granted and becomes lazy. Reminds me of Adebayor at times of how lazy and disinterested he can be.
paul_ownz
I also think that he is a very lucky boy to be included in the final French squad for the World Cup.
Cockney Rich
Yep defo. Considering Nasri, Vieira, Benzema & Ben Arfa were ommited Domenech must really like him
paul_ownz
Fair comment PO. When you look at the quality of players that Domenech has overlooked, it makes me wonder if he has a Master Plan, or he is just taking the ***** out of the FFF.
Cockney Rich
Look at his face in the picture. Is it a smile, is it a grimace? It's vague, much like him.
Tony Rocky Horror
You love this site dont you tony. Do you visit vital Chelsa and other rivals as much
paul_ownz
yeah
Tony Rocky Horror
"Considering Nasri, Vieira, Benzema & Ben Arfa were ommited Domenech must really like him" -- More like Domenech prefers Diaby's temperament to the Temperamental Triumvirate on the French national team: Nasri, Ben Arfa, Benzema. All 3 have proven themselves divisive on the national team. Domenech likes all 3 as players, and he does like Diaby as well. But if it weren't for the way those 3 behaved at Euro 08, he would've chosen any one of them ahead of Diaby. Excellent write-up LD. My sentiments exactly. In recent Arsenal times, no player has made me more excited and more frustrated than Diaby. I'm pretty much on the 99% side of giving up on him.
jaelle
OT - Look at what Vermaelen will be doing during the summer: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/leagues/premierleague/arsenal/7764676/No-World-Cup-but-Thomas-Vermaelen-happy-to-be-Arsenals-foreign-ambassador.html // Also, I have to post a rant against Myles Palmer today. Look at this xenophobic *****e: "Capello quickly recognised that very few of our players have world class skills. But he saw that we do have spirit and determination. He saw that John Terry was a leader with that never-day-die spirit that Italians wish they had, that Brazilians wish they had." This made me want to punch out his lights. What a load of c-r-a-p. Tell that *****e to Maldini or Cannavaro or Maicon or Lucio. He can go to hell.
jaelle
Palmer is a bitter and senile dwarf with a massive Napoleon complex. A self confessed Chelsea fan who plots dissension in the Arsenal ranks. My blood boils when he uses the word "us" to describe the Arsenal fan community. He is not one of us.
Deltaforce
Abou Diaby has made a step forward this season. He has shown that he can understand the defensive responsibilities even if he hasn't mastered them yet. They certainly don't come as second nature to him but based on time on the pitch only Song and Clichy won more tackles than he did and only Song conceded more fouls so something of a combative defensive quality there if not yet a satisfactory awareness/positional one. Fabregas, Denilson and Ramsey were the only ones to pass more frequently with the same players plus Song the ones to pass more frequently with greater accuracy. But he doesn't really standout on the creative side as he should. Quite why 90 minutes in the Wigan game should shape opinions about Diaby anymore than the other 2232 minutes he played in the PL last season I'm not sure but there were few who came out of that game with their reputations enhanced. Interesting to see what the World Cup can bring. As Wenger said recently anyone can have a great 3 weeks and Diaby is the sort of player that can find his reputation enhanced in such an arena. An X factor opportunity if things do go well for him. Of course even if they did it wouldn't really mean anymore than 90 minutes at Wigan should.
Amos.
Id give him one more season based on the fact that he has taken more steps forward this season than backwards.
Sajit
Amos - the Wigan game made my mind up on Diaby for me. In what was a fairly inexperienced team, I looked for Diaby to give us a bit ' extra'. I thought that he would step up and help young Eastmond through the game. I thought that he might want to put a foot in to help out an over-worked Sol, and a panic stricken Silvestre. I thought that he might roll his sleeves up and do a bit of tracking back. Given his number of years at the Club, and all his starts in PL and CL games, he actually done ***** all. In fact, he went missing. For the whole awful 90 minutes, he showed no desire, intelligence or energy, which is not acceptable for a player with his experience.
Cockney Rich
Abou, in the '08/'09 season before, at times appeared to need reminding he was on the field, playing for points for a club as the Arsenal. God knows he used to get me frustrated when he just seemed to saunter around listlessly; losing possession and not doing enough to recover it. This season, he was a different proposition, held on well to the ball, strong (and neat) in the tackle and shipped in with some cracking goals too, usually from sweeping counter attack moves where he will make gangling runs alongside other runners and be at the right spot for a well placed strike or header.

I agree with Amos that his selection in the French squad can only make him better. One more season is just right but I have a feeling he will come to his own next time out.
Naijagunner
Diaby, like the team as a whole most people agree we has made a lot of improvements but his form towards the end of the season was indifferent. Hopefully, he will want to prove himself on the biggest stage in front of the world in SA. Arsenal is a world class club that needs world-class players, Diaby needs to show he can be one of them.
gronedrone
He's your Jenas. Yes he is. Jenas is available by the way if you need a Cesc replacement?
HuddersfieldYiddo
HY, Diaby owns Jenas.
Deltaforce
now that we're losing fabregas i dont think we can afford to lose another midfielder. so diaby should stay, but he seriously needs to figure out which Diaby he wants to be. This Jekyll and Hyde performance is frustrating as hell. Having said that, I can picture an article coming out of arsenal.com titled "Diaby can be a pass master".
supersof
Excellent write up LD, and well analysed. My opinions of Diaby keep swinging from one side to the other, so I hesitate to pronounce judgment on him. But your analysis articulates it well. We all suspected that a sustained run in the team could result in improved performances from Diaby, and that was true this season. But his lack of awareness is shocking at times. Even I was screaming at Diaby (and Gallas, I think) during the Spurs game to get the ***** back and defend, which led Wenger to throw down his jacket. If a player needs that constant fire up his arse, you need to seriously question his personal commitment levels. I would give him one more season though, and see whether he can displace Denilson for a permanent place in the starting 11.
prits
Cesc just been interviewed by SSN, it's on their website. Confirms he wants out and has discussed with Arsene. I think he'll definitely go now, just hope we get 60m for him. What a very sad ending and way to go.
Gooner_Vin
"wading in with a series of fair to middling performances." Fair to middling? That is the politest way of saying "he was utter toss this season in more games than he wasn't".
LondonGooner
"Only Song conceded more fouls so something of a combative defensive quality" Amos - or (to phrase it more ,ahem, directly) it could be that he cannot tackle if his life depended on it! Nothing combative in his play just lazy, languid tackles resulting in needless free kicks being given away and aplayer who clearly has nothing between his ears except a vacuous void. 25 years old and still clueless, one to get rid of Arsene.
LondonGooner
Cesc on video confirming the conversation he had with AW and saying "no" when asked if he can guarantee that he'll be at Arsenal next season: http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11833_6173228,00.html
jaelle
Judging by that clip, it seems Cesc will be content with at least another season at Arsenal. Wenger won't sell Cesc for the price Barcelona are prepared to pay and Barcelona can't afford to pay more than that. I am quite confident that Cesc will stay this summer.
gronedrone
is your midfield 3 really gonna be Song, Diaby and Rosicky next season? or maybe Song, Denilson and Nasri? yikes........lol
CGan1
Cesc saying that his "future is out of his hands" is good news in the current circumstances. Barca would have liked him to hand in a transfer request but it does not look like happening. Now the arithmetic is fairly simple - Barca need to pay us a reasonable fee linked to the market, which they will be loath to pay. Here's to Cesc staying on with us {downs champagne}.
Deltaforce
I seriously dont get it, i used to assume that Diaby was great in training and thats why he kept getting picked for Arsenal and France, even though there were better players, but this season he broke Nasri's leg in training, so he is probably just as awful in training, maybe he can control minds?
bootoo
Does he though Deltaforce? Dont get me wrong both are Sh1t, and im JJs harshest critic. I mean if you think like alot of you Arsenal fans do so often (Arguing today with my mate a Gooner who is adamant that Almunia is better than Gomes - reason? "Cause he plays for Arsenal" the cult of Wenger continues) that its just cause hes a gooner then youre blinkered. JJ used to boss the show against you lot, infact his only great games were against you. Abou, come back when you have won the PFA young player of the year award :)
HuddersfieldYiddo
HY, no way is Almunia is better than Gomes. But yes, there is enough evidence to suggest that Jenas has gone backwards in the last year and Diaby has gone forward. Diaby is inconsistent but overall has much more in his game than Jenas. He is a better box to box midfielder with a physical presence and goalscoring ability. But no way you will see that having been seduced by the cult of Redknapp both Harry and Jamie!
Deltaforce
This guy is getting it worse than Eboue did last year. He's not Cesc, Rooney, Vieira. He's maturing at a more average rate. And as has been pointed out, this is his first full year of PL football. His consistency is no worse than Gerrard's. If you expect chest thumping from a player every time they pull on the Arsenal shirt, of course you're going to be disappointed. He's not that sort of guy by nature. What's more, he's an ugly ********, without a trophy girlfriend. He's not got the confidence to be an imposing player around the club, let alone the pitch. Gooners everywhere would be doing us all a favour, if they gave their good looking female friends the strong word on Abou - he's only self belief away from being a week in week out stormer.
hughied
He is the Arsenal player that I would like to throw a brick at more than any other, with the obvious exceptions of Almunia and Silvestre
Ozi Gooner
To be fair I don't think Diaby gets it bad from the crowd, not on matchdays. He's not heckled in the way others are. Martin Keown was hardly looker of the century but the fans loved him. I take your point about him not being a chest thumper, but neither is Denilson and I rate him. Arshavin ins't either but the fans really respond to him too. I don't think self belief is the issue for Diaby so much as motivation is. You're right, different people manifest it in different ways and you don't have to froth at the mouth to show it, but you can always tell it's there in someone like Clichy for instance- who has to be one of the most mild mannered Arsenal players I've ever seen. But boy will he put a shift in. Diaby doesn't always look like he has that and the Wigan game was hardly a first offence, in fact, he finished the season playing in that manner in pretty much every game from WHL onwards. HY, I'll meet you half way on this one, I do think Gomes to be a better keeper than Almunia this season. Diaby *****s on Jenas though.
Little Dutch
made a wonderful run to provide an assist for france's winning goal against mexico last night
me_innit
Didn't Mexico play Holland?
Little Dutch
Yes LD, Sir Robin scored twice against Mexico in a 2-1 win. France played the mighty Costa Rica.
Cockney Rich
Diaby was fantastic against Costa Rica, RVP was brilliant against Mexico. // Re the Cesc saga: for the first time this week, I am more hopeful that Cesc will stay -- at least for another year. All week long I've been following the discussion of various journalists and Arsenal bloggers on Twitter (all discussing what they're hearing from their contacts inside the club) and I've seen the general feeling go from negative (i.e., everything they're hearing confirms Cesc really wants to go and that it will happen this summer) to last night's more positive consensus. The feeling has shifted to Arsenal's favor. Today they're all more positive about Cesc staying. That's because Arsenal are holding firm and telling Barca to go to hell, Cesc isn't for sale. Barca have indeed contacted Arsenal but Arsenal are just not responding, except to say No! Also, for the journos, Arsenal have come out looking very good in this entire situation precisely because of the club's silence, while Barca have done quite the opposite. John Cross has 2 good articles today, sourced from his contacts from inside the club: http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Transfer-news-Arsenal-tell-Barcelona-that-Cesc-Fabregas-is-not-for-sale-at-any-price-article439617.html AND http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/opinion/columnists/john-cross/Arsenal-s-dignified-stance-over-Cesc-Fabregas-is-in-stark-contract-to-Barcelona-s-shameful-behaviour-The-John-Cross-Column-article439439.html
jaelle
my bad, was costa rica
me_innit
Clichy's been close to distinctly average for the last 2 seasons, bar away at the Nou Camp and I'm sure a few others that don't stick in my mind. This includes a number of redoubtably stinking performances, most notably Citeh away. No amount of passion from Clichy excuses these poor games, just as Diaby's mild manner is no excuse for his poor games. Clichy's played 2.5 good - excellent seasons prior to this. So he is owed some credit by all. Diaby's had his ankle broken in two 2.5 seasons ago and has since struggled with injury since and therefore has no credit with supporters. Let's not crucify Diaby for his performance against Wigan. Clichy played in that game as well. So did Nasri. What has Nasri done in 2 seasons that makes him immune from this sort of criticism? Uncharacteristically poor remark from you Ozi. Respectively in their 1st 100 league games, Diaby (played only 92 so far) has scored one more goal and provided one less assist than Steven Gerrard. And during that time, has endured rehab from a broken ankle. Remember this also, Diaby has had to play left midfield, right midfield, in the hole, covering the back four, and as a box to box player.
hughied
Edit - delete "passion" in describing Clichy above.
hughied
If people are going to question Diaby's motivation, they should do the same for Clichy (last 2 seasons), Toure (last 2 seasons at Arsenal), Nasri (for most of his Arsenal career - though clearly he is young and adapting, as is Diaby I put it to you).
hughied
Love the control by Diaby in the France game for the second goal. He draws three players to him and beats them all, then measures a pass to the right option.
hughied
I don't actually think Clichy has been average for the last 2 seasons, but that's by the by. A player underperforming doesn't always mean they lack motivation. Toure didn't lack motivation, he just got older and heavier and pace was always his chief attribute. I happen to think there are signs of a lack of motivation in Diaby- not simply because he has performed poorly in games. He is clearly a player that needs a kick up the arse and it's clear that as soon as he won his place in the team, his performances dipped. It's clear that his performances rose after AW handed out a rather public admonishment to him. I think I have questioned Nasri a fair bit this season along the same lines. i.e. That he has great talent but doesn't know how to use it yet and I think Nasri was just as bad and just as guilty as Diaby was in the last 5 games. It just so happens I wrote an article on Diaby last summer and not Nasri.
Little Dutch
Interesting read on Arsenal.com. Stewart Robson, former Gunner and Arsenal TV analyst says the following of our midfield, in the just concluded season: Arsenal’s three-man midfield was set up for Fabregas to flourish and he did. If you only play with two in midfield and he left that area, Arsenal would be more exposed. But playing behind a main striker as one of two in front of a holding midfield player, it worked, especially early in the season. I would still say Diaby has the potential to be a top, top player. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. There are times when he changes from defence into attack with one twist and turn and then a driving run. And that’s what makes Arsenal dynamic. You can pass and pass and pass but you need dynamism with players running with the ball. What Diaby does is twist away from a player when they go to close him down and then drive forward with the ball. We saw it against Standard Liege when Arsenal were 2-0 down. He picked up the ball in a dangerous situation with his back to goal, went past the first challenge, went past the whole of their midfield and then set up Bendtner for the goal. He did that time and time again during the season. Yes he had his off days and he will want to improve that, but in terms of his potential I think he’s better than any of the other options. Rosicky I thought got better towards the end of the season. It’s unfair to be harsh on him because he’s had a long time out. Everyone talks about Eduardo and Ramsey’s injuries but he was out for even longer. Well, there you go then, re view on Diaby, from an insider. Mmmhh.
Naijagunner
LD - criticisms not so much directed at you, more at the comments above. Good piece. I've been guilty of knocking Diaby, but I think he was our fifth bet player this year. Certainly he's not the reason Arsenal didn't win trophies this year.
hughied
hughied - if Diaby was our ' fifth best player ', that just shows how bad we were. I take your point that he is not the SOLE reason that we failed to win anything, but he must be ONE of the reasons !
Cockney Rich
In no particular order Vermalen, Song, Gallas, Sagna, Fabregas, Bendtner, Eboue, Campbell, RVP & Ramsey despite injuries have all been better than Diaby surely hughied.
paul_ownz
paul_ownz, same for me plus AA23.
Cockney Rich
The problem for Diaby is that - we tend to remember his bad performances more (coz they were shockingly bad) than the good work he did for much of the season. Honestly, Id give him one more season.
Sajit
Jenas is available you know?
HuddersfieldYiddo
How is Diaby ugly? He's all right.
krismon1
Clichy has been guilty of some profound and obvious cock ups over the last couple of seasons, but a 3 month spell of this season passed apart, he hasn't been anything like as lazy and disinterested as Diaby has seemed consistently. He was much better this season granted, he still frustrates the ***** out of me. Btw, player who scored for Costa Rica in that game is my local clubs best player :)
Ozi Gooner
For me, best players this season cannot include RVP, Sol, Ramsey or Bendtner because of the limited game time they've had. That leaves in order for me, Cesc, Song, TV5, Gallas, Diaby, then probably Arshavin, Sagna, Eboue, then it trails off significantly.
hughied
The points we lost that cost us the title this year can be summarised by goalkeeping errors against West Ham (2 pts), Birmingham (2 pts), Tottenham (IMO) (3 pts), Utd away (for the penalty - 3 pts) and generally abysmal defensive performances against Chelsea and Utd at home (should have got 3 pts from 9 at least) - all three games featured Cesc, Song, TV5, Gallas and Arshavin btw.
hughied
There wasn't a PL game where we didn't dominate in midfield.
hughied
 

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