Probably make or break time for the problematic Diaby
The suffering of the long term injury to Fabregas has fully exposed the risky nature of Arsene Wenger's decision not to bring in reinforcements to the central midfield area after the departures of Gilberto and Flamini.
For me the thought of Cesc sustaining a big injury was the 'thinkable unthinkable' - something to be aware of but only contemplate properly if it occured. Now that it has there is at least the consolation that it comes on the dawn of the opening of the transfer window and that it reinforces what is almost the uniform opinion - aside seemingly from Wenger who continues to speak with amazing optimism in press conferences - that we must buy at the earliest opportunity to strengthen out thin and young midfield area.
On Sunday it was Abou Diaby who came onto replace Cesc. Diaby came to Arsenal at the same time as Adebayor but due to injury and inconsistency of performance has not come close to replicating the impact of the Togolese striker. And although I really hesitate to do down an Arsenal player I struggle with deciding what Diaby sustainably brings to the Arsenal team.
He was bought as a CM but Wenger predominantly plays him on the wide left of midfield or rarely as a deep lying striker. These positions don't look to come naturally to Diaby - and I can't recall ever seeing a gangly player the size of Diaby be a success as a wide left midfielder, let alone one who can't produce left footed crosses.
My concerns about Diaby were reinforced significantly by an interview given by Arsene to the Arsenal website earlier this month - the transcript of which I read on the Gunnerblog site. I don't think he intended to effectively call Diaby a player lacking in footballing intelligence but unless you can persuade me otherwise it is hard not to escape that conclusion from this analysis:
Yes. He has all the ingredients; physical, technical - but at the moment, not tactical. I believe in his mind he is more an offensive player, not a defensive player. And that technical defensive awareness is more in Denilson, say, or Song at the moment. Diaby is more interested in going forward and making a difference going forward… but we try to develop that in him and he has the ingredients to become a central midfielder.
How do you develop that in him?
By working on it, he’s conscious of that… but I believe also you have to choose a position for a player where he feels completely comfortable and is suited to his psychological profile… and if you place somebody against his deep desire, he can never be completely himself.
Actually, reading these words again it appears that Wenger is losing patience with a player who is unable to adapt to his planned role despite being at the club now for three years.
Diaby has shown great strength in coming back from a broken, dislocated ankle and has the talent to be a good player. But I have long considered that he has a problem with consistency of performance and it looks from these recent words from Wenger that it stems from a lack of effort to apply himself to the significant defensive aspect of being a good all-round central midfielder.
I find this issue concerning and Wenger's words belies his statement earlier this week that he is content with the 'internal solutions' he has to replacing Cesc over the next four months. For if Diaby is unuited to a CM role at present because of tactical deficiencies that are proving difficult to iron out than surely Wenger is not envisaging Song and Denilson play every league and cup game for the rest of the season. This simply is not a good or even reasonable soultion.
For me this is make or break time for Diaby - and I think Wenger is probably viewing this particular situation in the same way. If he can't raise his game and apply himself tactically and performance-wise at a time when we are bereft of other options than I believe he never will at Arsenal.
I hope the young Frenchman makes it - but I need to see some consistent and quality performances in the next couple of months to overcome my concerns about his ability to achieve the needed Arsenal level.