Diaby To Shine In Porto?
FC Porto loom large on the horizon, the perceived wisdom being that Arsenal were the ‘lucky’ English club when the draw was made before Christmas. There is no doubt that the draw could have been tougher but underestimating the Portuguese side is the fastest way to find the exit door of this season’s Champions League.
Arsenal has never won a European tie in Portugal, the best results being two goalless draws, 1969-70 against Sporting and in 2006-07 against Porto. Kevin Campbell’s strike against Benfica in 1991-92 being the only goal scored on Portuguese soil by Arsenal in a competitive match. Not that the club makes regular visits there, a two goal defeat in 2008-09 the only other fixture.
If victory is to be achieved, the midfield will have to work hard and retain possession. That is not an overly concerning issue provided the players put in the graft. A key individual will be Abou Diaby. He is having his best season without doubt. Alex Song’s likely absence will mean a busy night tracking up and down the pitch for the French international, supporting the attack in the same way he did against Liverpool last week.
Wenger has praised him for his improvement this season:
Diaby for me is the player who is going step-by-step higher and standing really as a strong player.
Diaby has suffered comparisons to Patrick Vieira, the physical resemblance driving that in the early days. He was pencilled in as the natural replacement in 2006/07 before injury allowed Mathieu Flamini his season in the spotlight:
He missed a complete year with his ankle injury [in 2006/07] and since he came back last year he was out a lot but this year in central midfield he has really stepped up and improved tremendously. He has become a very strong player
Like Alex Song, Diaby has overcome his detractors, both now bringing revisionist tendencies out in supporters. Wenger must shoulder a lot of the blame for that, playing him out of position on the left of midfield, his physique hardly suited to a role of providing width, frequently Diaby ploughing through towards central areas. However, that had to be weighed against his injury record and the needs of the squad; who is to say the manager was wrong in developing the player this way?
His languid style of play makes him a soft target, nonchalance masking the amount of hard work that he puts in. There is still room for improvement or perhaps more pertinently, for him to meet the levels of expectation placed on his shoulders. He contributes in ways which Arsenal has been accused of lacking:
He offers height and a physical presence. It gives us the pair with Alex Song and even when Denilson plays, when Diaby is there we look strong in the challenges and strong in the air as well.
When you add Nicklas Bendtner and him, suddenly when you set-up on set pieces, who do we have? We have four or five who really can jump for the headers and it makes a difference. He gives us goals as well – a fantastic contribution. It is great and he scores important goals as well
Porto are not in good form but are not conceding many either. Goals will be at a premium for Arsenal. A win will set the return leg up nicely but avoiding defeat and scoring is probably the worst result that the manager envisages.
Posted on February 15, 2010, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Abou Diaby, Arsenal, Champions League, Porto, Premier League. Bookmark the permalink. 300 Comments.