Can a fit Abou Diaby be Arsenal’s new Defensive Shield?

Time for Abou once more?

Time for Abou once more?

Arsenal is a team who will always have to defend counter-attacks, and aim to halt other offensive teams in their tracks, especially with the recently adopted 4-1-4-1 formation. But they would hardly achieve that with a stagnant anchor or a clumsy screener in the middle of the park.

A different route might have to be taken to solve this need in 2014/2015, and the benefits would be reciprocal if Abou Diaby is handed the responsibility to become Arsenal’s new defensive shield.

Yes, the injury prone Frenchman is a box to box midfielder and prefers to be given the freedom to burst forward but the man has hardly had the chance to maintain a steady career ride with this driving style.

Perhaps a new role to curb the need to make those surging runs would be useful in managing his fitness. Perhaps not, but considering the options we have, the 28-year-old has the most eye-catching qualities for this single pivot role.

Physical Presence.

Diaby’s most salient attribute is his physique. He’s got the height to deal with aerial challenges and the stamina to deal with the robust demands of the role. Considering how vulnerable we’ve been in set-pieces and crosses into the box this year, we could do much worse than planting Abou in front of the back four.

 Get in: Abou might have to curb his attacking instincts to get stuck in.

Get in: Abou might have to curb his attacking instincts to get stuck in.

The ‘Ballon d’or hopeful’ may be fragile, but you can’t question his tenacity. Rather than using those long legs to make lengthy attacking strides, he could use his mobility to cover ground around Arsenal’s defensive third.

Arsene seems to favour technique over natural ability and that’s a huge reason why he has used Arteta as the team’s deepest midfielder in the last couple of years. However, there’s a technique Diaby’s got which would also suit the same purpose – skill.

Watching Barcelona, its clear why they persist with Busquets as the team’s anchorman despite having a proper defensive midfielder like Mascherano. The Spaniard is excellent under pressure, uses his subtle skills to evade markers and keeps the ball moving excellently.

In like manner, Diaby also has a calm head on his skinny shoulders and possesses some of Busquets skills. His elegance on the ball would aid Arsenal in dealing with the aggressive pressing that has seen them lose games before they really get started.

 Arsenal's Busquets? Diaby could be the Gunners single shield.

Arsenal’s Busquets? Diaby could be the Gunners single shield.

The single pivot role in a 4-1-4-1 formation doesn’t place much emphasis on playmaking and dictating the pace of games but requires protection, intelligence, flexibility, and more protection. While Arteta offers technical security, he doesn’t have the grace to match his technique and Borussia Dortmund were the latest team to exploit that weakness.

Meanwhile, in the game against Manchester City, Mathieu Flamini showcased his strengths and weaknesses for the role. While almost running and sliding simultaneously, he didn’t exhibit the composure to win, shield or intercept shield the ball in dangerous areas.

This was quite evident in Manchester City’s opener when he did well to cover ground to win the ball, but lacked the composure to shield it and retain possession. The ball bounced off Aguero instead and found its way to Navas.

Half the damage had been done but it didn’t end there as Flamini still did well in an attempt to recover the lost ball by dashing back into the box and although he had an eye on Aguero, he lost him in a split second and the rest they say, is history.

In essence, this shows how mobility without composure and awareness solves little or better still, adds to the damage.

Now, Diaby is not the perfect solution to this significant problem but he has the mixture of qualities that makes him the ideal candidate among our current options. His calmness and tenacity are essential attributes that we need to make use of, especially in the big games, where a little error could have dire consequences.

 Arteta/Flamini are no Vieira/Petit.

Arteta/Flamini are no Vieira/Petit.

In a team which gives so much offensive freedom to its creative midfielders, it is highly imperative to deploy an assuring shield behind them. Arsene recently acknowledged how his team lacks a physical presence with ‘prodigious’ ability like Vieira or Petit.

They didn’t get that man in the summer and are already paying for it in the big games. But perhaps they have a stop gap option available in the squad and need to use him while he’s still fit. It could be a fitting farewell for Diaby, who’s supposedly in the final year of his contract, and he might just earn another one if he proves to be that feisty long wall that still eludes the team.

Perhaps we will get a chance to see Diaby in this role against Southampton in the Cup this week? 

We at Gunners Town hope so!

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4 Responses to Can a fit Abou Diaby be Arsenal’s new Defensive Shield?

  1. paulb September 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Don’t be daft, he wasn’t a defensive player before so how earth would he do it now, injury proned for so many years, it’s only a matter of time before he is injured again, so deluded to think he is the answer, should have been sold long time ago

  2. Mickcolips September 23, 2014 at 5:56 am #

    Diaby could also be the answer to dreadful defending from corners and the near post area from free kicks would be like having extra centre back,if he stays fit could prelong his career by covering for centre backs in emergency.
    Have always thought with him fit the last couple of years Arsenal would have won more important games against top four teams and in champions league away games a match winner with his height strength and the stamina to press forward late into games

  3. Mickcolips September 23, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    So the reason to ditch a player is injury,let’s get real Diaby is 28 the prime of his career, if this time he breaks down or gets an injury he will retire himself.
    I have seen enough of Diaby to think he’s worth the gamble,I have had enough of players picking up wages pleading to play and then producing nothing.
    One thing I can guarantee Diaby will put in 100% and like against Sunderland when he got his injury Is not afraid to do so.
    I for one give him a chance to play before judgeing him we have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
    Defending is every players responsibility and if you don’t think so well I rest my case

    • Awolowo Olumide September 25, 2014 at 12:22 am #

      Thanks for the comments guys. I believe this is the best way to preserve his fitness and with Arsene’s comments on him after he played in this role against Southampton, I believe we would see him fill in more in front of the back four.

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