Date: 23rd March 2009 at 11:29am
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Since Diaby has played centrally over recent weeks he has played pretty well with some solid performances. The first half against Newcastle at the weekend wasn`t one of them. Hesitancy and uncertainty were the hallmarks of the first 45 minutes when his dithering on the ball and some poor decisions lost possession.

Wenger is not moved to criticise his players publicly but his comments on Diaby`s performance came as close to criticism as you are likely to hear from him.

“In the first half I was not always happy with his performance. There was not a lot wrong but our positioning in the middle was not right some of the time. We were on the back foot and did not protect our defence” adding “But in the second half he did well.”

Indeed Diaby`s second half performance was marked by a good goal. It`s tempting to think that at 22 Diaby should be further forward than he sometimes appears to be but injuries have restricted his appearances over the last couple of seasons to the extent that in terms of playing time prior to this season he has completed the equivalent of just 16 Premier League matches in two seasons – much of which was spent playing out wide. So far this season he has almost as much playing time as the last two combined.

He is often likened to Vieira in terms of physical stature which Wenger acknowledges.

“Abou has power coming through the middle of the park and he showed that on the goal” he said “That is interesting for me. I feel there are similarities with Vieira and I feel he is growing at the moment.”

Diaby tackles well winning around 75% which is amongst the best of our midfield. With good interception and pass completion rates he has the quality to perform well yet it is hard for supporters to have the tolerance to accept even a poor half in what has been such a frustrating season. At the same time our Champions League spot is still not assured so every performance has to be consistently good.

Fabregas is due back pretty soon. In fact Wenger considers that he may be available for our next Premier League fixture on April 4th saying “Cesc should be fit in two weeks, he is back in full training now and during the international break he has two weeks to sharpen up. He should be available again for the game against Manchester City.”

Where does that leave Diaby? It`s hard to think that Denilson, almost ever present this season will be the one to give way, yet if Diaby is to develop to a level of consistency that would reward his quality he needs playing time. A Diaby/Fabregas pairing has it`s temptations but maybe time for experimentation is a little short in what remains of this season.

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