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Is Abou Diaby the answer to Arsenal’s midfield problems?

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The departure of Alex Song from Arsenal left many of the clubs supporters in doubt.

Having lost both the defensive midfielder and clinical striker, Robin Van Persie, during the summer transfer window, Arsenal looked in a worrying position.

Arsene Wenger seemingly failed to move for a suitable replacement as fans of the North London club began to question the Gunners position in the Premier League; had they just become a feeder club for Europe’s top sides?

But, like he has done many times before, it seems Wenger had an answer for this problem, a solution that’s a lot closer to home than previously expected.

Abou Diaby has been an Arsenal player since 2006, when he joined the Gunners from French side Auxerre for a reported £2 million.

I’ve always been a fan of Diaby, despite having a career filled with injury; he’s always impressed me when he’s been fit.

The 26-year-old has made 166 appearances in total for Arsenal, scoring 19 goals. He made his debut for the club in January 2006, appearing as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat versus Everton.

Diaby has started the 2012/13 season fantastically –he’s already appears to have filled the hole left by Song. Arsenal are yet to concede in their 3 opening games, this is mainly due to Diaby’s work in the holding midfield position.

With an average rating of 7.57 (out of 10) and ten tackles in total, the Frenchman has been influential for the Gunners.

Arsène Wenger heralded the return to fitness of Diaby as a ‘massive’ boost for Arsenal after the he orchestrated victory against Liverpool in his first full 90 minutes for over 12 months.

The midfielder, who was restricted to just five appearances last season due to hamstring, groin and calf injuries, dominated against Brendan Rodgers’ team as goals from summer signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla secured a comfortable victory at Anfield.

While the performances of Podolski and Cazorla were eye-catching and hugely encouraging for Arsenal following the recent departure of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, it was Diaby’s return to prominence which defined Arsenal’s victory.

The 26-year-old was magnificent as the Gunners took 3 points, controlling the midfield alongside Mikel Arteta to finish as man of the match.

“You can see that Diaby is massive for us.” Wenger said. “He is a tremendous football player who has everything you want in midfield.

“He hasn’t played a full game for a year, but he had a good pre-season and we just gave him 45 minutes every three days.

“Now he looks, physically, in a good shape. There is more to come from him, but what he has shown today is very good.

It seems Wenger knew all along that Diaby would easily step into the first team. Last season for Arsenal, Song played 44 times creating 13 goals. He played a big role in their chase for a Champions League position. Only time will tell whether Diaby can fill his boots at the Emirates, but he’s certainly made a good start.

While touted as the perfect replacement for the new Barcelona star, however, Diaby insists City powerhouse Toure is a more accurate comparison.

‘In our teams, Toure and me have very similar roles,’ he said.

‘I am not like Alex Song. We have many players who can take his place, like Francis Coquelin or Arteta, who like to play deep. I want to get forward, that’s me.

‘I have defensive duties as well so I need to have a good shape defensively and, as soon as we get the ball, go forward.’

No doubt Wenger and all Arsenal supporters will be hoping this turns out to be true.

Please feel free to get involved with your opinions by commenting in the section below.

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Arsenal

Criticism of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson unfair? stats suggest he’s England’s best option

The midfielder came under scrutiny for his latest performance.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time header ensured England started the tournament with maximum points, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of points in Volograd.

A promising opening 20 minutes was encored by ponderous and slow football in the second half, after the team began looking seemingly affected by Tunisia’s equaliser.

The additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added impetus and purpose to the attack late on.

But prior to that, England struggled in pursuit of a second, and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson came under fire for what was deemed to be a lack of creativity.

Photo: Getty Images

Many fans were questioning the omission of Jack Wilshere from England duties, as Gareth Southgate opted for the Liverpool man as the regular in central midfield. But last season’s statistics show some maybe being preemptive in wanting to replace the 28-year-old this World Cup.

Squawka stats (below) show that the Liverpool man was superior to both Eric Dier and Jack Wilshere in all aspects of midfield play in the Premier League last term, suggesting he could very well be the right man to continue starting for the Three Lions.

The former Sunderland man bested his two counterparts for number of forward passes, average pass length, key passes, tackles won, aerial duels won and chances created (all per 90 minutes), which sheds some light on why he’s a regular in Southgate’s team.

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Arsenal

Fans criticise Jack Wilshere omission after Jordan Henderson’s ‘toothless’ England performance

Gareth Southgate’s bold decision is already being questioned.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time winner ensured England started the tournament with a victory, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of the points in Volgograd.

After a promising opening 20 minutes, England’s shortcomings in front of goal were punished as Tunisia were awarded a penalty – using VAR – and Ferjani Sassi equalised from the spot, heaping pressure on Gareth Southgate’s outfit to score a second.

But creativity was scarce from the Three Lions, in what was a stressful and frustrating half to watch for the nation.

Photo: Getty Images

And Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson has come under fire for his performance in the heart of the midfield, with many believing that Arsenal‘s Jack Wilshere would have been more creative and imaginative in central midfield, if he wasn’t omitted from international duties this earlier this summer.

Henderson frequently opted for possession over creativity and was guilty of taking too many touches in the midfield yesterday, particularly in the second half and the speed of play was directly affected as a result.

Here’s the Twitter reaction:

By no means did the 28-year-old have an awful game, but his choice of pass was often safe and as a result England lacked impetus and drive in the second-half, until the additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added a spark in the final third.

Gareth Southgate will often opt for control in central midfield against tougher opposition – with Belgium on the horizon – but against the likes of Tunisia and Panama, the side can afford to take more risks and be more inventive, and the decision to leave Wilshere at home is already being questioned after just one game.

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Crystal Palace fans thrilled with reports of Jack Wilshere interest

Crystal Palace fans are keen on the reported deal.

Jamie Watts

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Crystal Palace are keen on landing long-serving Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, if the 26-year-old leaves the Emirates this summer, according to reports from Evening Standard.

A move to Selhurst Park would reunite Wilshere with Roy Hodgson, his former England manager and a coach, whose belief in the Gunner is undeniable.

Hodgson displayed his admiration for the midfielder, after taking him the 2016 Euros despite him barely playing all season and he believes he could add the perfect balance to the Eagles’ midfield alongside enforcer Luka Milivojevic.

Photo: Getty Images

Wilshere was left out of the England squad for the World Cup this summer due to his diminished role with Arsenal, and revealed his “disappointment” on the day through his official Twitter account.

It now appears he will prioritise making himself essential at both club and international level next season, and that is unlikely with Arsenal.

Having improved his fitness, which has widely been considered his primary weakness, making 38 appearances in all competitions last season, Wilshere could become a serious asset at Selhurst Park, and fans have taken to Twitter to discuss the reports.

Here’s the reaction:

Yohan Cabaye’s situation is currently unresolved at Selhurst Park, with reports suggesting that the 32-year-old could potentially move to Ligue 1 giants Marseille this summer, and the Frenchman would need replacing.

Having joined in 2015 for £10 million from French champions Paris Saint Germain, the veteran midfielder played a key role in the Eagles relegation survival, acting as the catalyst for control and mobility in the centre of the park.

Photo: Getty Images

And Wilshere would play a similar role. His agility and vision are reminiscent of Cabaye, but he has far more left in the tank.

It is safe to say the Englishman would be a real coup for Hodgson at Palace this summer and the fans agree its a deal the club should make happen.

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