On Jan. 12 2006, Abou Diaby signed for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger said signing Diaby was necessary in filling the void left by Patrick Vieira. Arsene Wenger beat Jose Mourinho for the dominant Frenchman's signature; however, Diaby has been unable to become the player that he should be.
At 23, Diaby is Arsenal's Jekyll-Hyde, one moment of brilliance and the next moment is awful. There are reasons for Diaby's inconsistent displays throughout his five-year career at Arsenal.
A combination of being played out of position and injuries have curtailed his development. A broken ankle kept Diaby out of action for eight months, which was incredibly unfair, due to his strong start at Arsenal. Constant muscle injuries kept Diaby on the sidelines even further, making it even harder for Diaby to live up to his potential.
Arsene Wenger is the best manager in the world for developing young talent, but Wenger is failing Diaby by playing him out of position. Playing Diaby on the left side of midfield has worked in the past; games against AC Milan, Liverpool and Fenerbache are examples of where Diaby has excelled on the left.
The defeat to Manchester City showed why Diaby should never again play on the left, it is not because Diaby cannot perform on the left, it is because he does not want to. Diaby has every right to feel aggrieved, Wenger said two seasons ago that Diaby playing on the left is only temporary to improve his all round ability. Two seasons on, Diaby is still played on the left wing.
As skillful and elegant Diaby can be his tendency to become lazy has become evident. Giving the ball the away on countless occasions against Fulham and not tracking back against Manchester City are examples of his lack of drive, playing out of position is the cause of Diaby's laziness.
Arsenal has three defensive midfield options in Denilson, Diaby, and Song. Out of the three, the best option for Arsenal is Diaby.
Song has performed solidly in the holding midfield role but his tendency to move out of position is worrying. Song's tackling is strong but his distribution is in need of improvement.
Denilson can occupy the holding midfield role but is rather ineffective in this position; Denilson does not possess the strength to vacate the position. Like Song, Denilson is positionally undisciplined. Denilson is most effective as a deep lying playmaker alongside a defensive midfielder.
Patrick Vieira was Arsenal's greatest midfielder, Vieira possessed every attribute needed to become the greatest. Diaby can become the next Patrick Vieira as he shares physical attributes with Vieira, but Diaby's attitude needs to improve.
For Diaby's attitude to change, he needs to play in the holding midfield role. Just look at the difference in attitude of Cesc Fabregas who played off the striker in the Champions League Semi-Final, and the Cesc Fabregas playing in his natural position.
Diaby's tackling ability is fantastic; Diaby can win the ball and set up an attack in one movement, like Patrick Vieira and Felipe Melo. Diaby has the ability to drive deep from midfield, Song rarely bulldozes from midfield and Denilson has never burst through midfield.
Unlike Denilson or Song, Diaby is a goal threat even when he plays deep. The goals he scored against Aston Villa and Newcastle are examples of Diaby's goal-scoring ability from deep. As well as this Diaby is disciplined when playing in the centre of midfield, it is when Diaby is played out of position is where he is positionally undisciplined.
Diaby has all of the attributes to become one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. The second leg against AS Roma was Diaby's best performance in an Arsenal shirt he single-handily held the midfield together, this was because Diaby played in his natural position.
It is a simple fact; Diaby's best games for Arsenal are when he plays in the centre of midfield alongside a deep lying play-maker.
How do you solve a problem like Abou Diaby? Simple, play Diaby in the defensive midfield role.
If Wenger continues to play Diaby on the left, then Arsenal will miss out on the world class talent that is Abou Diaby.