The latest musings of Spanish Fry
Well, well, well. Just when Arsenal fans thought that the season was petering out to a anti-climactic end, Arsene Wenger has thrown a spanner into the works. Whilst Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Portsmouth overnight was in effect a meaningless game for the Gunners, there is no doubt that the starting line-up put out by manager Arsene Wenger has given an insight into some of the ideas that are currently running through his football mind.
For those not aware of the Arsenal starting team it was as follows (4-1-3-1-1; R-L): Mart Poom, Justin Hoyte, Philipe Senderos, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy, Johan Djourou, Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Alexandr Hleb, Abou Diaby, Julio Baptista.
There are two positional peculiarites with this Arsenal line-up; the use of Djourou as a holding midfielder and the use of Diaby as a support striker. For Wenger to move Djourou and Diaby into vastly different positions suggests that the manager is trialing the pair in these roles because he thinks they have the correct attributes to fulfill them successfully. But what are these attributes? And do the players in question possess them?
The case for Johan Djourou
There is no doubt that Johan Djourou has all the makings of a holding-midfielder – it’s just that no-one had ever considered it before. On the contrary, it has been a popular notion amongst Arsenal supporters that Abou Diaby is the prime candidate to take over from Gilberto Silva as the Brazilian’s career reaches its twilight. Whilst it seems like this idea is not being ruled out by Wenger, his use of Diaby as a left-sided or attacking midfielder and recent experimentation of with Djourou in the role of midfield anchor suggests that he has does have some other ideas up his sleeve.
As such, it now looks like Djourou is the leading candidate in Wenger’s eyes. Whilst it is no doubt a surprise to most Gunners fans, maybe it shouldn’t be. Djourou has all the right attributes to succeed as a defensive midfielder. Taken from the Arsenal Players Profiles from Arsenal FC Blog: “Not the tallest centre-backs around, Djourou’s major assets are his pace, calmness in possession, passing ability and ability to read the play”.
The case for Abou Diaby
As for Diaby’s use as an attacking force, I believe this is the case because Wenger wants to develop this part of his game as fully as possible. Whilst it does seem that Djourou is being groomed to take over from Gilberto Silva – it would also seem that Diaby is being modelled strongly on ex-Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira.
Those who have watched Diaby play at central-midfield would agree that defensively and physically, he is superb. Rarely does he lose possession or lose a 50-50 challenge. As an attacker, however, he is some way off the finished product. It was appear that Wenger is utilising Diaby in a more attacking role to encourage him to acquire and apply the skills that he requires to make it as a top-class player.
One thing is for certain: Arsene Wenger is looking to get the best out of the options at his disposal. By ensuring that his players remain versatile and multi-dimensional he is forming a side that will be able to adapt tactically as the circumstances require. Add to this the return from injury of Henry, van Persie, Ljungberg and Gallas and the expectation of at least one or two top quality signings and it seems that Wenger will have much more to play with going into the 2007-2008.
This should mean that Arsenal will have plenty more to play for come this time next season.
Read previous columns by Spanish Fry here