Diaby absence minor setback on Arsenal road to full health

Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 01:00

ARSENAL HAVE made a strong start to their Champions League campaign but the club still have vexations and the unavailability of Abou Diaby is a particular annoyance. The midfielder could take no part for France at Euro 2012 and his proneness to injury means he must be handled with care. A thigh strain will stop him facing Olympiakos at the Emirates.

“It is really frustrating,” said the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, of the player’s vulnerability and the taxing schedule for Diaby in World Cup qualifiers. “You think you are there but then it happens again. If France want him in Spain they should not take him for Finland and Belarus.

“The guy has been out for a year and then played four or five games. Give him a breather for two weeks to recover completely even if he is with the squad. It was a mistake to play him with the French national team.”

The value of Diaby is all too fresh in Arsenal minds after the defeat by Chelsea at the Emirates. The player had to be substituted and the visitors capitalised. “When he moved out,” said Wenger, “[Alex-Oxlade] Chamberlain takes his position and immediately we lost a goal. This was a ball Diaby would have won easily. And he also gives us power in midfield.”

That match, all the same, irked some Arsenal fans who saw harm done when Wenger chose to drop centreback Per Mertesacker. The defender could well be reinstated against Olympiakos.

Tonight Wenger will serve the second part of the three-match ban imposed by Uefa after he criticised the referee when Arsenal were trounced 4-0 by Milan at San Siro.

Patience is a virtue Wenger is obliged to emphasise for the moment when Olivier Giroud, the €15 million signing, is yet to score outside the League Cup. Wenger put no great stress on the striker doing damage against Olympiakos. “Not only in the Champions League,” the manager said of the contribution he anticipates from Giroud, “but I hope also in the future in the [Premier League] as well. You can say he missed chances when he came on [against Chelsea] but he did have two.

“He is still in what I consider an adaptation period. It is a different team and different way of playing. The centrebacks really go for it here and he will adapt to that. Once the first goes in maybe the rest will happen as well.”

Michael Johnson, the American sprinter who won four Olympic gold medals, was at the club’s training ground yesterday. Wenger did not succeed in playing down the significance.

“He has no role at the club,” said the manager. “We sometimes send some players over to [Johnson’s] school. If a player needs to work on something physical in the summer we send them there for preparation. It’s a fantastic school but it’s not directly involved with our team.

“We sent Ignasi Miquel [the 20-year-old Spanish defender] this summer and a few youth players. I personally sent Miquel. He is a tall boy and there is a deficit of muscle. I felt he was a boy who understands football but he needs to work on his power.”

For all their wounds, Arsenal may be getting a little closer to making this a healthy season.

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