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Abou Vieira?

If I had a pound for every time a commentator or pundit compared Abou Diaby to Patrick Vieira I would be a substantially richer man.  You can hardly blame people for making the comparison, both played a similar role at Arsenal, both have a similar mountainous build and both are French internationals.  But until recently, I have always sneered at the comparison.  After all Patrick Vieira is one of the greatest Arsenal players of all time and Abou Diaby plays so irregularly it can be easy to forget that he is an Arsenal player.

A few years back when Abou was younger and the first people began making the comparison, I laughed.  Diaby was a selfish player who rarely did anything special and when he did, it was always at 2 or 3 game intervals.  I swiftly grew to dislike him and his constant injury was the least of my worries.

However, the sublime start he has made to this season really makes me start to assess the Vieira comparison a bit more seriously.  It would be wrong to say that Diaby never had the potential, he certainly did but to see it exercised to such an extent at Anfield.  In my opinion, Diaby was the best player on the pitch even better than Santi Cazorla. 

On Match of the Day I recall someone mentioning that Diaby was Vieira like in the way that he did two jobs, he fought back for the ball on the edge of his own box and also played as an attacking midfielder as well.  While there is no doubt that this is certainly a Patrick like element of Diaby’s play, it is not what struck me the most with regards to the similarity.  When I watched the game the thing that stood out for me was the way Diaby seemed to scare away the opposition, exactly how Vieira used to.  It was how Diaby strode down the pitch with Liverpool’s defenders backing off and backing off, giving him all the time in the world.  I’d never have thought I would hear myself say it but if Diaby continues to play the way he’s playing people like Aaron Ramsey will simply struggle to get a start.

But as we saw this week, Diaby’s injury curse is perhaps even more frightening than Robin Van Persie’s.  Abou has been barely able to play two games in a row since his horrendous ankle injury against Sunderland in 2006.  Diaby picked up a hip injury playing for France this week and, although Arsene Wenger claims the injury is only minor, with Abou Diaby one can never be sure.  One thing’s for certain, few Arsenal fans would worry that damage to Diaby could mean damage to their title hopes.

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