With the World Cup just around the corner, France appear to be realising what Arsenal fans have sensed for a while — Abou Diaby could use the big stage to emerge from the great Patrick Vieira. The 24-year-old plays for Arsenal in the role once filled by former France captain Vieira, who is now past his prime and isn’t in the squad. The similarities do not stop here.
The same lanky figure, same ability to capture the ball and roll it up the field with calm authority, same discreet but determined manners: the two are much of a kind.
Diaby, who was called up for the first time in 2007, has won just two caps since, the latest being a 2-1 warm-up win over Costa Rica on Wednesday, in which he beautifully set up Mathieu Valbuena for the winning goal.
Diaby, who has stepped up a gear this season with a string of convincing performances for Arsenal has two reasons to believe he is likely to feature in Domenech’s plans in South Africa.
One is that fellow holding midfielder Lassana Diarra was ruled out of the World Cup due to illness a week ago and has not been replaced in the squad.
The other reason is that Domenech has been trying out a new, 4-3-3 formation instead of his preferred, more defensive 4-2-3-1 system, and the change suits Diaby perfectly.
“I like that system better, especially if I don't play in front of the defence but rather on the right or left side (of midfield)," Diaby said. Whether Diaby becomes an automatic starter remains to be seen but he says he will be happy whatever happens. “I'm proud just being part of that group. The important thing is not for me to play, it's for the team to win,” he said.