Arsene Wenger has admitted taking a gamble on Abou Diaby this season could backfire after the French midfielder was withdrawn early on in Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea on Saturday.
The Gunners sold previous defensive midfield first-choice Alex Song to Barcelona in the summer and Wenger admitted the Emirates Stadium side would struggle to get any real physical presence in midfield if Diaby is out long term, as the only other player that could match him in strength is Emmanuel Frimpong – the young midfielder is only just returning from serious injury.
Saturday was a frustrating day for Wenger and it began early when the 26-year-old signalled to the Arsenal bench that he could not continue after on 18 minutes. Wenger revealed the injury t be a thigh strain and confirmed the France international would miss at least three weeks.
“I was concerned about him, of course. It was a gamble but I was calculating as well that Jack Wilshere was coming back,” he said after the game.
“Francis Coquelin is here but was sick and Emmanuel Frimpong is back, while Tomas Rosicky is coming back. We have many midfield players. We don’t have many physical players.”
Vice-captain Mikel Arteta also voiced concern at the lack of size in the side and cited Fernando Torres’ opener as evidence of this – Diaby was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which left him marking David Luiz, who nearly got a free header in the build up to the goal.
“His height is really important on those set-pieces because we haven’t got enough tall people in the squad at the moment,” said the Spaniard.
Diaby is expected to miss games against West Ham and Norwich in the Premier League, as well as Champions League group games with Olympiacos and Schalke.