Arsene Wenger has set his sights on converting fit-again French star Abou Diaby into a defensive midfielder, in a bid to resolve a long-standing problem position in the Arsenal first-team.
The 28-year-old made his long-awaited return from injury following an 18-month lay-off in Tuesday's Capital One Cup third round clash against Southampton at the Emirates, playing 65 minutes of the 2-1 defeat.
Despite losing the match the Gunners boss reflected positively on Diaby's contribution, and after the game outlined his plans to transform the player in the hope that the new role will also help prolong his playing career.
Wenger on Diaby:
"I will try to transform him because he was injured and has the physical potential to win the challenges," Wenger was quoted saying by Sky Sports.
"To face the game will be easier for him than to play back to goal with the injuries he had.
"I'll try to develop him in a deeper role. I think he can do it, he can be very interesting, has all the attributes. [But] he must love it as well because he's more of an offensive minded player."
Road to recovery...
Diaby has been plagued by injuries for the majority of his career, making just 41 senior appearances over the past four seasons; not a very good return on the £65,000-a-week wage he earns at Arsenal.
Wenger is adamant that the box-to-box role has had a negative impact on his body in recent years, and feels that the positional change will benefit him in the future.
It's no secret that the Gunners were on the lookout for defensive midfield reinforcements over the summer anyway, with club captain Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini seemingly not up to the job long-term.
And, after failing to recruit during the recent transfer window Diaby's return to fitness could be a welcome boost to the Arsenal squad if he can make a successful transition to the new position, meaning that Wenger would not need to spend again in January.
Of course, all this is fitness permitting, with the former Auxerre star needing to prove that he's made a full recovery, otherwise Arsenal's decision not to sign another player could potentially leave them short if Diaby were to suffer a setback.
Real Madrid's Sami Khedira, Sporting Lisbon's William Carvalho and Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin were all names linked with a possible switch to north London during the summer, and Gunners fans might still hold hopes of a deal for one of those stars being completed at the turn of the year having grown increasingly cautious about Diaby's capabilities to stay fit and make a notable contribution to the first-team.
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