Arsenal star earns praise from Wenger

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is convinced Abou Diaby can become one of the top midfielders in the Barclays Premier League.

Diaby has performed well alongside captain Cesc Fabregas, who is likely to miss Wednesday night's trip to bottom club Portsmouth with a hamstring problem, and Wenger feels the 23-year-old has grown in stature.

"Since the beginning of the season I have always played him when I have the opportunity," the Arsenal manager said.

"He looks to grow with his touch and now he is dominating the fight. What is very interesting in this formation is that, in Fabregas and Diaby, you have not one but two players who are good runners, can come out from deep and score goals."

Arsenal will be out to avoid suffering the same fate as Liverpool, who were beaten 2-0 on their trip to the south coast just before Christmas.

Wenger has been full of praise for the way his young side have hauled themselves back into the title race with four wins from five league games.

However, he knows it will be no easy ride at Fratton Park, one of the most intimidating stadiums in the top flight with the fans so close to the action.

It will be a new experience for centre-back Thomas Vermaelen, who has settled quickly alongside William Gallas since his £10million summer move from Ajax.

Wenger believes the mild-mannered Belgian has led by example.

"Thomas is a very quiet boy, but very determined," he said. "I believe you see that in every ball he plays. He is a good mixer with commitment and relaxed focus.

"That is very important when you play at the back, that you never panic, because panic is something which is contagious and he always looks to master that."

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Vassiriki Abou Diaby

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