Signed from Wigan on a free transfer this summer, Mohamed Diame has rapidly established himself as a key member of the West Ham squad with a match winning performance against Chelsea and several other good performances against other teams. He is fast becoming one of the bargains of the season and this has obviously generated interest from other, larger clubs.
Even Arsene Wenger has noted that Arsenal lack the tenacity and aggression that they have become accustomed to with initially Patrick Viera and more recently, Alex Song. One could say that Arsenal already have a ready-made replacement for both of these players in the form of Abou Diaby, but although he has proved highly effective when he plays, they simply cannot rely on him. The already 26-year-old has completed 90 minutes just 6 times since August 2010, and at 26, and with his extensive injury record, he is no spring chicken.
Diame is a huge, box-to-box, highly physical midfielder, almost the complete opposite to Arteta. This description does not do the former Wigan man much credit however, as he is actually very elegant on the ball. To continue the comparison of Arsenals current main defensive midfielder, Diame has engaged in twice as many ground duels, and attempted a tackle every 19 minutes (compared to Arteta’s 25). While Arteta has been dribbled past 22 times, the West Ham man has only been beaten a mere 7 times. As well as this, on the attacking side of both players’ games, Diame has completed 33 of his 58 attempted dribbles, opposed to the frugal number of 12 posted by the ex-Evertonian. The addition of the big Senegalese midfielder would bring power, the ability to breach the midfield bank and provide forward impetus to an often fragile and conservative midfield.
Diame is a far more attacking player than the current hub of Arsenal’s midfield, Mikel Arteta. Although the Spaniard has a league high pass completion rate, he provides very little forward impetus to a team that seems all to content to play a ‘safe’ sideways pass, rather than playing a potentially defence-unlocking pass. Only 27% of his passes are played forward, in comparison to Diame’s 36%. We can also compare this to Arsenal’s volante last season, Alex Song, who played a colossal 48% of his passes forward.
There is also the factor that Arteta would benefit hugely from being free of his current defensive duties. Last season, 43% of his passes were attacking-minded and he created a chance every 49 minutes, compared to every 90 minutes this season. A more energetic midfielder such as Diame, would allow the full-backs to get forward to much greater effect, providing another element of attack to Arsenal, who now have a large, powerful striker in their midst in the form of Olivier Giroud.
The raw power of Diame would allow Arsenal to play a high pressing game, and the crosses that are then able to be delivered from the flanks could unlock the huge goal scoring potential of Giroud. The addition of Diame could have easily caused the difference between Arsenal succeeding in Arsene Wengers ‘trophy’, Champions League qualification, and failure this season.
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