AW: Diaby's a dazzler

Abou Diaby is the subject of Arsene Wenger’s plaudits as we look ahead to the resumption of Champions League hostilities at Porto on Wednesday night.
And this morning AW tells the Daily Star Sunday: “We are looking solid defensively again. That was ­vital before the Champions League starts again. We thought collectively about how we cannot repeat the mistakes which ­happened to us against Chelsea and ­Manchester United.
“I had to take Diaby off at Chelsea after 70 minutes because I didn’t want to take a gamble with his fitness. But I took one on Wednesday and he came through well. Diaby for me is a player who is getting to a higher level step by step and now stands as a strong player.
“He missed a complete year with his ankle injury and since he came back last year he has been out a lot. But this year in central midfield he has really stepped up and improved ­tremendously. He has become a very strong player.
“Diaby gives us height and presence so, when he is with Song or Denilson, we look strong in the challenge and in the air. When you add Bendtner to what we have at set-pieces, you see we have about four or five players who can really jump for headers.  That really makes a ­difference. His goalscoring contribution is fantastic. He scores important goals as well.”
The paper says Wenger accepts the ­Champions League offer us our most realistic chance of a ­trophy after five barren years. He said: “I haven’t given up on the Premier League ­ because I believe we have a chance and we just have to go for it. In the Champions League we will try as hard as we can but Porto is a tough draw.
“They don’t look like a ­prestigious team but every year they are in there and they can surprise people. They have also been playing very well recently. It is important that we support each other and show solidarity. That’s why I think our defensive ­performance against Liverpool was so ­important.
“We were 2-0 down after 20 minutes against Manchester United and Chelsea and that is massive in games. Let’s keep our defensive discipline and I’m sure we can score.”
Of course, Diaby’s goal in the 1-0 win over Liverpool was crucial and Aw recognises just how important the win was in the News of the World.
He said: “It would have been difficult for us to lose against Liverpool and go to Porto on Wednesday full of confidence. It was important for the team to lift morale and belief again. That game was very important for the Champions League. When you lose two massive games on the trot, nobody imagines how hard it is in this job. And if you lose a third, it is unbelievable.
“Our game is all based on initiative and the first thing that goes is initiative when confidence drops. We had to go to Porto with a solid defensive performance behind us and I am reassured. That was maybe the biggest part of our game against Liverpool. We looked solid defensively for the first time in the last three big games.
“We’ll try as hard as we can but Porto is a tough draw. They do not look like a prestigious team but every year they are in there and they can surprise people. They have also been playing very well recently. Let’s keep our defensive discipline and I’m sure we can score over there.”
Meanwhile, Porto keeper ­Helton is talking up their chances of progressing and said in this morning’s Sunday Mirror: “We’ve been watching ­Arsenal’s last few games closely and they’re not as strong as they’ve been in recent years. That can be to our advantage.
“The tie is very balanced. We certainly don’t see Arsenal as the favourites. We’ve not had much luck against the English clubs in the last few seasons. Now is the moment for to break that run of set-backs and reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”
Helton added: “We’ll ­settle with a 1-0 victory in the home leg because we truly believe we will score in The Emirates Stadium when we visit London. Without Emmanuel ­Adebayor and the injured Robin Van Persie in attack, Arsenal are not as explosive in attack. Arsenal have a good squad but I believe that we will defeat them this ­season.”

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