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Premier League

Diaby ready to help Arsenal push

Abou Diaby is ready to step into Alex Song's midfield enforcer role as Arsenal look to keep up the pressure on Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Cameroon international Song played his last game at West Ham yesterday, helping the Gunners into the fourth round of the FA Cup, before jetting off to Angola for the African Nations Cup.

Diaby came off the bench to great effect in the 2-1 win at Upton Park as he continued his fine recent form, which has brought six goals already this season and seen him sign a contract extension.

But Wenger has plenty of options to decide just who will step in for Song to a role which has seen the Cameroonian help protect Cesc Fabregas and allow the captain, who may return from a hamstring injury to face Everton at the weekend, more freedom.

Denilson is one such option and the Brazil teenager could recover from a back injury in time for Wednesday night's clash with Bolton, where victory would see the Gunners climb above Manchester United into second place and to within a point of Chelsea.

Wales international Aaron Ramsey impressed again yesterday, netting his second goal in as many appearances as Arsenal battled back from going 1-0 down to book a fourth-round clash at Stoke and is also a viable alternative to Song.

Diaby knows he faces competition for a starting berth, but the 22-year-old is ready to rise to the challenge.

"I will talk about that with the manager and if he wants me to play in that position, I am happy to do it. We will see what happens," Diaby said.

"Alex is a very important player in our team.

"Because he is going, we have to replace him and make sure we do the same job without him."

Diaby missed the 3-0 home defeat by Chelsea at the end of November through injury.

It was a result which left the Gunners 11 points adrift and looking well and truly out of the title race once again.

However, Wenger's side have since won five out of six to haul themselves very much back into contention as Carlo Ancelotti's men have struggled for consistency.

"We have the quality to beat every team and when we lost to Chelsea it was very frustrating, but we have won games since then and that is the most important thing," Diaby said.

"We showed that mentally we are strong because we had big games, but we kept winning."

Wenger accepts Song will be a big loss, but is confident his injury-hit squad has enough depth.

"We will miss Song because he is an important player," said the Arsenal boss.

"In the system we play he plays in front of the defence and we will have to find a new balance without him."

Bolton travel to the Emirates Stadium still in search for a new manager following the departure of Gary Megson, but Wenger is not being complacent.

"We know Bolton will be a big game," added Wenger.

"We will prepare well and be up for it.

"The victory at West Ham will help us believe we can do it again."

Wenger admits he is searching the market for new talent, most notably in attack given Holland striker Robin van Persie is not expected back from a serious ankle injury until late April.

Andrey Arshavin (foot) is expected to be back to play Wanderers, but England winger Theo Walcott needs around another 10 days to recover from a side strain.

With players out and returning to fitness, Wenger will not allow Jack Wilshere out on loan - with Burnley the probably destination - until he has fully assessed what he has in reserve.

"I am not worried for Jack, he just needs to play," said Wenger, who handed the 18-year-old a rare start at Upton Park.

"At the moment it's difficult for him to go on loan because we have nine players injured.

"We need some players to come back before he can go out on loan. I will wait until the end of January."