Wenger praises midfielder Diaby

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

Captain Cesc Fabregas is likely to miss tonight's trip to bottom club Portsmouth with a hamstring problem which could sideline him for a couple of weeks.

Diaby has performed well alongside the Spaniard and netted his sixth goal of the season to wrap up a 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday, clearly enjoying his role in the Gunners' new 4-3-3 formation.

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."

Under former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, Pompey have produced some battling displays, notably when going down 2-1 at Stamford Bridge after being just 11 minutes away from a hard-earned point.

However, the defeat to fellow strugglers West Ham has, according to Wenger, made Arsenal's task even more demanding.

"Portsmouth had a defeat on Boxing Day and it was a big disappointment for them," he said. "They were direct competitors with West Ham and they lost.

"But Portsmouth is always a difficult place to go anyway. I watched them against Liverpool and you need to turn up and to come out with a top performance."

Arsenal have lost four times in the Premier League and Wenger accepts the margins for further error are slim to stand any chance of overhauling Chelsea and Manchester United.

"When you are a manager you never think that you can afford a blip, but when we were 11 points behind Chelsea, we definitely could not," he said.

"I still believe that today, but now we are in a position to take advantage of the other teams dropping points."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks