By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger believes Abou Diaby has stepped up his game this season and given Arsenal the physical presence they need in midfield.
The French international is enjoying his most productive campaign since joining the Club in 2006. He has been one of the major beneficiaries of Arsenal's switch to a 4-3-3 formation, relishing the freedom of a central role to get forward and score seven goals - already three more than he managed in the whole of last term.
Diaby was rewarded for a string of powerhouse performances with a new contract at the start of the year. According to Wenger, the 23-year-old is coming on in leaps and bounds.
"Diaby for me is the player who is going step-by-step higher and standing really as a strong player," said the manager.
"He missed a complete year with his ankle injury [in 2006/07] and since he came back last year he was out a lot but this year in central midfield he has really stepped up and improved tremendously. He has become a very strong player.
"He offers height and a physical presence. It gives us the pair with Alex Song and even when Denilson plays, when Diaby is there we look strong in the challenges and strong in the air as well. When you add Nicklas Bendtner and him, suddenly when you set-up on set pieces, who do we have? We have four or five who really can jump for the headers and it makes a difference.
"He gives us goals as well - a fantastic contribution. It is great and he scores important goals as well."