By Richard Clarke  

Abou Diaby’s goal on Saturday reminded Arsène Wenger of another leggy French midfielder of African descent.

Patrick Vieira was Arsenal’s general for the best part of a decade. He arrived in 1996 at the age of 21 and left in 2005 with a clutch of major medals to his name.

Diaby is only three years into his career in North London and has been hampered heavily by injury during that time. He has always had the look of Vieira, now he is finding the game of the World Cup winner too.

Ironically Wenger found fault with the 22-year-old’s first half display at St James’ Park but, after the break, the former Auxerre youngster stepped forward. He capped an impressive display by racing onto Robin van Persie’s flick and thumped a rising drive high into the net. It was pure “PV4”.

“There are similarities,” said Wenger afterwards. “They are the same stature and the same size and have the similar style. Also Patrick is from Senegal and Abou is from Ivory Coast. But there is a lot of room for him to get where Patrick was. He is only 22 years-old and Patrick is a good role model for him.

 “In the first half I was not always happy with his performance. There was not a lot wrong but our positioning in the middle was not right some of the time. We were on the back foot and did not protect our defence.

“But in the second half he did well. Abou has power coming through the middle of the park and he showed that on the goal.

“That is interesting for me. I feel there are similarities with Vieira and I feel he is growing at the moment.”

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23 Mar 2009