Diaby: We will learn lesson
Abou Diaby has maintained Arsenal can only learn from their mistakes to be stronger in Europe this season. The Gunners threw away what would have been a third straight UEFA Champions League victory, and all but securing safe passage into the knockout stages, when they allowed AZ to snatch a stoppage-time equaliser in the Netherlands last night.
Manager Arsene Wenger felt his team had been somewhat "naive" in failing to close out the game. Arsenal conceded a needless free-kick, which allowed the Dutch team to pump the ball into the penalty area, where substitute Graziano Pelle got above Diaby to head down into the six-yard box for David Mendes Da Silva to smash home a close-range volley.
While it was a much more composed display than the first Group H away fixture, when Arsenal went 2-0 down against Standard Liege inside five minutes, Diaby accepts the Gunners needed to remain disciplined to close out the game. "We will take a good lesson from this," said the midfielder.
"We need to stay focused until the last minute, so we need to work on that. We can still improve in these situations, to be focused on the second ball. Now we need to look to the game against West Ham, and be ready for the challenge."
Left-back Gael Clichy has, though, warned his team-mates more lapses in concentration at Upton Park on Sunday will prove costly as Arsenal look to continue their four-match winning streak in the Premier League. "West Ham are not doing so well and we are, but we have to be careful," said the French defender.
"We have to be 100 per cent to get the three points. I thought defensively as a unit we played well against AZ. We also had some chances to kill the game, but unfortunately we finished 1-1.
"It is a big disappointment, but we must move on. We always want to be the best, but this is a hard competition to win. Barcelona lost at home, Inter Milan were given a hard time at home by Dinamo Kiev.
"While we do not care about the other teams, it shows how in football anything is possible. Away from home, you have to keep focused until the last minute and even with the best players in the world you can lose games sometimes."
While clearly the final result - which leaves the Gunners a point clear of Olympiacos at the top of Group H - was not what Wenger had ordered ahead of his 60th birthday tomorrow, one positive was another cohesive display from the Arsenal midfield trio. Captain Cesc Fabregas, who had fired the Gunners into the lead on 35 minutes, was flanked by both Diaby and Alex Song, the Cameroon international happy to break up play before laying possession off to start another attack.
Diaby, 23, has used the opportunity presented by a back injury to Brazilian Denilson as he stakes a claim for a regular place in the Gunners' side. "The new midfield formation is working great," said the Frenchman.
"We all try to both attack and defend. I have more liberty and am more free in this new role, it is a position where I feel good."