One of the more puzzling aspects of the Fire's 2015 preseason has been this: Who will play in front of the back four? Frank Yallop's stated intention to play a 4-3-3 dovetails nicely with the club's acquisition of a herd of promising attacking talent, yes. But most iterations of that formation require a specialist at the back of midfield - a pure destroyer, a guy who can control the space 'between the lines.' It didn't seem obvious, on the current roster, who could play that role.
So today's news that French international Alou Diarra is trialing with the Men in Red makes a great deal of sense. Diarra, 33, is a career defensive midfielder who's also played a bit of centerback - in other words, a destroyer. And his pedigree is impressive: 44 caps for France, over 300 appearances in Ligue 1, onetime captain of Girondins Bordeaux as well as the national side.
Less impressive, certainly, was his time with West Ham, his most recent employer. Signed on a $3.4 million transfer from Marseille, Diarra could never work his way into a starting for the Irons, instead accepting a half-season loan to Rennes. That loan was terminated early, with his manager complaining "he has not been able to give all he could give." Last July, his contract with West Ham was terminated, making him a free agent.
Alou Diarra is interesting. He's a 33 yr old free agent, w/ 44 caps for France. Can play DM or CB, which #cf97 needs. Great pickup, if fit.— Kevin Egan (@kev_egan) February 8, 2015
Hot (Time) take
If Diarra is truly fit and motivated, he would be a wonderful addition to the Men in Red. His size, mobility and bite would add another dimension to a three-man midfield - think how Kansas City struggled last year after selling Oriol Rossell: Same formation, no destroyer, no joy.
The fact that this is a trial and not a straight signing is also promising. The vibe around Diarra went from 'leader' to 'uhh, well, we'll see' during his time in East London. Here's to hoping he's raring to go, and the Fire have another impressive building-block in their 2015 makeover.