When Abou Diaby arrived from Auxerre on 13th January 2006 as an 18 year old, a lot of comparisons were drawn with Patrick Vieira because of his lanky nature and playing style. But, that is where the comparison ended as the former Auxerre youth product has endured a difficult time with injury since his arrival in North London. Following that needless tackle from Sunderland’s Dan Smith in a season ending game in 2006, where he broke his ankle. He has had recurring injuries that has blighted and limited his time as a first team player.
He was already on the throes of recovery in the 2012/2013 season where he featured in Arsenal’s first three games of that season, and his performance at Anfield was widely praised. But, he got injured that same season in early 2013 and suffered an anterior cruciate ligament in training. An injury that kept him on the sidelines for over a year until he made his comeback against Norwich in a substitute appearance in May, 2014.
Since his trials in the shirts of Arsenal, the mere mention of him conjures up the term injury prone. And who can blame those who have come to identify him with that tag. As much as many have tried to understand his plight, others have called for the club to cut the losses and let go of the Frenchman. But there is a reason why Arsene Wenger has persisted with him all these years, particularly against the backdrop of how Robin Van Persie overcame his injury issues to become a consistent goal scorer.
At 28 years old, Abou Diaby has entered an important phase of his career, the phrase it now or never can never be more apt for his situation. The sight of him in training as Arsenal resumed pre-season exercises at London Colney must have brought up the cliché that hope springs eternal. The midfielder who has made just 124 appearances in eight seasons as an Arsenal player has to overcome his injury curse to prove his potentials which have never been in doubt. His importance to the squad is underlined by the fact that he is the only midfielder currently in the squad that has the height that brings balance to the midfield. The fact that he only has just a year left in his contract means he will be desperate to stay fit this season.
Abou Diaby does not deserve some of the aspersions that have come his way; it is never in a player’s plan to be always injured. The fact, the club has stood by him all these years, shows class from those at Arsenal. Others might say the club should not adopt a sentimental path to these issues. Yet, if a players like Robin Van Persie had been cut lose during his injuries, he certainly would not have scored 30 league goals that propelled the club to the Champions League spot in 2012.
Fact, Abou Diaby has struggled with injuries for his entire Arsenal career, but at 28 he can still be key to the club’s fortunes if only he can stay fit. A big emphasis on if he can stay fit.