Abou Diaby. Where to start? The 6ft 4 box to box midfielder had incredible talent and produced some magnificent performances for Arsenal. But, he could not avoid getting injured.
When the young Frenchman joined the Gunners just a year after the departure of Patrick Vieira, he looked to be a replica of the ex-Arsenal Captain. Despite not being very vocal and playing more of an attacking role, Diaby had great strength and wonderful feet for such a tall player, similarly to Vieira. Even Arsene Wenger often compared the two French players, with the Arsenal boss saying in 2009, “Diaby is a bit more offensive than Vieira but when he plays a more defensive role he is very similar.”
However, the main problem with Diaby replacing Vieira in the heart of the midfield was that he had to remain fit, something all Arsenal fans know was extremely difficult for the French midfielder.
The first of the injuries came just 5 months in. His ankle was fractured in a match against Sunderland in May 2006 after Diaby received a horrific challenge from Sunderland player Dan Smith. This was sadly just the first injury of 42 during his time at Arsenal which meant he would spend 220 weeks on the sidelines throughout his nine-year stint at the club. Even though Diaby continued to earn a lot of money whilst being injured, it is heart breaking that somebody so talented has not been able to fulfill his potential due to so many injuries.
It looked like Diaby’s injuries were behind him as he started the first three games of the 2012-13 season. Alex Song had just left the club and he perfectly filled the void playing alongside Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta. Against Liverpool at Anfield, Diaby dominated the midfield and earned himself man of the match in the third game of the season. However, an injury against Chelsea in September kept him out until January. Then just a couple of months later he learnt that he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, effectively ending his time at Arsenal. He appeared just twice in the next two seasons before he was released by the club.
Even to this day Diaby is currently recovering from an injury at his new club Marseille, where he has only made five appearances in a year and a half. Although Diaby made 24 and 29 Premier League appearances in 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons, Gunners fans were never able to see him in his prime years. This has left fans questioning how good he and the Arsenal team could have been had he stayed fit for all those years.
It’s unlikely anyone disagreed with the decision to release Diaby after playing just 22 times in his final four seasons, but it always felt like at one point he was going to break through and spearhead a title winning season for the Gunners. It just wasn’t to be.