Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's Time to Call an End to Abou Diaby's Arsenal Career

In January 2006, we were in a bit of a mess.

Patrick Vieira, the lynchpin of three title-winning teams, had been abruptly sold in the summer of 2005 and we had failed in our attempts to buy a replacement. Fabregas and Gilberto did their best to strike-up an effective partnership in midfield, but couldn't cover up the fact that we had a hole in the middle of the side.

After a poor start to the season, we were struggling to make the top four. Arsene decided to go out and splash some cash in the January transfer window, buying three players in the process. Though our opinions of him are, obviously, quite negative now, it's easy to forget that one of these signings, Adebayor, was actually critical to us making fourth place. Theo Walcott was a high profile signing, but didn't actually play a game until the next season. And the other other player was a lanky Frenchman from Auxerre - Abou Diaby.

Abou's impact wasn't as great as Adebayor's, but he definitely made a positive contribution to our quest for fourth place. A dozen league appearances were enough to make quite an impression on us all, and I, for one, was convinced that we had a major talent on our hand.

Maybe we did - but I don't think we'll ever know now. On May 1 2006, at the end of a game that Arsenal had completely dominated and were winning 3-0, Sunderland player Dan Smith made a ludicrous, dangerous tackle that resulted in an ankle fracture. (He's now playing non-league football, where he belongs). While the exact details aren't known, it's likely that Abou fractured both his tibia and fibia, dislocated his ankle, and suffered severe ligament damage.

While Eduardo's injury received considerably more coverage, Abou's was probably almost as bad. He had three surgeries on his ankle before returning to the first team in January 2007, and was told by one doctor that he was lucky that the injury didn't end his career.

After appearing to recover from his injury, Abou made 28 appearances in the 2007-08 season, 36 in 2008-2009, and 40 in 2009-10. Yet he only made 20 appearances last season, and he's played about an hour or so of league football in total this season. (He was ruled out of the last two games of the season after yesterday's game.)

For a brilliant overview of the injury travails that Abou has faced, read this article on the Beautiful Groan.

The article (written by a physiotherapist) basically says this - the severity of the injury suffered by Abou in 2006 was such that it affects the entire way that Abou moves his body. This means his body is almost fundamentally imbalanced, which causes new injuries to occur on a periodic basis.

Now, I think Arsenal fans have been very patient with Diaby - mainly because most of us realise what an incredible talented player he potentially is. Looking through his stats, he has a very unique skill-set - he is a brilliant dribbler, he can pass well, he can score and make goals, and he also has physical presence. He has the potential to be a monster in midfield.

But none of this matters if you can't get on the field.

I just think this season has shown that Diaby will never be a player who can consistently (and that is the key for me, consistently) play football at a top-class level. He will have patches where he is fit, but I think his awful injury has destroyed his ability to regularly stay fit. Ultimately, I think it's time we used his squad place, and the wages we are paying him, on someone else.

Some Arsenal fans have pointed to Robin van Persie as an example of why we shouldn't give up - but I think a more instructive example would be Owen Hargreaves. No one can doubt Hargreaves talent, but United ultimately cut him loose at the end of last season because he could not maintain his fitness, and they could not justify paying someone wages who did not play football regularly enough.

Similarly, others have mentioned Tomas Rosicky as a reason why we should keep Diaby - but Rosicky's injury was nowhere near as severe as Diaby's. Rosicky's was a freak injury that was essentially misdiagnosed; Diaby's problems are better known, but they are simply much harder to fix, and there is the impression that they have fundamentally weakened his ability to play regular football.

I would like nothing more than for Diaby to stay, regain his fitness, and become a dominant member of our midfield. I just don't think this will ever happen. And the longer we keep him, the longer we are denying his squad place to someone who could actually contribute to the team.

Of course, even if we wanted to sell him, there is the issue of the long-term deal he was given at the start of 2010. Quite who decided this was a good idea isn't clear, but it may mean that our ability move him on is limited, due to the inflated wages he is currently earning. But it's now come to the point where I think he needs to leave on a free, if need be. The short-term financial hit will be outweighed by the money we will ultimately save by paying a non-playing squad member for the rest of his deal.

So there you have it - a sad story of a brilliant player, but one who I don't think will ever truly shine in the way we once hoped. Still, at least we'll always have this moment. Thanks, Abou.


Jon Gunner Fans Forever said...

Diaby is a talented player, but I agree with this article that it is time for him and Arsenal to move on. I remember last summer some Turkish club (should be Galatasary) bidded 10 million pounds for Diaby but Wenger rejected it. I hope if this happens again in the summer, Wenger will take the money and invest in some other players.

Or perhaps Diaby can become a scout for us like our ex-player Daniel Karbassiyoon who played youth and reserve football for Arsenal but retire from football due to severe injury. Daniel is currently a scout for us in the United States.

Davi said...

It's up to him and to Wenger. If he has the desire to do well, he will. I've been impressed with his more disciplined performances recently, as he has seemingly been adapted to a more defensive midfield position, but the consistent injury problems are a concern (I don't have any problem with what he does on the pitch, it's just a matter of him being available). If there's any truth to the Mvila (and other CM) rumours, it would make sense for Diaby to move on.

Re the injury statements. Imo, he has talent comparable to that of Ledley King or Demba Ba, although I think he's too young/experienced to contribute to that level. These are players who don't do much training but are (maybe were in King's case now) able to make a real difference in games. In short, I think it could come down to managing the problem, and the desire of the player to play for the club. I'm not saying Diaby would definitely be able to play like these two, of course I don't really know, but I find these examples just as convincing as the RVP, Rosicky or Hargreaves ones.

Incidentally, according to wikipedia, Dan Smith only played 3 games for Sunderland. It's amazing that he was able to do such damage with such little time. Idk, I find that stat really difficult to swallow. That a guy, who obviously didn't have the talent to play in the PL was allowed in, I suppose, to make up the numbers at Sunderland, ended up doing such damage to a really talented player just doesn't seem right somehow.

Anonymous said...

Yes its frustrating that hes injured again but
No- Too early to make this judgement- too good a footballer to dscard at this point. Reportdely has a great attitude towards working towards full fitness.
Serious injuries do need gradual introduction to the intensity of the EPL.
Give him a Pre- season and one more season, sparingly used. If by half way through next season he cannot regain his fitness-then yes- but we have waited this long.

Anonymous said...

With attitude such as this where we give up on players that are injured playing for Arsenal, no wonder why folks like Nasri and Cesc wanted to move on. You all want players to have loyalty but you do not want to keep loyalty to a player injured in the line of duty playing for the Club. You are the same people who wanted Van Persie and Rosiky to be sold. Look where they are today. Shame on you all, Diaby to stay, still the most talented gunner.

Anonymous said...

You probably would have said the same thing about Van Persie a year a two ago. I guess that's why you're writing a blog, nut managing a club.

Anonymous said...

Diaby is a top class player. CRAZY to sell him.

Anonymous said...

Diaby is undoutably a talent but I feel he does not have a winners mentality. Anyone that watched his performance in the Arsenal Barca 2nd leg inthe nou camp when arsenal had a 2 - 1 lead would see this. Diaby was shocking that night, playing like he believed arsenal had no chance of winning the tie. I'd have sold him immediately after that game.

Anonymous said...

Yep, i think we need to let abouch! Dearby. The guy can't be competitive as he ever was. His legs at the moment are made of glass and we can't rely on such. We need to get him off our wage bill and move on. Though i wonder if any team would pay a fee for him considering the circurmstances,

Anonymous said...

Before getting rid of Diaby, perhaps we should get rid of our strength, fitness and medical staff.

Anonymous said...

Diaby is sick... he has a virus.

As frustrating it is seeing Diaby's career destroyed by a thug, why give up know he is fit baring a virus?

Arsenal have stood by the player and now got him fit and due to a common virus you think we should sell him?

Really, what sort of a clown are you?

tint little said...

Arsenal want to get a team not a home of rest for "possibles" that by the law of averages wont make it.
Find a top team that had a majority of home grown players - you won't!
Over 10 years Academy and only Cole and Willshere came out of it!

Anonymous said...

Diaby is quality - his injury record is appaling, but so was RVP's - he would have been sold ages ago if Wenger listened to such tripe

Anonymous said...

When fit, Diaby is a fantastic player, only problem he's never fit for more than a few games a season. I say give him one more season before calling time on his Arsenal career.

Anonymous said...

If he can't get fit, he has to be shown the door! He's a great player technically but if you can't get him on the park, he is a waste of a place in the squad. We are supposed to be a top team. Unfortunately, if you are a top team, there is no room for sentiment. There must be thousands of talented kids let go due to injury, so why should it be different because we have seen him? 5 times on the pitch a season, amounting to about half hour cannot be tolerated for a team supposedly chasing honours! I'm sorry to say its time to let him go

Anonymous said...

Not only is he injured all the time he's shit. I haven't been to the Emirates since 2009 because I moved bit I've seen him play a few times and he was shit. He played like he needed a rocket up the arse, always slowed the pace of our game down and gave the ball away. So we have a permacrock who is good once in a blue moon and give him a new contract, clever. Far too many over paid shit players at the club.

Roachy said...

FIrst of all you cannot compare Hargraves with Diaby because Hargraves was 30-31 when ManU cut him loose. Diaby is only 25.

I accept Diaby's injury was serious and that he has really struggled to stay injury free ever since.

I think Arsenal must obtain the worlds best Orthopaedic ssessments regarding the likelihood of Diaby making a near full recovery. If he needs longer rehab to re-align his body to reach balance and recover properly then so be it. If its mission impossible, then I agree Arsenal should look at parting ways.

Given the injury was back in 2006/07 I think his current contract should of had a clause allowing for such setbacks. In other words his salary should have been linked to actual game-time.

robert said...

Diaby is a talented player, but I agree with this article that it is time for him and Arsenal to move on.
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Locker said...

He's of no use to the squad if he can't play, and he can't play.


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