Arsenal’s midfield commander, Patrick Vieira after serving 9 brilliant years at North London, finally departed in 2005 and was swiftly replaced with a largely unknown quantity, Abou Diaby. The young Frenchman joined Arsenal in January 2006 from Auxerre in a deal worth close to 2 million pounds.No one ever dared to question Arsene Wenger’s buys, as the tactician often purchased relatively unknown players and molded them into superstars, like our very own French contingent of Henry, Petit and Pires.
Diaby made his Champions League debut against Real Madrid in the Round of 16 clash in 2006 as a substitute and that was when the world got a first glimpse of the talent the young Frenchman possessed. The Gunners went on to win the game 2-1. The midfielder was further influential as he provided a useful assist in Arsenal’s 4-0 drubbing of Fulham and scored his first goal for the Gunners when he featured in the 5-0 rout of Aston Villa.
Set to pick up the reins from Vieira, the talented Diaby seemed to have settled in quickly and looked like the perfect replacement for Vieira. The former Auxerre man proved to be having the mettle in him, to be the driving force of the team whilst representing defensive solidarity.
Everything seemed perfect for Arsenal’s newest acquisition, but that changed on the 1st of May 2006 when Arsenal took on Sunderland. Wenger’s men were cruising with an unassailable 3-0 lead when the world witnessed a moment of madness in the closing moments of the game. Dan Smith needlessly went in with a two footed challenge on Diaby, leaving the Frenchman with a fractured ankle, and that has had a devastating effect on the player ever since. The timing of the injury proved to be crucial as Diaby missed out on the Champions League final against Barcelona, which saw Arsenal go down 2-1.
Despite this huge setback, he looked to have returned strongly back in the 2009/2010 season, making 40 appearances, walking into the France national team for the world cup and rightly earning his current contract that many choose to unfairly curse him for. Sadly, there is arguably no one accursed by fate, as our very own Abou Diaby. His injury problems recurred again in the 2010/11 season with another reckless challenge by Paul Robinson further exacerbating his injury issues and forcing him to undergo surgery on his ankle in 2011. This was followed by a long rehabilitation process that involved travel to consult specialists as far and wide as Qatar and New York.
Looking back, barring the season when he renewed his contract, the midfielder has struggled ever since he got injured by Smith’s horrendous tackle and has failed to get a consistent run in as injuries proved to be just around the corner, unfortunately. It felt like just yesterday, when a smiling Diaby with his long strides played a neat ball over three Brighton defenders and his compatriot Olivier Giroud scored in Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph against Brighton not too long ago. The world came to a standstill a few days ago when Diaby’s injury news broke out. The Frenchman injured his knee during training and subsequent scans confirmed that the player tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
The injury would keep the French international out for 8-9 months approximately and has hit the player at a time when his club needed him the most. Diaby managed to make 15 appearances this season for the Gunners and has had a telling influence whenever he took field.
Early in the season everyone at Arsenal Football Club were delighted at the sight of a fully fit Abou Diaby, with the latter looking strong, energetic and most importantly looking prepared to take the team forward after Robin Van Persie’s departure. The midfielder certainly put in a Man of the Match performance as he played a key role in the Gunners 2-0 victory away at Anfield. Arsenal did look like a top side that day and with their performances that followed. Diaby’s influence on the team grew steadily. Move forward to September, the Frenchman got subbed off early in the game when Chelsea visited the Emirates as the Gunners went down 2-1 in what was a closely contested game, and there, Diaby was sidelined for 3 months. The midfielder had just come back from a calf problem that kept him out for 3 weeks and was just getting back to his best before calamity struck yet again.
Abou has been a disciplined lad, who’s learnt to take care of his body after injuries have threatened to cut short his career on numerous occasions. One just can’t blame him and can term all this just plain and simple, unlucky.
Arsenal have always been by Diaby’s side as he has struggled in his 7 year career at the Emirates with fitness problems. Wenger commented on the midfielder’s special talent when he said “Diaby has long strides. He’s the closest to Vieira we have found in a long time”.
Arsenal will continue to keep the faith in Diaby just like they did with Van Persie and hope one day the midfielder will be able to put his unfortunate affair with injuries past him. The club is facing trying times and the Dutchman moved on, but rest assured the modest individual Abou is, he will definitely repay the trust shown in him, in every possible way.
We are saddened by the news of the 9 month layoff but we need you Abou, recover soon. COYG!