Abou Diaby: Could Arsenal's Forgotten Man Help Them To The Title?

Plagued by injuries, there's hope that Abou Diaby is finally over his fitness issues. If so, he has the potential to help Arsenal to the title...
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Plagued by injuries, there's hope that Abou Diaby is finally over his fitness issues. If so, he has the potential to help Arsenal to the title...

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It’s close to midnight and something lanky’s lurking in the dark
Under the flood lights, you see a sight that almost stops your heart
Yeah he’s alive, but you dare not touch ’cause you could break it
You start to freeze as the Frenchman kicks John Terry between the eyes
He’s no longer paralyzed
‘Cause this is Abou… Di-a-by!
And he’s no longer injured; I can’t believe what I can see
Yeah this is Abou… well, yeah you get the idea.

Something strange has happened at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground; call it black magic, voodoo, holy intervention or just plain luck, but it looks like Abou Diaby is back from the dead. It may sound strange but I’m even typing this delicately as to not in some way risk breaking Abou (watch the Butterfly Effect, it can happen). Arsenal’s once promising youngster, now the grand old age of 26 (would you believe it!) has re-emerged from the medical room and has made himself available for selection for the start of the season - it’s only 2 weeks away Abou, I know a great bubble wrap manufacturer who can get you a great deal until then. It’s fantastic news for the Frenchman, who has had a torrid 6 years – 6 years sitting on the bench earning £50,000 a week, but a torrid time none the less. On the bright side he must have gotten really good at FIFA, just look at Jack Wilshere, he’s only been out for a year and he managed to get himself on the cover. The possibilities!

2006, the year of the Champions League Final in Paris, you may remember it for Jens’ antics, big Sol’s header, Arsenal also lost the game but no need to go into that palaver. One thing you will not remember about the final, however, is a man who goes by the name of Abou Diaby; not because he didn’t play well, but because he was nursing an ankle injury picked up two weeks prior. Oh that ankle, his Achilles heel, (two inches higher of course), the ankle has been Diaby’s reckoning.

When Diaby first signed for the Gunners in January 2006 the Frenchman was looking towards success following Arsenal’s unbeaten run in 03/04 and their FA Cup triumph in 2005 (weren’t we all), however Dan Smith of Sunderland (no, me neither) had a different idea. His horror tackle on Diaby, described by Wenger as “a bad kick and an unnecessary one”, left Abou being told that his career may be over. He fought through however to go on to make 112 appearances for the Arsenal between then and now, yet Arsenal fans have hardly seen the injury prone player since the back-end of the 2010-2011 season, although he did make a whopping 6 appearances in the red and white last year, well it’s better than nothing.

On the bright side he must have gotten really good at FIFA, just look at Jack Wilshere, he’s only been out for a year and he managed to get himself on the cover. The possibilities!

Although Diaby has been part of the club for 6 years, fans would be forgiven for forgetting all about him. Many believed Monsieur Wenger had given up on him, ready to sell this summer with a long list of fit and ready replacements. But as we all know Wenger likes to keep faith in his players even if few bother to repay it *cough* Van Persie *cough*, paying thousands of pounds a week for a player who’s injured for 6 years and then letting him go isn’t how Wenger does business, unless he’s only got a year to go on his contract of course *cough* Van Persie *cough*. If you’ve got the talent then Arsene will wait and Abou has the talent. Many forget that Chelsea were chasing back in 2006 when he decided to sign for Arsenal - these were the days when Chelsea paid large sums for Sean Wright Phillips and Damien Duff, but we’ll give Abou the benefit of the doubt. In the past Diaby has shown why he may be worth the wait and the money; let us not forget Abou was the man who managed to knock out John Terry with those size 75 feet of his in the League Cup Final in 2007. His footballing skills weren’t too shabby either, his best season coming in 2009/2010 when he managed to bag himself 7 goals and 6 assists. The talent was there but his injuries and inconsistency left many doubting if Diaby could make the grade at the Emirates.

With a trip to Asia for a pre-season tour in order, Diaby had a platform to prove to the world that he could last 90 minutes on a football pitch. The soaring Frenchman not only managed that against the Malaysia All-Stars, but he also managed to put in a performance proving that he really could reach his best for the Gunners in the coming season. Although the Malaysian All-Stars sound like a force to be reckoned with they really weren’t anywhere near the level of competitors Arsenal face week in week out in the English top flight; for Abou it was a stroll in the park overpowering the Malaysians like a troll among hobbits. The team came back from one nil down to win 2-1 but it wasn’t about the win - for Diaby it was signal of intent coming through unscathed, even if he did have numerous Malaysian All-Stars humping his legs every time he had the ball at his feet.

Throughout Arsenal’s pre-season Diaby has shown great athleticism, fitness and how talented he really is. The big man appears threatening every time he goes forward; I don’t like to compare but he does at times remind you of a certain Patrick Vieira – the box-to-box runs, the powerful tackling, it’s all there. All he needs to do now is somehow start a feud with Roy Keane and we’ve got ourselves a player! To those who refuse to compare the two, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger once said the following when analysing the Diaby-Vieira comparisons:

“There are similarities. They are the same stature and the same size and have the similar style. Also Patrick is from Senegal and Abou is from Ivory Coast. But there is a lot of room for him to get where Patrick was.’’

This is a quote from 2008, so unless Vieira had about 4 injury plagued years we don’t remember about then I guess the comparisons of growing into the same type of player may be flawed. But fear not, there is time. The coming season is one of high expectation, with 2 new signings already completed and one or two more only days away Arsenal fans can expect a different team when they head out against Sunderland on the 18th of August, a team including in some respects a new signing in the form of Abou Diaby. Thankfully the evil Dan Smith no longer plays for Sunderland so Abou’s ankle can breathe a sigh of relief; the ex-Sunderland player will instead be snapping ankles where such exploits are applauded all the way down in the Northern League Division 1 for Darlington 1883.

Throughout Arsenal’s pre-season Diaby has shown great athleticism, fitness and how talented he really is. The big man appears threatening every time he goes forward; I don’t like to compare but he does at times remind you of a certain Patrick Vieira

So as Diaby awaits the start of the Premier League he also awaits the re-birth of his Arsenal career, the man himself has stated how important the coming weeks are in the build up to the season, believing that he is almost ready to ignite the Premier League with his darting run’s and never-ending tackles that are a vague memory to most of us...

‘‘I’m fit now; I have been training since the beginning of pre-season and also did a rehabilitation session during my holidays – so now I feel great. It is definitely important – I need to be fit to complete the season. So, this is a crucial time.’’

Potential is a term thrown around a lot. Few reach it, many are too lazy, many are just unlucky – Diaby is the latter. If fit, the towering midfielder can become a key piece to Arsene Wenger’s jigsaw of talent, as Arsene’s team is just that, a puzzle. And who knows? Diaby’s return from the dead may be what Arsene has been missing in his 7 year hunt for a trophy. But if time has taught us anything, it’s that Diaby is as brittle as a wishbone – something he may need if the man is to stay fit throughout upcoming season. If not there’s always the cover of FIFA 14 and if that isn’t reaching potential I don’t know what is!

This first appeared on Michael's blog, The Gooner Report

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