The label “injury prone” doesn’t quite do Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby justice.
According to Squawka, the French midfielder has suffered an incredible 39 injuries since joining the Gunners in 2006 at an average of 4.9 per season. On Tuesday, Diaby made his first appearance for thirteen months with Arsenal’s U-21 side and almost predictably picked up another niggle which will delay the Frenchman’s recovery further. It was apparent on Twitter following this latest setback that the player’s physical troubles have become something of a running joke for many football fans.
All of this begs the question, why has Arsene Wenger persisted with the midfielder for so long?
In a way it is admirable. It isn’t often that a football club will remain so loyal to a player that has been consistently plagued by injuries. Many players have and will continue to be released by clubs that simply believe that they will spend far too long on the treatment table rather than the pitch.
For a manager as financially prudent as Wenger, it is remarkable that the Gunners’ manager has allowed Diaby to remain on the books for so long. Despite unsubstantiated rumours which suggest the player has voluntarily refused pay until he has regained fitness, reports estimate that the midfielder currently earns between £50,000-£55,000 a week. Although this doesn’t make the Frenchman one of the top earners at the club, it is still a sizable total for a player that has been on the periphery of the first team picture for so long.
In his intermittent spells in the Arsenal side, Diaby has undoubtedly proven himself as one of the club’s most talented midfielders. A product of the famed Clairefontaine academy, the Frenchman has previously been compared to the Gunners’ legend Patrick Vieira due to his physical stature. However, in his sporadic first team appearances Diaby impressed in a more advanced creative role .
But unfortunately the stats don’t lie. The Frenchman enjoyed his best campaign at the club back in the 2009/10 season where he netted seven times in thirty five outings. Since then however, the midfielder has registered only a further thirty one first team appearances in four years.
Diaby isn’t the only beneficiary of his manager’s remarkable faith. Wenger is renowned for backing players that many others would simply abandon, with Aaron Ramsey perhaps serving as the latest example. After his horrific leg-break in 2010, the Welshman struggled for some time and many of the Gunners’ supporters called on the manager to move him on. However, Ramsey’s performances in the current campaign have vindicated his manager’s faith and established the twenty three year old as one of his side’s most important players.
But unfortunately for all involved, Diaby isn’t exactly young anymore. Injuries aren’t just a phase for the twenty seven year old, it’s an issue which has dogged him for the entirety of his eight years at Arsenal. There is no evidence to suggest that the worst of it is behind him either.
When fit and on form, the Frenchman would probably be one of Wenger’s first names on the teamsheet. But it is also an area of the field where the Gunners are impressively well stocked. Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere are all more than capable of filling the Frenchman’s role in the side. Diaby isn’t the physical holding player which Arsenal desperately require and in his absence, the creative mantle can be picked up by any one of many.
With his contract expiring in 2015, a decision on the player will have to be made sooner rather than later. It is always a shame when injury curtails the impact of such a gifted performer. But putting sentiment aside, Wenger should be ready to cut his losses on Diaby unless the Frenchman can stay off the sidelines for a lengthy period of time.