Sympathy for Arsenal’s Man of Glass 3

There are lots of different articles which could be written about Arsenal at the moment, and there are numerous angles which could be taken with them - but it all feels a little stale. Even after just three days, enough has already been said about the defeat at Stamford Bridge and Arsene Wenger to make additional comment feel redundant.

So here’s something different: Abou Diaby.

It’s almost a year to the day since Diaby’s career was again interrupted by injury, with a tear of his anterior cruciate ligament requiring him to go back under the surgeon’s knife and forcing him to sit-out another nine months of football. Courtesy of some apparent complications and his failure to regain full-fitness within the projected timescale, Diaby hasn’t been seen since.

Within the Premier League era, there aren’t many players who are in Diaby’s bracket in terms of their malleability. He’s been at Arsenal since 2005, but has played less than 200 games for them. In fact, not only has he never taken part in 30 league games or more in a season, but he has seen Premier League action just 31 times in four years.

What a nightmare that must have been for him. To the casual observer, he seems to have spent the whole of his twenties caught in a perpetual cycle between sporadic appearances and long-term lay-offs. That must destroy a player mentally. When someone has such a history of serious injury, it must be next to impossible to play without inhibition - imagine what goes through Diaby’s mind whenever he makes a tackle: he could be winning the ball or spending the next six months in plaster.

How would you get past that?

The real tragedy here is that he’s actually a very good player. Some Arsenal fans will disagree with that, but I would counter by saying that - sometimes - he’s been asked to play a role by Arsene Wenger which is too diverse for his skill-set. Diaby is a neat footballer, but with his physique and strength I always imagined him eventually thriving as a fairly one-dimensional holding player. A destroyer who wins the ball on the ground or in the air, and then recycles possession in a very high-percentage way.

Diaby will turn 28 before the end of the season, so there’s technically still time for him to move away from the perception that he’s made of glass - but what are the chances? After all those injuries, and the surgeries, why would you realistically believe that he’s now in a better position to stand-up to the physical duress of the game.

It’s very sad; hopefully - logic aside - this story has a happy ending.

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