Showing posts with label Abou Diaby. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Abou Diaby. Show all posts

21 February 2023 Saka next?

It's common knowledge that every fan thinks it's their own club the refs are biased against. Very few fans believe in conspiracy theories...unless their club is the target of the conspiracy. However, when it comes to Bukayo Saka, we have more than cognitive dissonance, more than confirmation bias, more than corrupt incompetence (or was it incompetent corruption?). We have ample evidence of the objective variety that there's something wrong with how he's being treated by opposing players and by referees. It's getting to the worrisome point that he may have to suffer some kind of injury before those referees take off the blinders and start holding those players accountable. 

18 October 2021

At long last, Vieira returns to Arsenal!

It's true, and not for the first time. Some are saying that he may soon be here to stay. Not me, though. That's a bit of madness, but it's understandable, such is Vieira's legendary status, Arsenal's difficulty in finding his "heir", and the fact that we find ourselves mired midtable, just three points clear of Monday's visitors. Of course, on Vieira's first return to Arsenal, his erstwhile friend, colleague, and compatriot Robert Pirès greeted him with a somewhat impertinent tackle that left Vieira frustrated as Pirès launched a counter that saw Henry feed Fabregas for the opening goal in a 2-0 win, taking us one step closer to that 2006 Champions League final. Ever since Vieira left, we've hungered for someone to fill the role from which he dominated and domineered. Ever since Wenger left, many have wondered if Vieira could return as Arsenal's manager. Come Monday, we have have more (or less) to wonder about.

13 October 2021

Thomas Partey proves he's not auditioning to play for an American football team...

When Thomas Partey joined Arsenal from Atletico Madrid, it felt too many like we had finally found that much-vaunted Vieira's HeirTM, that dominating, physical box-to-box midfielder who could disrupt opponents' attacks, link defense to attack, and bomb forward to score. There were flashes of that from the often-injured Elijah Price—er, Abou Diaby—but we've never truly found the player who could fill that role. Partey's arrival seemed to herald the dawning of a new era. He quickly showed that he could dominate a midfield. His passing split lines and carved defenses open. He tackled with almost-reckless aplomb...and then came the shots. Simply put, it often seemed like the man was auditioning to take point-after tries for an American football team or perhaps a conversion for a proper rugby side. Some of his efforts are still being tracked by the Hubble Telescope. However, there is better news on the near-horizon.

02 July 2015

Adieu, Abou.

On Wednesday, the long, tragic farce that was once a promising career came to an end as Arsenal, after nearly a decade of frustration, finally parted ways with Abou Diaby, letting him leave the club rather than offering him a new contract with elaborate pay-to-play provisions. He's now free, such as it is, to pursue options in other leagues in which the play is less physical than it is in the Prem (or in which the referees are less willing to turn a blind eye to reckless tackles). Something in me had hoped that there would be one more resurrection, one more phoenix-like rebirth that allow us all to finally bask in awe at the marvels that Diaby was once capable of. Instead, those thoughts will die with his Arsenal tenure.

22 September 2014

Arsenal vs. Southampton: Diaby the Destroyer's debut

All he did on Saturday was sit on the bench, an unused sub, for ninety minutes, watching as s a team that barely resembles the one he joined in 2006. Ironically, in a squad already ravaged by injuries—Giroud, Debuchy, Monreal, Walcott, Gnabry, and Sanogo have all been ruled out—Abou
Diaby may seize his chance. The league cup, already lower on our list of priorities, may have dropped even further as those injuries have forced us to refocus on the Prem and Champions League for now, and the FA Cup in January. We'll likely see a squad full of starlets and debutants, but the 28-year old Diaby may be poised to destroy the Saints even if the league cup is for them is their best bet at silverware.

25 April 2014

And Diaby goes down...again.

No joke. I wish it were. In what is becoming a ludicrously tragic or tragically ludicrous farce, a Kafka-esque nightmare, a boilerplate Bill Murray movie involving Groundhog Day, Abou Diaby has again suffered an injury. After playing 45 minutes with the U21s against Arsenal and by most accounts, doing well, it appears that the Fates have seen fit to once again strike down a man whose only crimes are being harshly tackled and trying his level-best to fight his way back. Apparently, he should have just hung up his boots and taken up crochet. Even then, I suspect the Fates, capricious and cruel as they are, would find a way to snap some heretofore unknown knuckle ligament, rendering him incapable of even knitting. Forget purling. Don't even ask.

Pogba? I'll pass. Pirlo? Perhaps...

Ever since the departure of Patrick Vieira, it seems, we've hungered for that domineering, physical defensive midfielder who can bomb forward and wreak havoc on the opposition's structure, defense, and counter-attacking options. We've tried Diaby but, for various reasons, failed. Alex Song filled in for a spell but was never as disciplined in the back or assertive going forward, offering recklessness in place of swashbuckling. More recently, we've gotten by with various permutations of Ramsey, Arteta, Flamini, and Wilshere but have struggled to replicate the kind of partnership that saw Vieira work so well alongside Silva, for example. For better or for worse, the myopia that results has seen us set our sights on Juventus's Paul Pogba, but I'm not seeing it. As exciting as he may be, he's just not the player we need.

22 April 2014

Abou impresses on debut; will he rise from the ashes?

It's been more than a year since we last saw Abou Diaby, having last appeared on 16 March 2013 against Swansea. Ever since, the debate over his future with the club was been almost as divisive as the one over Arsène's. With Diaby having made an impressive return with Arsenal's U21s, is there any chance we'll see his resurrection, even if it's only a symbolic one? After all, he did play 45 minutes in his first appearance since tearing that ACL, no mean feat, and by all accounts was impressive if not dominant. Assuming we can sew up fourth place (something that may have been just a bit easier with Everton losing Kevin Mirallas), the return of Abou "like a new signing" Diaby might be just around the corner.

11 April 2014

Rare Diaby sighting reported at Colney

The photo is grainy, and there are those who would cast doubt on its veracity, claiming ito be a crudely Photoshopped hoax, but believers swear it to be irrefutable proof that a creature know as Sasquatch, Bigfoot, or perhaps more officially Homo sapiens aboudensis. Though the photo is grainy and out of focus, it purports to capture the languid movements of a player rarely seen in these parts but who is reported to make occasional appearances as the seasons turn. Witnesses to the sighting suggest that the beast stands close to 1.9m and may weigh as many as 80kg. He was said to be moving gingerly but with a grace and languidity that belie the gangly frame.

Scientists have been called in to study the photo as well as the grounds on which the sighting took place near the Arsenal Training Centre in Hertfordshire, England. If confirmed, it is suggested that this entity, this speciemn, might someday soon be seen running box to box on various pitches across England, laying waste to those who dare to oppose. In particular, the residents of Liverpool, Manchester, and various sections of London itself have been advised to take necessary precautions to protect themselves lest they feel the full brunt of his awesome, if rarely displayed, prowess.

It is unclear what has prompted the reappearance of the aboudensis, but scientists speculate that the changing of the season, the closing of the winter transfer-window, and the flagging hopes of the Arsenal faithful have inspired him from his hibernation. His sighting has been likened to a new signing, as true a sign of the arrival of spring as the first robin or tulip in bloom.

Furthermore, it is anyone's guess as to whether this sighting is more like the Groundhog's Day of legend, in which the groundhog emerges from his burrow. If it is cloudy and he cannot see his shadow, he returns, and spring is indeed here. If, however, it is sunny and he sees his own shadow, we are in for another six weeks of winter. With the Prem season itself set to close on 11 May, but with a potential 17 May FA Cup final also hanging in the balance, it was unclear whether or not he did or did not see his shadow. One thing is certain: anxious onlookers will study this and other portents to come.

06 March 2014

One league where we're comfortably top of the table...

Can the injury-tally grow any more? With news that Jack Wilshere will now be out for at least six weeks, we may set a record for player-games missed to injury. It certainly looks as if we'll finish the season with the most games missed, and that was before Wilshere went down. After 29 matches, we're top of the table in the Injury League with 219 player-games missed. The gap between us and second place is immense—Man U lags behind at 156 player-games missed. It's a cruel irony then that a team already as deep as Chelsea is near the bottom of the table with only 81; only Southampton (76) and Cardiff (51) have missed fewer. What kind of world do we live in in which a team like Stoke, notorious for inflicting grievous harm on other players, has only missed 86 games? It's a cold, cruel world indeed, and it seems as if the dark forces of the universe are arrayed against us. Dodgy refereeing. Ludicrous draws in various cup competitions. Injury after injury after injury. Hang it all, I say.

20 January 2014

Is Diaby about to bid us adieu?

Reports out in the last few days suggest that Abou Diaby may have already made his final appearance for Arsenal, with rumors of a Diaby retirement making the rounds. Should the rumors prove true, it would sadden me a great deal as the man has done his level-best but, through circumstances largely beyond his control, have fallen so far off the radar that it might just be time to move on.

In the case of Abou Diaby, the travesty is of course the injuries that have bedeviled him. In his eight years with the club, a span of time that might have seen him accrue some 400 or more appearances, he's only managed 178. His career tells a cruel story, one reminiscent of Samuel L. Jackson's character in the film Unbreakable. Like Elijah Price, Diaby seems especially fragile and prone to injuries at any moment. He's suffered 35 significant injuries during his time with the club, the latest one an especially cruel rupture of the ACL that seems to have ruled him out the rest of the 2013-14 season. He'll turn 28 before the end of the season and would need quite a bit of rehabilitation and recovery before he could see first-team action. Given his history, though, the next injury could yet again lay him low only a few matches into his comeback. When he's been fit, he's shown flashes of a kind of dominance that is comparable to Vieira's, an ability to dominate from endline to endline, his lanky length allowing him, almost like a spider, to reach out and snatch the ball from any direction and launch a counter-attack almost single-handedly. Just as he was set to reclaim the kind of form that saw him demolish Liverpool back in September of 2012, his ACL rupture in March 2013 laid waste to those hopes, and we'll be without his services for the remainder of the current campaign.

When he does come back, if ever, he'll find a midfield even more-crowded than he left, and chances for action even fewer and farther in-between. Of course, Arteta and Flamini are no spring-chickens, but a defensive midfield of Ramsey and Wilshere would leave Diaby languishing on the bench. Given his history of injury, this might be a good thing, as the rigors of playing 80-90 minutes a week might be more than his brittle body could bear, but would such a role suit him? Most of the talk around Diaby's future with the club has centered around whether or not the club should keep him or move him on. However, the severity of his latest injury, the long recuperation time, and his advancing age may have changed the terms of the debate, maybe even to the point that Diaby himself would bow out rather than being cast off.

I've agonized over the man's plight, here and here if you care to dig deeper into the archives. Simply put, he's literally put his body on the line for the club, and, sadly, his body has paid the price. Years from now, he may struggle to walk unassisted, get out of a chair, or simply sit comfortably, as the aches and pains he's accumulated in these eight years marinate and get ornery. Much as I have wished to see him return with a clean bill of health and run amok on the pitch, I worry that those days are behind him. Much as I hope that I'm wrong on that score, I'd rather he choose his destiny rather than let the cold hand of fate lay him low one more time.

The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote these lines, lines that seem to imbue Diaby's plight with deeper significance:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
So it goes with Diaby. He has been burning the candle at both ends, producing moments of that "lovely light''; sadly, however, it couldn't and hasn't lasted long. I hope we haven't seen the last of this man, but it's increasingly difficult to cling to such hopes. What might have been seems to loom larger than what could be...

09 June 2013

Will Abou Diaby be swept up in the summer clear-out?

Full disclosure: I write as one who has himself recently torn his own ACL and even before that was a strong believer in the idea that Diaby would throw off the awful plague of injuries that have bedeviled him since Sunderland, 2006. That he came back from that injury at all, even if he's had to endure setback after setback, one tantalizing return after another dashed, each more cruelly than the last, was once cause for joy. However, when he tore his ACL in March, it  looked like a career long on promise but short on delivery had been derailed once and for all.

With an injury set to keep him out of action until January 2014 and a contract set to expire in June 2015, he and the club face some hard questions. On one hand, he's 27, an age at which many players start to peak. Will he peak a little later due to all of the time he has missed through injury? We could see him return to the pitch late in the upcoming campaign rejuvenated, completely rebuilt and recovered from this and various other injuries that have beset him. We don't have to look far for examples of such resurrections. Here in the U.S., the American footballer Adrian Peterson returned from ACL surgery to reclaim his status as one of the the sport's most electrifying athletes. He was 26 when he tore his ACL. He came back for the 2012 season and earned the league's Most Valuable Player award and finished second for Comeback Player of the Year. Had he rushed for nine more yards, he would have broken a 28 year-old record for rushing yards.

On the other hand, Diaby has never made it through a complete season in the Prem.

I offer the American football stats as a suggestion that Diaby could come back just as good if not better than he's ever been. Go back to his performance against Liverpool back in September and tell me you wouldn't want that man back. He was everywhere in an effortless yet dominating performance. At full-strength, he would solve quite a few dilemmas. Arsene has been mocked (and rightly so) for announcing each of Diaby's returns from injury as being like a "new signing", but to some extent that's true. Diaby hasn't played more than 20 games across all competitions since 2010-11. Even Tomas Rosicky, similarly beset by injury, has bested that mark five times in seven seasons. When he does come back, he shows what he's capable of. However, in the process, some injury or another inevitably arises.

Therefore, the question then becomes, at what point do we cut our losses? After all, the pressure that the club and player have felt to rush back from injury has no doubt been immense. With each setback, the cat-calls have grown in strength and number, as has the urgency to prove those critics wrong. It's a terribly vicious cycle. Arguably, the pressure to deliver for a club of our ambitions may have forced the man to short-change his rehabilitation, rushing back and overdoing it when a longer break may have cured his ills. Therefore, as much as I would love to see him come back to terrorize teams in January or February 2014, I find myself wondering if it's finally time to cut our losses. Loan the man out to a smaller club, a mid-table club, and let him take his time feeling his way through his recovery. If that doesn't work, he will have had a chance to showcase his skills enough to earn a decent transfer next summer.

He's taken some stick for his injuries, but he's not a loafer content to cash a check each week. If anything, his problem may be just the opposite. Perhaps if he had had just a touch more of the Arshavin in him, he'd have let his body heal properly before charging back into the fray.

What do you think, then? Does the man have a future with Arsenal, or has that ship sailed? Should we save a spot for him, or look to palm him off on some other club in need of a languid yet potentially dominant midfielder?

27 May 2013

Dr. Lewandowski or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Transfer

Okay. Apparently, barely 24 hours after losing to Bayern Munich, Robert Lewandowksi may have pulled a van Persie and joined one of his former club's biggest rivals, a move that comes weeks after Mario Götze did the same. I'm sorry, but these moves have crossed a line for me. There's no other word for it than betrayal. Sure, both Lewandowski and Götze have known for quite some time that Bayern would win the Bundesliga. I get it. I don't understand how one and then both men rats could be counted on to give their best effort on Dortmund's behalf while at the same time entertaining talk of a transfer to a team that they would soon face on football's biggest stage. If either one can look us in the eye and honestly say, "yes, I can separate my future desires from my current obligations", I may have to offer apologies. However, my anger and, yes, despair at these moves make it heartbreakingly difficult to take anything these mercenaries say at face value.

It's enough to make me look at van Persie's move to Man U with magnanimity, with understanding, and maybe even sympathy. After all, Man U had come in second place last year and only on goal-differential while Arsenal lucked into third. For as much as we've vied with Man U, it's been a while since we can truly say we've gone head-to-head with them in the Prem. I can almost, almost, accept his move as one of a player nearing the end of his career. It still seems like the desperate gambit of a graying man. It paid off for him, so good for him, I guess. I still believe that staying at Arsenal might just have led to a similar result for us this year, but what do I know? By contrast, Götze's decision to move to Bayern, and that of Lewandowski should the rumors prove true, lay waste to the competitive ideal. Pardon my French, but where the f*#@ would sport be if each team's best player simply crossed over to join the best team in the league? Götze is 20. Lewandowski is 24. They have plenty of time to achieve. What the hell ever happened to looking at your rival, at the champions, and saying, "eff you. We're knocking you off next year"?

I mean, good God. I now find myself wondering if Götze's injury is legitimate or if it was some implied contractual term: "now that he belongs to Bayern, I'm afraid we must insist on protecting our investment. Therefore, I'm sorry to say, he mustn't unduly exert himself in the closing weeks. That's a good boy." As to Lewandowski, he hardly distinguished himself against Bayern on Saturday, earning a Gervinho-esque 6.58 from How much of that average rating comes from him all but knowing that he'd soon be switching sides? How do his teammates feel after that loss (assuming that the rumors are true)?

Look. I know that players have a preciously short window in which to win trophies and earn money, but there's a limit. I still remember the Chicago Bulls of the late 1980s who, year after year after year, crashed out of the playoffs against the Detroit Pistons. No matter how transcendent Michael Jordan was, no matter how much his teammates improved, it seemed that the Pistons were always better. However, instead of switching sides, Jordan came back each year more determined, more ruthless, more skilled, until he and his teammates broke through, sweeping the Pistons out of the playoffs and winning the championship. Tell me that that trophy doesn't taste sweeter than the one that Lebron James "won" with the Miami Heat or the one that van Persie won with Man U or the many that Götze (and Lewandowski?) is/are sure to win with Bayern.

Come on. Really? If trophies are that easy to buy, what are they really worth? It's ridiculous. With enough money, you can amass enough players to win whatever the f@)# you want, but for what? When it gets that easy, how satisfying is it, really? How much of it can you really claim to have earned?  It's a crock of shite for all I care, and I don't care if I completely misused British slang just now. These lazy, self-indulgent bastards who believe that they're owed a trophy in their lifetimes can take a flying leap, for all I care. You got a trophy? Great. Good for you. Did you earn it, or would the team still have won it without you? Were you a great white, or were you a remora?

These short-cut taking simpletons have convinced me of at least one thing: I never wanted them wearing the Arsenal kit in the first place. You want the cheap and easy? Go play for Man U or Man City or Chelsea or whichever club is willing to rent the flavor of the month. I want players who are willing to dig in, get grimy and dirty, and get a little dirt under their nails instead of a weekly manicure and to look at the success of a cross-town or league rival and say, "They don't deserve that. That is mine. They may have it this year, but we're knocking them on their arses next year." Any player who is willing to take the path of least resistance is not a player I want in Arsenal red, trophies be damned.

In America, we have a folk-singer by the name of Utah Phillips. At one point before his death, he said to a room full of 16-year olds, "they're going to clear-cut your best thoughts for the sake of profit unless you learn to resist, because the profit system follows the path of least resistance, and following the path of least resistance is what makes the river crooked." I worry that too many players are following the path of least resistance, choosing the quick and easy. Yeah, they get to where they want to go, but what have they become in the process?

I don't want the quick and easy. If it's true that Lewandowski has signed with Bayern, I never wanted him in the first place. He might then lack the grit and tenacity that I look for in a player. I want guys who look at the successes of others not with envy but jealousy: "you have taken what is mine, and I have no choice but to dedicate every fiber of my being to taking it back". Van Persie lacked that. Nasri lacked that. Götze lacked that. Perhaps Lewandowksi lacks it as well.

There was a time when I extolled the virtues of Borussia Dortmund (or at least of its players). They seemed to remind me of Arsenal of a decade ago, populated and led by young and hungry players looking to knock off the Titans. Now, however, I look at Dortmund's best and brightest and find myself doubting their character thoroughly and completely. If Götze or Lewandowski is eyeing greener pastures, I guess I shouldn't begrudge them too harshly for seeking some gratification. However, they'll still earn more in a few years of footy than I will in a lifetime of toil, so I have my limits. To some degree, sure, I owe these players a debt for their skill and their artistry, but that is not the same as saying that I should accept, part and parcel, their ease in displaying all of the consistency of a weather-vane.

Ambition is one quality; nihilism is quite another. Give me a one-club man, one who is dedicated to and believes in the club itself. It's not the name on the back of the jersey that matters. It's the name on the front that matters. Lewandowski has signed with Bayern? Fine. I never wanted the likes of him anyway. Jovetic wants to switch from Fiorentina to Juventus? Good for him. Give me a guy who's willing to lay it all on the line over the guy who sees each club as a stepping-stone to the next.

I'm not so naive as to expect every player who dons the Arsenal kit to be a die-hard Gooner. That would be ridiculous. I simply want a squad of players that show up each day bound and determined to do their damned-best without calculating how their performances affect their market value. Is that too much to ask?

31 March 2013

Do it For Diaby

Sorry, John. Well, no, but it's polite to say so.
Now  that the dust has settled on our destruction of Reading and Gervinho has had some time to bask in the glow of MOTM-worthy performance, we can take a more-somber look at the cruel injury to Abou Diaby, who was just learning how to more artfully manage his body until a torn anterior cruciate ligament ended his season, effectively closed the door on his 2013-14 season, and has convinced a fair number of people that his time with Arsenal is now up, ruing that we've kept him a few months too long and perhaps should have unloaded him in January, if not before.  Obviously, just a week after the actual injury, it's too early to make any kind of prognosis for his recovery or return, but I also believe it's premature to write him off as a lost cause. When fit, he's one of the more dynamic, aggressive, and versatile players we have, and, regardless of his many injuries, I still feel like he will be a valuable asset to this team. "Do it for Diaby" seems like a fitting tribute for the closing weeks of the season. Rather than worrying incessantly about points and table position, why not just fight like dogs to win for Diaby, a man how has quite literally put his body on the line for the team?

29 March 2013

The Diaby Debacle

As news of Diaby's torn ACL has made the rounds, I've cast about desperately for news that could convince me that he will in fact return in 10 months' time. I've always been a believer in Diaby and hope fervently that he'll not only come back, but come back in a form that comes anything close to what he showed us against Liverpool in September when he was more spider than man, leaping and bouncing about, pouncing on balls and tackling various Scousers left and right. Were it not for his litany of injuriesnone so cruel as thishe'd be a world-beater, the kind of player we'd be lionizing and remembering for years to come. Instead, through no fault of his own, he's ended up as Samuel Jackson's character Elijah Price in Unbreakable, a villain so fragile that he can barely walk without fracturing something. Diaby could have and should have been Bruce Willis's character in that same filmDavid Dunn, the titular hero who was impervious to illness or injury.

28 March 2013

Wilshere's Out Two Weeks, Diaby Gone Eight Months

It seems that a routine scan of Jack Wilshere's ankle shows continued inflammation serious enough for the medical staff to recommend a further two weeks of rest, with Wenger admitting that it will be "very difficult" to know when Wilshere can return. This setback means that Wilshere misses the Reading match, which is not new news, but will now also miss the April 6th trip to West Brom as well as our home-match against Norwich. Beyond that, it's hard to say when he'll be back. The news and tone of Wenger's description are hard to describe as upbeat or optimistic, containing as it does words like "cautious" and "very difficult to know". The last time Wilshere went down with an ankle injury, he was gone for 17 months, so it's alarming to see what was once a two- to three-week rest get extended for a few weeks, and in a way that feels indefinite rather than specific.

While it's true that we can probably get by over the next few weeks against the likes of Reading, West Brom, and Norwich, the longer-term picture is harder to feel good about. I'm not referring to tougher matches down the line or securing 4th place this season. I'm worried that Wilshere runs the risk of getting "Diaby-ized", succumbing to a string of injuries that keep him out of action and that gradually erode his form. Speaking of Diaby, news from has him with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which will knock him out for eight to nine months. The report is quite skimpy, barely five sentences, but it's terrible news for a player already plagued by injury. I genuinely feel bad for Diaby, victim to a string of injuries that would be positively laughable if it wasn't so sad.  At the risk then of reducing the man to a symbol, let's hope that Wilshere, Wenger, and the medical team learn from Diaby's example and err on the side of excessive caution. If this means that Wilshere sits for the rest of the season, so be it. He's too young and too bold to be asked about his own fitness; he might try to rush himself back too soon, and there's no good reason for that. Yes, I know 4th place is a prized target, but Wilshere is the kind of player we hope to have and build around for the next decade, if not longer.

Diaby's case is a bit more complicated. Does this mark the end of his time with Arsenal? Could it mark the end of his career? A torn ACL is no sprain, inflammation, or bruise. This is going to take time, and when he does come back, the lingering mental and physical trauma is likely to plague quite a while longer than the injury itself. Here's hoping he comes back in 10 months a new man.

We'll come back later with more upbeat news on the squad and the upcoming match with Reading. For now, hope the two lads recover quickly...

22 March 2013

A Plague of Injuries

Oh, to be healthy. Where would we be if key players had remained fit? Looking at just six key players reveals a total of 65 games missed due to injury. Can you imagine where we'd be if we could cut this plague in half? Holy man. This alone could account for the difference between us and Spurs, or even us and Chelsea. Then, instead of peering up at one or both of them, we'd be squinting down at them, and perhaps nipping at the heels of a few clubs from Manchester.

18 March 2013

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Diaby?

I think we'll agree that Abou Diaby has been one of  the most frustrating and disappointing players of the last few years. As this season began, he appeared to have come back from last year's injuries through a string of strong performances, such as when he completely dominated Liverpool when we went to Anfield. Then, he went down again in September against Chelsea. Since his return in January, his performance has been uneven, and that's putting it mildly.
However, before we come down too hard on the man, let's remember a few things--he's "only" 26, for one. I say this because, due to his injuries, he's made just 122 Prem appearances for us over eight years. That's a number that a healthy player can reach in just over three seasons. This deprives him of valuable experience and delays his development. To miss all of those games and practice sessions can only mean that his form is going to suffer. Then there's the mental aspect of it--once a player suffers an injury, the doubt and tentativeness set in: "will I get hurt again?" What's more, one injury can trigger another. It seems that Jack Wilshere's new ankle injury, if only to prove that it happens to everyone's fave, could come down to adjustments he made to his stride, consciously or otherwise. The number of knocks Diaby has suffered must also be personally frustrating to him. He doesn't strike me as a lazy man content to draw a check for doing nothing. If he was, Arshavin is there to remind that him that that position has already been filled.

Now that he's back and apparently healthy, and with Wilshere down for a few more weeks, we need him to stay healthy. He turned in one of strongest performances of the year against Swansea (granted, he's only made ten appearances) even if he was occasionally tentative, rusty, or slow. Despite this, he brings elements to the game that we sometimes lack. For one, he's the only midfielder we have who can't moonlight as a Smurf. He's been compared to Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure as he can bomb up and down the field, box-to-box, and constantly looks to press forward. It's ironic, given his history of fragility, that he's one of our more-rugged players, looking for and making aggressive tackles. Maybe it's not so much ironic as apt that a player who goes in for challenges is going to get hurt. Most of his injuries are strains--and this is something that can be prevented through stretching, yoga, and warming up. I can't claim to know what his pre-game ritual includes, of course, but more of x, y or z might be worth considering.

There have been calls suggesting that we should sell him in the summer, but I think we'd be fools to do so. He wouldn't be the first player to show flashes of brilliance from beneath a veneer of injuries. A certain striker struggled through injuries for just as long as Diaby has; when he finally played a full season, he scored 30 Prem League goals for us. I'm not suggesting that Diaby is going to emerge from his own history in similar style. I'm just saying that, for as rare as those moments of brilliance have been, it's worth keeping him around just a little longer. He should have at least five more years of quality football left in him, and if he can regain any of the form and class he showed against Liverpool, it would be a fine time indeed.