Abou Diaby: Why It's Time Arsenal Sold Him and Looked for a Replacement

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIMarch 25, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29:  Arsenal's Abou Diaby in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on September 29, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Arsenal have had a lot of deadwood on their books during the past couple seasons. Players who contribute next to nothing to the first team somehow seem to stick around well past their expiration dates. They suck money out of the club's coffers like financial leeches and take up space on the training ground.

The club manages to ship some out on loan every season, but these players are extremely difficult to sell due to their inflated salaries and thus stick around, in some form or another, like a stubborn cough.

It might be difficult to believe that Nicklas Bendtner, Park Chu-Young, Marouane Chamakh and even Denilson are still technically Arsenal players, but their respective clubs are only entitled to their services on a temporary basis.

Still, others refuse a loan move and prefer the cushy atmosphere of Arsenal's London Colney training ground to a lesser environment. Sebastien Squillaci and Andrei Arshavin, for example, are still eligible for selection.

All these men have little to offer the club any more. A combination of age and mediocrity made them lame ducks, whose departures are inevitable.

While Abou Diaby might not be such an obvious weight dragging Arsenal down, he, too, has done all he can for Arsenal.

The Frenchman is obviously a difficult player for Arsene Wenger to part with. Despite the copious amount of injuries Diaby has suffered since Sunderland's Dan Smith nearly took his ankle off in 2006, he has remained a member of Arsenal's first-team squad.

And the list of health problems really is interminable. The 2009-10 season was the only time Diaby could remain intact for any significant continuous period of time.

After making a total of 39 Premier League appearances during his first three seasons at the club, he was restricted to just four off the bench last season and 11 this campaign.

Nevertheless, Diaby has remained. At times, it is not difficult to see what Arsene Wenger does in him. After an injury-free preseason, Diaby put in a few marvelous performances against Stoke and, especially, Liverpool.

Patrick Vieira was suddenly reincarnated in his compatriot's delicate frame.

And that was always who Diaby was intended to replace. It was no coincidence that he was signed in January 2006, during the first season Wenger had ever spent at Arsenal without the talismanic Vieira.

To quote the manager (via BBC Sport):

His ability to win the ball back is just like VieiraHe is capable of a very quick transitions from defence to attack and has fantastic strength box to box, nobody can go with him. Diaby is a bit more offensive than Vieira but when he plays a more defensive role he is very similar.

But there comes a time when a club just needs to let go.

When are all of Diaby's problems too much? After sustaining only one long-term injury this season, he has retained some modicum of form and fitness but seems a fraction of the dynamic, box-to-box midfielder that terrorized Liverpool.

He had a good statistical performance versus Swansea, but any empirical observer will tell you that his languid movement and labored passing slowed the game and killed much of Arsenal's attacking momentum.

Such mediocrity does not outweigh the void that Diaby's constant injury problems leave in the team.

With funds from his sale, Arsenal would have a sizable amount of cash, in addition to the large sum already in their coffers, to purchase a replacement (I kid, I kid), and Wenger would be able to actually make consistent use of one of the 25 precious players he is allowed to use in the Premier League.

Diaby is certainly better than Arsenal's numerous other pieces of deadwood, but there eventually comes a time—after chances and time have been generously given—to cut one's losses and say that enough is enough.