Arsenal: Arsene Wenger and the Abou Diaby Dilemma
It's like a recurring dream. Picture the following:
One of your favourite sons starts to run, but as soon as he nears the finish line—every single time—he stumbles and falls, unable to continue.
Doesn't that remind you of Arsene Wenger and Abou Diaby?
Diaby is undeniably talented. When on the pitch—as showcased as recently as early this season, in spellbinding displays in August and September—his deft touch, superb control and insightful vision is only complemented by his physicality, his eagerness and strength in the tackle.
But therein the start of that statement lies his crippling troubles. Diaby is injury-prone—so much so, that since his arrival at the Emirates Stadium in the summer months of 2006, he's suffered a jaw-dropping 17 injuries and has only managed 178 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions since then (via Transfermarkt.de).
Now, when Diaby is healthy, he provides a (mostly) reliable alternative to Mikel Arteta or Jack Wilshere in one of Arsenal's two central midfield roles—while he could play in the attacking midfielder's role currently held by Tomas Rosicky, his especial talent lies elsewhere.
What should Arsene Wenger do about Abou Diaby?
His usefulness to Wenger, and that he features in Le Professeur's plans for next season and perhaps beyond, is evident. As far back as this time last year, Wenger held firm on his belief that Diaby would stay fit, even selling Alex Song to Barcelona insomuch as thinking Diaby could compensate, and for a time, he did.
But making only 11 performances in the Premier League in the 2012/13 season just gone, hampered because of various injury problems, is certainly not what Wenger wants.
So what can Diaby do to prolong his Arsenal career?
He could cut short his international career—having played only 16 games for France since his first cap in 2007, curtailed by those same injury issues that have plagued his Arsenal career, it might seem as if his international career is a lost cause. But still, Didier Deschamps has still been keen to call Diaby into his squad for friendlies and the like, evidenced by trying to call him up earlier in the year.
So while that doesn't seem likely, what can Wenger do on his part?
A squad rotation role could work, seeing Diaby get regular minutes on the pitch but working him back to fitness slowly. It's obvious that Diaby wants to get fit and back to football as soon as possible every time he's consigned to the fitness room—that much is clear by his energetic performances for the club whenever fit—but maintaining that fitness seems nigh on impossible for the Frenchman.
So it would seem clear that this could potentially be Diaby's last season, his last chance to prove his doubters (and doctors) wrong.
With Arsenal constantly linked to another defensive midfield prospect in the same vein of Song or Diaby—the club's rumoured interest in Lyon midfielders Maxime Gonalons and Clement Grenier, as well as looking for a move closer to home for Southampton's midfield general Morgan Schneiderlin, is proof of such—Wenger's intent in the transfer market is becoming clearer as the weeks pass. While the manager may have kept faith in Diaby up 'til now, surely his patience must be wearing thin.
It is clear that Diaby is a loyal servant to the club, and it's clear how desperate the midfielder is to get back on the pitch and stay there. But with Arsenal needing depth—quality in the starting 11 that infuses into the bench and beyond—Wenger needs players he can trust to step in at a moment's notice.
And Diaby, as unfortunate as it is, is not that player.
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