Arsenal Should Resist Restoring Abou Diaby to First Team Until Next Season

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Abou Diaby of Arsenal takes a shot on goal during the FA Cup with Budweiser fifth round match between Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers at Emirates Stadium on February 16, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Abou Diaby is back. After more than a year on the sidelines, he has finally made a return to action, playing for 45 minutes in an U21 match at the Emirates Stadium. 

Prior to the game, manager Arsene Wenger surprised the Arsenal fans by announcing Diaby was “fit and ready.” Speaking to the club's official website, Wenger declared: 

He is back in full training now and available to play. Yes of course [he could play for the first team this season], it depends how well he comes out of the game. He hasn't played for a year but physically he is ready to play, completely. It is now just decision-making, getting used to challenges again. He needs a game. 

We’re yet to hear how Diaby has recovered from his first on-field action since March 2013. However, even if he comes through unscathed, Arsenal should be cautious in their use of him. The Gunners are well-stocked in midfield. They have no need to risk the France international. He should be allowed to continue to build up his stamina over the summer and prepare fully for next season.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Mikel Arteta (R) and Abou Diaby of Arsenal warm up during a training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match against FC Bayern Muenchen at London Colney on February 18, 2013 in St Albans,
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

For some Arsenal fans, that may be difficult to stomach. Diaby’s continual injury problems have made him a figure of both fun and frustration. 

There are those who feel Arsenal should have jettisoned him long ago. However, Diaby has a contract until the summer of 2015. The way the club have stood by the player and their arrangement is commendable. 

After all, it’s not Diaby’s fault that he’s suffered so badly with injuries.

In his latest blog for 89th Minute, former Arsenal player Adrian Clarke gives an insight as to the anguish a professional goes through when they are forced to sit on the sidelines:

I fully understand the frustration at setback after setback, but come on, has the Frenchman really wanted to sit on the sidelines so often?

Of course he hasn’t. So stop abusing him.

Dan Smith’s recklessness has caused Diaby a whole world of follow-up pain. Around two-thirds, in fact 23, of those additional injuries have occurred on his right ankle or right leg – and that’s no coincidence. It’s an area of his body that’s been a constant struggle to protect.

Being an injured professional footballer is not only mind-numbingly boring; it’s also a helplessly harrowing experience.

Diaby has suffered more than most. One can only hope that this latest setback proves to be his last. 

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

When fit, there’s no doubt that he’s a tremendous player. His long stride carries him from box-to-box in a matter of moments. For a tall man, he has superb skill on the ball. Diaby is able to dance past defenders as if they’re cones on the training ground, justifiably earning comparison with former Gunners skipper Patrick Vieira. 

Unfortunately, the sight of Diaby storming through the midfield is one we’ve glimpsed far too infrequently in recent seasons. With the emergence of the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, he now finds himself at the back of a lengthy queue for a spot in the team.

However, if he can stay fit, his time will come. There’s no need to rush him. Given Diaby’s renowned frailty, hurrying in to a first-team comeback is simply too big a risk.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here