Lady Luck is a fickle friend.
Here at Daily Cannon we’ve already covered how it can play a part in the making of a career, as so epitomised by Coquelin this season.
Since joining Arsenal in 2006 as a precocious 19-year-old, Abou Diaby has made 180 appearances, at an average of 20 per season and a best of 40 in 2009-10.
It’s hard to escape the view that he is the very definition of injury prone.
But it didn’t have to be this way.
A LOT TO ANSWER FOR
Arsene has been on record saying that Abou is not injury prone. Earlier this season he said:
“He is not a fragile player. He was he victim of an assassin’s tackle which went unpunished.”
And he’s absolutely right.
He is of course referencing Dan Smith’s disgusting tackle in May 2006 which has effectively ended Diaby’s career, pulverising his ankle to the point where it required three initial operations just to fix it in the first place.
It was a tackle that left Diaby’s career ambitions in tatters, told he may never play again, while it was the only memorable moment of Smith’s own career, sold by Sunderland that same summer.
After a series of seasons where Diaby played more each season than the last, and still only 23 years of age, it was perhaps understandable in the summer of 2010 to think the player was finally over his troubles.
The two prior years he had clocked up consecutive seasons of 36 and 40 appearances, but that certainly hasn’t been the case since, with Diaby playing just 42 games in total in the following five seasons in total.
Clearly in the last few years then, Diaby has not been a player who can be relied upon – any contribution he makes has to be looked upon as a bonus.
Wenger continues to have faith in Diaby, and although it’s easy to airbrush him into some sort of godlike perfection, on the rare occasions he has had any kind of run of games, he’s shown the glimpses of talent which are exactly why we bought him in the first place and why we’ve stuck with him for so long.
However, in our frustration with each year that Arsene fails to purchase someone to plug that gap in the squad, it’s all too easy to forget that this is not Diaby’s fault.
By all means rant at the manager, but the player himself has done nothing to warrant our venom.
So what comes next for Abou?
HEART OF STONE
If you don’t have any sympathy for Diaby and his predicament, then you have a heart of stone.
A rather nice salary helps soften the blow, of course it does, but money is not everything and in terms of fulfilment he must be at a horrendously low ebb.
Imagine the dedication and drive it must take to pick yourself up time after time. We often talk about how hope is the killer, and for Diaby he must see the carrot of a return to action dangled in front of him only to be snatched away again.
But football clubs are not charities, and that’s why when his contract expires come the summer, Arsenal will have a major decision to make. Even the strongest (or most stubborn) Diaby advocate cannot argue for a new contract in the current circumstances, and it’s hard to see the player making a strong enough comeback between now and May to change that.
However, there is precedent here – injury hit players such as Owen Hargreaves and Michael Owen (hiss!) have signed pay-as-you-play deals with Manchester City and Manchester United respectively to be accommodated in top level squads without placing a financial burden on the clubs and angering the fans.
Abou Diaby would seem a perfect candidate for such a deal. He might not ever have achieved the kind of contract he once looked destined to deserve, but he won’t exactly be living at the poverty line either.
COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS
What it comes down to really is the cost that Arsenal would incur by offering the player a pay-as-you-play opportunity.
On the cost side, the only costs that the club would incur are in the event that he did play (a great outcome for all parties) or for the cost of the facilities and staff to help him with his various training and recovery work.
These are facilities and staff that Arsenal have to employ to serve the rest of the squad, and as long as working with Diaby doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the other players, then it’s hard to see the downside here.
There is a school of thought that Diaby needs to leave the club to draw a line under this phase of his life and be able to move on. Ultimately that decision rests with the player, and if he wants to go then by all means we should wish him all the best and move on too.
However, if he wants to stay (and its on the right terms) then I fail to see the downside really.
Let’s look at the potential benefits.
We could potentially have a fantastic player on our hands, one without too many miles on the clock, one who will be very grateful to the club for sticking by him and one who most definitely had a point to prove.
We often talk about how loyalty is missing from the modern game, but it’s hard to see Diaby not wanting to pay back the club – and the manager – who have supported him through thick and thin.
Then there is another of the perils of modern football – young players who think they’ve got it made.
If there is anything to keep up-and-coming players grounded, seeing Diaby working hard to come back must be very sobering. It’s only a very small element of the equation, but it can’t do any harm for them to have a reminder of how they can’t take anything for granted.
Finally there is the soppy reason – and you’ll have to indulge me here.
Everyone loves a happy ending.
Just imagine for a moment (and remember that there is no cost involved here) Diaby returns to some semblance of fitness and scores the winning goal in a final or puts in a Man of the Match performance in a title deciding clash.
Think about how much more rewarding that would be for the number of hurdles he and the club have had to overcome together to get to that point. The lows are what make the highs even better and all that.
REMEMBER WHAT YOU REPRESENT
The very subject of Diaby is inevitably very emotive.
I don’t agree with the way we have gambled on his fitness to play a part in our season every year, but I don’t have a problem with him remaining at the club as long as it’s not to the detriment of our signing other players or paying them more.
Ultimately, I’m proud to support a club that operates on a different level to most mercenary clubs, a club that supports its players through thick and thin, a club that has class oozing out of every aspect.
From where I sit, the club has done its utmost to do right by Abou, and the player himself has made all the right noises, saying:
“I want to be thankful to him and show him that he is right.”
We all want him to be right, but at this point we are talking in hope not expectation.
That same hope that Diaby faces every time he laces up his boots after a lay-off.
But what are we without hope?
Sign him up.