Abou Diaby was interviewed this week in France Football following his right ankle operation that will see him out for four months.
Here are some of the interesting Arsenal bits.
The French midfielder has followed the same path at Olympique de Marseille as he did during his Arsenal career when it comes to injuries.
He was asked if it was difficult to watch the game from the stands:
“There was a time at Arsenal when I did not go to the games any more. It was hard not to be able to be on the pitch. I was always asked the same question: when are you coming back? But I was never depressed.”
Then comes a question about his injuries from the kids’ football, to the youth team and senior football:
“My first big injury, the one that had the biggest impact was when I had my ankle dislocated at 19 years old with Arsenal.”
He then gets asked if his career would have taken a different turn without that tackle from Dan Smith in 2006.
“Certainly, this injury generated multiple muscular pathologies that prevented me from improving. Especially I have always have had a healthy life.”
Then he asked if the remembers anything of the injury aftermath.
“It was special, the game was played in Sunderland. They had to drive me back to London for the operation. There was about four hours’ drive, but I was not allowed to move, they had to give me painkillers. The club doctor was with me. I was not crying but I was extremely angry.”
You can feel that Diaby is still really angry about what happened 10 years ago:
“I felt the tackle was made on purpose as there was only one minute of the game remaining. I pushed the ball and then he came from behind. And when someone comes to hurt you, you know it, you can feel it”
I have played football as a defender or defensive midfielder for more than 30 years now and what Diaby says is quite truthful. When you are in position to go strongly at a player and use the full force knowing you can hit the player and or the ball and do some damages, you know exactly what you are doing. Because, you can always pull out of a tackle or simply go with a lot less energy and force.
The usual rubbish that we hear “he is not that kind of player”, when the Arsenal players got injured (Diaby, Ramsey or Eduardo) are really a joke. Players know what they are doing and the extent of the damage they can do. But they do not care, they just go for it and the Arsenal players pay the consequences.
He gets asked if he knew the extent of the injury and what would happen next:
“Yes the doctors told me that I had really lost a lot of mobility in my ankle. When you know that the weight of your body is supported by your feet.”
Did he question his career?
“Following my ACL in training in March 2013, my first reaction was: wow ACL, that’s it, I am rehabilitating and healing, I am it packing in, it is too much now. Then 48 hours later I was more like, now let’s get back to work.”
Then he gets asked if he thought about retiring when Arsenal released him in 2015.
“Not at all.”
Abou Diaby subsequently signed on a free for Olympique de Marseille and has played two games this season.
He then gets reminded that a website counted 42 injuries in nine season at Arsenal and people wonder how and why he keeps fighting to come back.
“I understand why people are wondering this. The ACL took a lot of time to heal. It was a difficult part of my life because I lost my mum around that time. It took me eight to nine months to come back, but I was happy. While I was recovering, I managed to spend more time than ever with her. It’s like things happen for a reason. Everything that I have learnt during that period will stay with me for my whole life.”
He gets asked about his best season at Arsenal and he says 2009-10 where he played 46 games:
“At the end of the 2008-09 season, I told my brother that I was missing something in my game. I needed to raise my physical performance level to be able to play more games. I met Renaud Longuevre (track and field director for France) in the Summer 2009. I told him I was ready to have only six days off and then work hard to prepare until the club pre-season.
“I wanted to have a physical strength base load for the season and it worked. I was getting less injuries, my physical recovery was a lot quicker than before. I could do one, two, three or four games in a row. At the end of the season my body was not giving me any problems any more. It was magnificent.
“I had a chat with Arsene and he said “are you ready to reach another level?” I answered that it was my ultimate aim. I then started the 2010-11 season very well. I came on as a sub against Bolton 11 September and then I got tackled badly (he claps his hands). After this my fitness dropped. It completely destroyed my season and created new problems. I started having big hamstring injuries something that never happened to me in the past.”
What could have happened without those injuries?
“I had no limit, one day somebody talked about the Ballon d’Or, I said that I dreamed about it. I have always had big targets, like being one of the best in my position.”
Many coaches at home thought he could have taken over from Zidane as the France playmaker in the National team and was always rated by all the France managers.
“I am not saying this because I am ostentatious, but in life, certain people are ambitious while others are not.”
It is clearly a case of what may have been. If Dan Brown had not destroyed his ankle and condemned him to years and years of struggle.