On this day in 2006, Abou Diaby made his debut for Arsenal in a 1-0 loss to Everton.
Diaby signed for Arsenal on 16 January 2006 from Auxerre for a reported £2m, where he’d also played at youth level. During his two years at the French club, he only made 14 senior appearances in all competitions but, while he trained with the first team, he would often feature for the reserves.
During Diaby’s first half a season in north London, he made 12 Premier League appearances, and two in the Champions League, scoring and assisting once. He was a massively promising player with a graceful, gazelle-like style of play; able to skip past other midfielders with ease.
However, tragedy struck on 1 May against Sunderland when a horrific ‘tackle’ from defender, Dan Smith, shattered Diaby’s ankle.
After three surgeries and eight months of rehabilitation, Diaby returned to action in a League Cup match against Liverpool. He only played 16 minutes but Arsenal won 6-3.
Diaby scored his first goal for Arsenal on 22 September 2007 when we beat Derby 5-0.
In February 2008, the Frenchman picked up a thigh strain, which kept him out for eight games. Little did we know, this was just the start of a life-long battle against injuries, which would ultimately lead to him being let go. Although, not until many years later.
In August 2008, Diaby missed five days with a groin strain, then strained his thigh again and missed a further 13 games. It appeared that the ankle fracture had caused an imbalance in his body, which resulted in injuries elsewhere.
Diaby was out injured 18 times while at Arsenal with the longest stint on the sidelines being 391 days with a cruciate ligament rupture.
Frustratingly, when fit, he was a simply wonderful player to watch and a personal favourite of mine. Despite his long limbs, he made football look so easy and fluid – a typical Arsene Wenger player, which is probably why the boss encouraged him to stick around for so long.
In total, Abou Diaby only made 179 appearances (44 as a substitute) during his nine years in north London. He scored 19 goals.
In July 2015, Diaby signed for Marseille, although the injuries that have plagued his career to date still continue to be a problem. He’s made just five Ligue 1 appearances since joining and, at 30 years old, you have to wonder whether he’ll call it a day sooner rather than later.