The nearly man – The unfulfilled talent of Abou Diaby

Abou Diaby once labelled as the next Patrick Vieira. A holding midfield talent who never quite reached his best.

With a shocking number of injuries it’s easy to see why his career never really took off.

His potential was frightening, he had the ability and athleticism to make Vieira look average.

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From the moment he stepped on the field on his debut game for Arsenal in January 2006 the future looked promising for the 6ft 4ins French midfielder.

He controlled the middle with his imperious presence, looking right at home in an Arsenal shirt.

However, his career didn’t take off the way it should have. And with a fractured ankle in May 2006 his injuries woes started.

The injury was never one that he could shake off and became a big part to why he struggled being a consistent player in the Arsenal team.

The potential remained and with many people wanting to see him flourish in the league, it just wasn’t meant to be. His career was in jeopardy with all the injury problems occurring during his time at Arsenal.

But one thing that no one can take away from the French player was his courage and determination to continue playing.

Throughout his Arsenal career the Frenchman had to patiently deal with small injuries that kept him from playing a full season with the Gunners.

His seasons were always cut short through some sort of injury tear or strain that had to be dealt with caution because of Diaby’s proneness to long term damage.

Watching Arsenal it was hard to see Diaby play a full game, and the feeling was that Arsenal supporters and football supporters in general wanted to see Diaby succeed after all adversity he faced with injuries.

Each season he played for Arsenal there were moments of hope. People thought he might just be starting to fulfil his potential.

There were games that made you wonder whether he may gain the confidence and strength to be Arsenal’s leading midfielder.

With a midfield that had so much talent including Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, and Tomas Rosicky his ability would have developed for sure.

Thankfully, Arsenal were patient with Abou Diaby and when he was fit they gave him the chance to prove himself in games that were very tough.

The one game that will always stand out about Diaby is the game against Liverpool in the 2012-2013 season, and with Alex Song leaving for Barcelona it was time for Diaby to secure his place in the team which he so rightfully deserved.

The Liverpool game that saw Arsenal win 2-0 and Diaby receive man-of-the-match was what footballing fans wanted to see. That day, we all saw a brilliant footballer who had overcome injury after injury to make Liverpool’s quality team look poor

He dominated the midfield intercepting key passes, and drifting past the Liverpool defence to help Arsenal win that day. It was all too good to be true for Diaby.


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Later in that same season, Diaby had again run out of luck and had suffered an injury that would end many athletes careers. He had torn his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in 2013.

From that moment on it was a rare sight to see Diaby on the field for Arsenal, and with many wondering when he’d leave the club or retire it wasn’t until 2015 when he left Arsenal.

He had joined Marseille in that summer, but his injury problems have continued ever since. At the age of 31 it’s hard to see what Diaby will do from here.

The talent Abou Diaby possessed is something as a football fan we will never see. It’s a shame because the potential and ability he had was worth what most clubs admired.

Had it not been for his injury problems, would we have seen one of the best midfielders to grace the Premier League?

Throughout his Arsenal career there were certainly signs to suggest he could do it!. The most unluckiest footballer to play the game he showed no signs of giving up and that passion is to be proud of.

His mental strength to carry on playing throughout everything he’d been through is insight into the talent he truly had.

When Arsenal fans look at Arsenal’s greatest players, unfortunately Abou Diaby will not be on that list.

With the amount of French talent Wenger produced in Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, and Thierry Henry, it will certainly frustrate the manager to not see the name of Diaby on that list.

Wenger kept Diaby from 2006-2015, and not many managers would keep a player on for that long who wouldn’t play.

But Diaby was obviously different, Wenger must have seen the promise that the tall French player could give to the title chasing Arsenal squad.

Had the Premier League seen just one full season out of Diaby it would have been something special. Could he have been that key player that took Arsenal over the line in the attempt to win a League title?

Let’s not forget he also made numerous appearances for the French national team, and especially in the 2010 World Cup.

Despite not being 100% fit for the majority of his career, he was still capable of being a top performer whenever he was fit.

The fact he even played for France in such a strong French team as well is a shock for someone who had suffered injuries all over his legs.

Abou Diaby, the forgotten talent. The nearly man. His talent will never be remembered because of his injury blighted career that shadowed his potential to be better than any Premier league midfielder.

Just think, one good season for Alex Song and he went to Barcelona.

Not saying he’s not talented, but Diaby’s label of being better than Vieira is a sign he had the ability to be a feared midfielder for Arsenal for many years.

If only he had a second chance.

The Author

Liam Haycock

From growing up in a village in England, to living in Washington D.C., America. English Degree from the University of the District of Columbia. Former Student-Athlete in Soccer. I'm a big Arsenal fan with a passion for writing.

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