Vassiriki Abou Diaby. Few players in my time watching Arsenal have been such a lightning rod for criticism as Abou Diaby.
Two years ago, I was at the Liverpool away game which Arsenal won 2-1 and Diaby came on in the 53rd minute after Jordan Henderson shouldered Mikel Arteta and sent him to the hospital. The guy immediately behind me saw that Diaby was coming on and let loose a stream of invective at the player which was finally stopped when his friend told him to get a grip.
Diaby had a pretty good game that day, but having not played since November, he limped off injured in the 80th minute, replaced by Ox. Again, the guy behind me lost his biscuits and started screaming about how Diaby’s terrible and he should never play for Arsenal again. At the time I thought that between the injuries and the invective there was no way that Diaby would come back.
But really that’s the story of Diaby, he just keeps coming back.
He was initially injured by Dan Smith in a Sunderland match which Arsenal were romping to a 3-0 win. Diaby had the ball on the touch line in the 90th minute and Smith came in high and late breaking Diaby’s foot and dislocating his ankle. Referee Dermot Gallagher showed Smith a yellow card as Diaby was stretchered off to furious protests from the Arsenal players.
After the match Arsene criticized the player and the Sunderland set up saying that all they wanted to do was kick Arsenal. Caretaker manager Kevin Ball responded with “Let them say what they want to say, Dan Smith is not a dirty player. He’s gone for the ball. It wasn’t malicious.” It’s a refrain that Arsenal have heard ad nauseam now. Any time a player breaks an Arsenal player’s leg they are “not that kind of player” and any time we complain about it, we are “moaning like a drain”.
Pic via Arseblog
But Diaby came back. And each time he’s come back he’s been kicked off the pitch. He was kicked by Joey Barton, by Essien, by Paul Robinson, and by just about every “hard man” in the League. Each time he came up injured. Each time he mounted a comeback. Each time he got injured again.
And he came back again this year and sure enough, I’m at another away game, this time Swansea, and there was a different guy in the stands yelling out that he hoped Diaby would break his leg and never play for Arsenal again. And yesterday Arsenal announced that Diaby tore an ACL in training and is out for 9 months. I guess that guy at Swansea away got his wish.
But much of the criticism for Diaby, directed at Diaby, is unwarranted. He’s never been injured doing something stupid like skateboarding drunk at the company Christmas party. He’s not the one who offered him the contract that he’s currently playing on. He didn’t sell Song and not replace him. All that Diaby has ever done is tried to play football and he’s been injured in the process.
From what Matt Law has said on twitter (he interviewed the player) Diaby hears all the criticism but he compartmentalizes it and just gets on with his life. This is a man who just wants to play football. He takes extra training, he eats right, he does everything that the club and doctors tell him to do. In short, he has done everything right and like Francis Macomber faces up to his fears, shows courage as the buffalo is charging, only to be shot at from the peanut gallery.
I don’t get why people are so angry at Diaby. If you want to be angry about something be angry at the players who have serially kicked Diaby. Be angry that the Premier League and the referees have allowed this player to be kicked off the pitch. Be angry that Jack Wilshere is now receiving the same treatment. Be very angry about that last thing because you know what? Jack will be next.
And sure, be angry at Arsene Wenger for giving Diaby the contract he’s on. Or for not being prescient enough to see that he would be injured time and again. Or for not selling him. Or for not replacing Song. Or for not buying enough cover. Or for whatever you want to be angry for.
But getting angry at Diaby is pointless. He’s not going to be sold now. He’s under contract until 2015. And so, I’m guessing he will be making yet another comeback. Sometime around January 2014. Probably when I’m over for another game.