An ex-Arsenal player retired today. A player who is held in the highest regard by the majority of Gooners, despite playing only 124 times in the nine years he represented the club.
Vassiriki Abou Diaby was at Arsenal for quite some time, and the opinion from experts and players alike was that, if it weren’t for the ridiculous string of injuries Diaby suffered, that the midfielder would have been one of the finest exponents of the midfield arts.
Now 32, Diaby moved to Marseille in 2015, after repeated attempts to regain his fitness.
The reason for these setbacks and the career that never reached its burgeoning potential happened in 2006.
After impressing all in his early Arsenal career, his first season as a Gunner in fact, a tackle from journeyman Dan Smith led to a severe ankle fracture. Arsene Wenger described the tackle as ‘horrendous’ and the road to recovery was one that never ended.
Season after season of false dawns followed, but there were highlights.
Diaby, despite not being at his perceived best, still represented his country. He still went to a World Cup. In his fleeting appearances for Arsenal, he was slotted straight into the side, and each minute gave us all hope that he would maintain fitness.
We all held our breath and hoped that we would see Diaby for a whole season. It never quite happened, but it was his ability to glide past players, pick a pass, tackle, and rifle a shot, that gave us all massive optimism.
Diaby was special, and capable of anything. It wasn’t unrealistic to think of what could’ve been when we think of Diaby. Even Paul Pogba recently stated that Diaby was a better player than he was.
It would have been true too, if not for that tackle against Sunderland.
Diaby now opens up another chapter in his career, but for those who saw him in full flow, we can look back on a player who was not just a diamond found by our scouts, but he could have been one of our finest.
For those who aren’t aware of Diaby’s immeasurable talents, just ask one of your fellow Gooners what they thought of him, and dig up a few videos.
There’s a reason Arsenal are commemorating his retirement, and that for five years and hardly any minutes on the pitch, we continued to renew his contract.
He was too good to let go.