09 June 2013

Will Abou Diaby be swept up in the summer clear-out?

Full disclosure: I write as one who has himself recently torn his own ACL and even before that was a strong believer in the idea that Diaby would throw off the awful plague of injuries that have bedeviled him since Sunderland, 2006. That he came back from that injury at all, even if he's had to endure setback after setback, one tantalizing return after another dashed, each more cruelly than the last, was once cause for joy. However, when he tore his ACL in March, it  looked like a career long on promise but short on delivery had been derailed once and for all.

With an injury set to keep him out of action until January 2014 and a contract set to expire in June 2015, he and the club face some hard questions. On one hand, he's 27, an age at which many players start to peak. Will he peak a little later due to all of the time he has missed through injury? We could see him return to the pitch late in the upcoming campaign rejuvenated, completely rebuilt and recovered from this and various other injuries that have beset him. We don't have to look far for examples of such resurrections. Here in the U.S., the American footballer Adrian Peterson returned from ACL surgery to reclaim his status as one of the the sport's most electrifying athletes. He was 26 when he tore his ACL. He came back for the 2012 season and earned the league's Most Valuable Player award and finished second for Comeback Player of the Year. Had he rushed for nine more yards, he would have broken a 28 year-old record for rushing yards.

On the other hand, Diaby has never made it through a complete season in the Prem.

I offer the American football stats as a suggestion that Diaby could come back just as good if not better than he's ever been. Go back to his performance against Liverpool back in September and tell me you wouldn't want that man back. He was everywhere in an effortless yet dominating performance. At full-strength, he would solve quite a few dilemmas. Arsene has been mocked (and rightly so) for announcing each of Diaby's returns from injury as being like a "new signing", but to some extent that's true. Diaby hasn't played more than 20 games across all competitions since 2010-11. Even Tomas Rosicky, similarly beset by injury, has bested that mark five times in seven seasons. When he does come back, he shows what he's capable of. However, in the process, some injury or another inevitably arises.

Therefore, the question then becomes, at what point do we cut our losses? After all, the pressure that the club and player have felt to rush back from injury has no doubt been immense. With each setback, the cat-calls have grown in strength and number, as has the urgency to prove those critics wrong. It's a terribly vicious cycle. Arguably, the pressure to deliver for a club of our ambitions may have forced the man to short-change his rehabilitation, rushing back and overdoing it when a longer break may have cured his ills. Therefore, as much as I would love to see him come back to terrorize teams in January or February 2014, I find myself wondering if it's finally time to cut our losses. Loan the man out to a smaller club, a mid-table club, and let him take his time feeling his way through his recovery. If that doesn't work, he will have had a chance to showcase his skills enough to earn a decent transfer next summer.

He's taken some stick for his injuries, but he's not a loafer content to cash a check each week. If anything, his problem may be just the opposite. Perhaps if he had had just a touch more of the Arshavin in him, he'd have let his body heal properly before charging back into the fray.

What do you think, then? Does the man have a future with Arsenal, or has that ship sailed? Should we save a spot for him, or look to palm him off on some other club in need of a languid yet potentially dominant midfielder?