Arsenal’s forgotten man in battle for team selection when fit

Diaby nowhere near first-team return - where next for the France international ?

Such is the focus on who Arsenal will or will not sign during the January transfer window, the recent distressing news surrounding Abou Diaby virtually sank without trace.

Midfielder Diaby has not featured for Arsenal since March last year, after damaging his cruciate knee ligaments. He had been expected to return within the next few weeks, but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that the French player has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation.

Asked if Diaby will play again this season, Wenger replied simply: 'I don’t know'.

It is a sad prospect for Diaby, who, despite being a player who divides opinion among Arsenal fans, has been a loyal servant to the club since he joined from Auxerre seven years ago. On his day, the powerful enforcer drew comparisons with Arsenal great Patrick Vieira.

The 27-year-old had started to produce some of his best form before his injury, but his career has been littered with injuries – an incredible 17 in total - and even in the 2012-13 season, when Diaby was at the top of his game, he managed only 16 appearances. He is also now unlikely to make Frances’s World Cup squad for Brazil.

Wenger has so many central midfield options at his disposal that even if Diaby were fit, however, it is questionable whether he would be featuring for the first team. In the past, Diaby was a useful alternative to Arteta and Jack Wilshere. Now, Wenger can call on the ever-improving Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini to play in the centre. Arsenal finally has strength in depth, and Diaby faces a battle to get back into the team when he does return to full fitness.

The French player is out of contract in the summer of 2015, and that may well be the point at which Wenger reluctantly agrees that player and club must go their separate ways.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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