Where would returning Diaby fit into Arsenal team?

Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby played 45 minutes with the U21s on Tuesday in his latest attempt to return from injury at the Emirates.

The 27-year-old Frenchman has had one of the worst injury records in top-level football ever since he suffered an ankle fracture from a tackle inflicted by Sunderland defender Dan Smith in May 2006, just five months after he signed for the Gunners from Auxerre.

He has not made a Premier League appearance this season and has managed a total of just 123 league appearances in eight years at Arsenal, effectively averaging 13 appearances per season but in the last three seasons he has managed just fifteen in total and hasn’t scored a league goal since 2010.

Diaby is a central or attacking midfielder in a similar kind of role to Patrick Vieira, which is presently occupied by Aaron Ramsey. If Kim Kallstrom doesn’t stay on a permanent basis at the Emirates, however, there may well be a space opened up for Diaby to cover Ramsey in that box-to-box role but I would suspect once the likes of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere return to from injury and Mesut Ozil is capable of playing a full 90 minutes, the French midfielder may find himself on the bench rather than the sidelines.

Arsene Wenger can rotate in and out Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini in that defensive holding midfield role, whilst Ramsey, Kallstrom and Jack Wilshere too, if need be, in the central midfield role where Diaby would likely be most likely to be deployed, and the French coach has such an array of options in that No.10 attacking midfield role, especially once Walcott returns on the wing.

If Lukas Podolski regains the manager’s faith with the kind of form he is in at present on the left, then he, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky and even Serge Gnabry can all function as wingers or attacking central midfielders for the Gunners – it would take a huge amount of bad luck with injuries to see Diaby deployed in that role and it would likely require Kallstrom to leave, no replacement to come in and Ramsey to suffer another injury for Diaby to get a chance in central midfield. Meanwhile, with his fragile fitness and the ankle injury he still struggles to overcome, there is no way he could fill in as a defensive midfielder.

He is 27-years of age and enters the final year of his contract this June and I suspect, once he is fully fit, he will be sold elsewhere. Wenger is a huge fan of his and it is such a shame was has become of his career, given his immense talent and potential but his fitness issues have meant he is just a wasted name on the squad sheet that gets registered each season. It’s unfortunate – for him, for Arsenal and for France – but it’s seems increasingly unlikely that Abou Diaby will be able to fulfil his potential at Arsenal and if he wants to have a chance a regular first-team football, we will likely need to move on to achieve that.

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