Celebrating Diaby: The Midfielder’s Best Moments at Arsenal
It’s one of those mornings when you wish you slept on time in the previous night because your alarm turned into your enemy, making its usual noises that’s meant to wake you up but you keep snoozing till you can snooze no more. Here I am with a hot cup of coffee (something I don’t usually drink) trying to publish a quickie before I get ready for my work activities of the day.
Yesterday, the club published a list of the players they have been released. Youngsters like Jack Jebb, Austin Lipman, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Josh Vickers have been sent packing but they’d be joined by Abou Vassiriki Diaby that has reached the end of his Arsenal career after 10 seasons with the club. Diaby joined from AJ Auxerre for a reported £2 million and it was reported that he turned down advances from Chelsea to make the move to Arsenal. After 180 games for the club, I’ve decided to relive those moments that endeared Diaby to the fans, that will always be sympathetic to him due to his numerous injury problems.
Making his Arsenal Debut
It was never easy for a 19-year-old youngster like Diaby to break into the first team following his acquisition from Auxerre but Arsene Wenger put him on the bench when the Gunners visited Goodison Park to take on David Moyes and his hordes. Arsène Wenger had gone into this game without five defenders – Ashley Cole (thigh), Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue (both international commitments), Gael Clichy (foot) and Pascal Cygan (thigh) and in addition, Robin van Persie (toe) was out and Dennis Bergkamp was saved for Tuesday’s Carling Cup Semi-Final second leg against Wigan – which the Gunners still lost.
Everton grabbed what proved to be the only goal of the game when James Beattie latched onto a Tim Cahill cross to put the game beyond doubt. Wenger brought on Aliaksandr Hleb for Kerrea Gilbert in his bid to get something out of the game. With nine minutes to go, Wenger took out Robert Pires and handed Diaby his debut. It was a overwhelming situation for the lad but he managed to do okay that night.
His Goals, All 19 of Them
Diaby chipped in with the odd goal or two during his time at the club and his first ever goal against Aston Villa bellied his youthful years by smashing the back of Thomas Sorensen’s net after getting a threaded pass from Emmanuel Adebayor. He went on to score 19 goals for the club and the YouTube clip focuses on his top 10 for your viewing pleasure.
Kicking ‘Racism’ Out of Football
It was the 2007 Carling Cup final and Wenger had the audacity to play some of his youngsters in a game when experience would have been key. Jose Mourinho featured the likes of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho in defense, Claude Makelele, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard in midfield, Didier Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko in attack. Wenger opted for youngsters like Justin Hoyte, Armand Traore, Phillippe Sendeors, Denilson, Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Diaby and even Jeremie Aliadiere.
Two goals from Drogba settled the contest and won Chelsea the competition but Diaby will always be remembered for kicking Terry on the face, albeit mistakenly, in the box.
It was a scary moment for the neutrals as they watched in anguish and wished the best for Terry, but it was ‘trolled’ afterwards as ‘kicking racism out of football when Terry was involved in the racial abuse allegations with Anton Ferdinand a couple of years after.
Forming that Formidable Midfield Trio with Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song
After a couple of injury problems, Diaby found some measure of fitness at the start of the 2009/10 season where he featured consistently for the Gunners. He forged a great understanding with Fabregas and Song scoring seven goals and creating six assists. This turned out to be his best season in Arsenal colors.
A Fantastic Outing at Anfield
Arsenal beat Liverpool at the start of the 2012/13 season with goals from Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski but the undisputed Man of the Match was Abou Diaby. The Frenchman ran the show that day, making himself available for every pass and bossing things in midfield. One of the best individual performances I’ve seen from a Gunner.
Scoring his First (and Only) Goal for France
Representing your nation is biggest honor that can be bestowed on a player, but scoring for your nation, especially when it was a goal that won the game for your team in a World Cup qualifier must be a high point from a personal perspective.
Diaby seems unlikely to add to his 16 caps for France but he can take some confidence in the fact that he was one of their best players in the 2010 World Cup, a tournament France plummeted downhill due to poor performances on the pitch and indiscipline off it.
Making his Long Awaited Comeback against Norwich
Diaby suffered an ACL injury that sidelined him for nine months and it seemed as if his career was over. However, he made his long awaited comeback in the Gunners 2-0 over Norwich two seasons ago when he came on as a sub for Tomas Rosicky. He had a few touches in the game and every touch was greeted with a roar from the Arsenal faithful, showing their appreciation for their player.
It was a good adventure between the Gunners and Abou Diaby but he will always be remembered for his injury problems.
180 games, 19 goals, 16 assists – that’s the legacy he left at the club.
I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.
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