In 2005, Patrick Vieira left the Emirates Stadium. After years of loyal service in the Red of Arsenal, he wanted a new challenge and he duly signed for Juventus, although his career would never reach the heights of when his name was being sung on the close terraces of Highbury. Perhaps, he knew that the team of Invincibles of 2004 would herald the last of a glorious generation of players for Arsene Wenger’s team, as the team failed to win any more trophies in nine years in which they coped with the financial strain of a new stadium.
Monsieur Wenger consolidated his new philosophy of youth, signing emerging talents from around the globe as the club looked to balance the books. The old guard were shipped out almost unceremoniously. The likes of Pires, Ljumberg, Henry all left soon after that heart-wrenching Champions League final defeat to Barcelona, where they came so close to winning the ‘Big Ears’, yet ultimately falling short, a soon to be familiar tale in the next decade.
The January transfer window of 2006 saw Arsenal sign a highly rated 19-year-old French central midfielder with the name of About Diaby. Trained at the famous Clairefontaine academy, everyone associated with Arsenal were super excited about this precocious talent as they hoped he would signal the beginning of another era of dominance, which was been threatened by a Jose Mourinho inspired Chelsea.
Tall, gangly looking and exceptional on the ball, Diaby played with grace in his early Arsenal career. The comparisms with Vieira could not be ignored as both had similar physical stature and astute football intelligence, though the World Cup winner was more of a destroyer than his successor. He played well in his first season at the club, but a nasty injury suffered against Sunderland should have been a sign of things to cone, and he never recovered from that unfortunate incident.
A somewhat loss of confidence, and fear while playing led to a drastic fall from grace, though Wenger stuck with his compatriot for a long time. A whopping 42 injuries in 9 years at Arsenal makes for some unpleasant reading, but most will remember Diaby for his injury worries rather than the brilliant way he played his game. Laid back, and then in an instant, he has left defenders in his wake with his long legs. He left Arsenal in 2015 after 19 goals in just 180 matches, a sad return for an otherwise gifted player.
He is currently playing for Marseilles and has admitted to confidence issues, which may ultimately lead to an early retirement from the game. Yet, he will leave the game with his head held high, because he knows that fitness and injuries robbed him of what could have been an exceptional career, not lack of talent or hard work. The chances of Diaby retiring soon is quite low, using the free bets that bookies offer, bettors may want to add this to their football accumulator nonetheless, as the returns would be massive if things turn to their way.
The man of glass as he is fondly called is not one he would hold with fond memories. It is a cruel reminder of the unfortunate state of a promising career. We will always remember you, Diaby.