The England youngster has been one of the Gunners’ most reliable players this season since his return from 17 months out with ankle and knee problems. Another returning Gunner this season was Abou Diaby who had been sidelined for four months with a thigh injury.
The Frenchman has had a torrid time with injuries ever since Dan Smith’s horror tackle back in May 2006 fractured his ankle – there is a good chance that tackle destroyed his career.
Since then he’s suffered numerous other injuries and a long list of setbacks that so often go hand in hand with a long time out of competitive football. However, when he made his comeback (again) in October last year there was every reason to be optimistic that he can still perform well for Arsenal and France.
He is a player, regardless of his fitness, of exceptional quality – his passing, vision and technique make him the closest thing to Patrick Vieira the Gunners have had since his elder compatriot was sold to Juventus in 2006 – co-incidentally when Diaby first arrived in North London from Auxerre.
I wrote a piece in October when Diaby returned assessing the player the 26-year-old ‘could have been’ after Vieira himself made comments asserting his belief that Diaby had better potential than him.
In 2006 Diaby was just 20 years of age and was hailed as the next Patrick Vieira. Now, he’s far from ‘over the hill’ – he’s not even nearing the twilight of his career. Obviously, the major concern is whether (or not) he can maintain some kind of reasonable level and fitness and, subsequently, build form and confidence.
In January this year he made an appearance in for Arsenal’s U21s and participated in Arsenal’s defeat to Chelsea. He was poor in that game as was the team performance overall but, with Wilshere injured, he’ll likely be drafted in to the first-team on a more regular basis.
He has, in my opinion, a better technical level than the England youngster who is, obviously, still developing. His finishing is also of a slightly higher level when he does get into the box.
He’s got a similar temperament too – whilst Tomas Rosicky is the obvious replacement for Wilshere, the Czech doesn’t have quite the same degree of tenacity or aggression. Diaby does – he’s every bit as feisty as Wilshere and that’s what Arsenal will lack desperately in his absence.
Arsenal have quality midfielders with vision and technique similar to that of Wilshere – Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, and Mikel Arteta – but they have only one replacement for his assertiveness and conviction and that player is Abou Diaby.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald