Abou Diaby is one of the longest tenured Arsenal players, but has been more or less invisible for the last couple seasons, thanks to the lingering effects and setbacks caused by an injury suffered in 2006, when his ankle was destroyed in a game against Sunderland.
For the last two seasons in particular, his progress has been...well, it's been nonexistent. In those two seasons, he has played a combined total of 83 minutes in two appearances - not even a full game. Diaby has never really had a fair crack of the whip - that injury in 2006 was in his first full season as a professional player, and the seasons since have been riddled with promising start followed by setback followed by hope followed by setback, etc.
With players who are seriously injured, there's a couple different ways life can go. Either, like Aaron Ramsey, a player can rehab, train, build strength, and get back to playing at a relatively high level, or, like Steve Zakuani, who had a leg broken in a game a year after Ramsey's (although Zakuani's was much worse - his leg almost had to be amputated), you can work your ass off and never get back to being the player you once were, only to retire well before you would if you were fully fit.
And then there's Greg Oden; I think Oden's case is more instructive here than either Ramsey or Zakuani. Oden, for those of you who don't know, was a highly touted, exceptionally good basketball player at Ohio State who was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers (ahead of Kevin Durant, but that's another story). After he was drafted, in 2007, he underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee that kept him out of the game for that whole 07-08 season.
Between 2008 and 2012, when Oden was finally released by the Blazers, he suffered a rather large litany of injuries:
- Foot injury
- Chipped left kneecap
- Fractured left patella (separate incident from the chip)
- Microfracture surgery on left knee (separate incident from the others)
The net result of all this was that in five seasons as a Trail Blazer, Oden played in exactly one NBA season's worth of games (82). Throughout it all, many of the same things were said about Oden that are said about Diaby - super nice guy, works really hard, shame it's happening to him, hope he gets healthy soon, etc.
Which brings us, of course, back to Diaby. Arsene Wenger has given him every chance to get better - he's stuck with Diaby even when it seemed foolish to do so, he sings Diaby's praises as a teammate and a worker often, and it's apparent that everyone connected with Arsenal wishes him well and hopes he'll get healthy enough to play.
Problem is, this isn't 15 years ago, when team rosters could be more or less unlimited; nowadays, Premier League squads are capped at 25 players. Diaby's out of contract this summer, which leads Arsene Wenger to a rather large dilemma - should he give Diaby a new deal and hope for the best, thus using a roster slot on someone who may not play again, or should he wish Diaby well, decline to sign him to a new contract, and move on?
As much as I tend to not see athletes as human beings, it's cases like this where it's hard not to. I really want Diaby to be healthy, and I really want him to play for Arsenal again, but I have a feeling he may not - there's a ways to go until his contract's up, and I have a feeling Arsene will give him every second of his contract to prove he's fit, but I would not be at all surprised if Diaby's days at Arsenal are all but over, and that makes me kinda sad.