Diaby - shock return
Arsene has thrown out a surprise today with the news that Abou Diaby is added to the squad for tomorrow night. Given that Diaby's last involvement on a football pitch was over six months ago this comes as something of a shock, I would suggest. It does rather make a mockery of the whole idea of pre-season and Arsene's oft-quoted need for certain players to be "match-fit." I have said before on here that Arsene only requires "match-fitness" from a player if it happens to be someone he no longer wants to pick - Stephen Hughes being the example I always use. I do think, however, that Diaby is a bit of a special case, as I will explain.
Back in May 2006 Abou had his leg shattered by a thug at Sunderland. This has, without any doubt whatsoever, affected his career in a serious way. Ever since then he has been unable to put together a consistent run without another niggly problem. The decision to improve his contract was a bad one given his record, but that doesn't change the fact that he has had an incredibly unfortunate career. I believe that this inability to play game after game is the reason why Wenger has always simply brought him back without any practise matches for the Reserves. What would be the point of Diaby playing outside the first-team if it would simply mean him being injured again?
Over the past couple of years Diaby has become a bit of a boo-boy with the crowd due to his inconsistency and perceived laziness at times. When he plays well he is one of the best players at the Club. His performance in the Carling Cup Final in 2007, and at Fenerbahce, were evidence of just how good he could be at the top level. Abou has everything to be a top footballer, except the ability to stay fit. I have to confess that I have slagged him something chronic at times for his infuriating displays. However, I now begin to think that I, and most of the crowd, have been harsh on him. I suspect that his "laziness" has more to do with playing through terrible pain, which eventually sees him having to miss the next two or three games with yet another injury.
This new comeback for Abou is following a major operation. Just a couple of weeks ago Arsene made some comments about Diaby which made me think we weren't going to see him again. I believe that this time it could be make or break. If Abou can not gain some consistent fitness following such surgery then I think we may see him retire. Certainly he will be moved on at the end of the season. There is no doubt that a fit and good Abou Diaby is a major asset - he would be magnificent in the position alongside Alex Song, currently filled by an out of place Arteta. In the absence of Jack Wilshere this is important. This would allow Arteta to compete with Ramsey for the attacking midfield position. I hope he can stay fit and give us that extra bit of depth.
In other team news it seems that Tomas Rosicky has picked up a knock in training. It seems strange that Wenger continued to pick him last season when he was awful, but hasn't given him a look in lately when he has returned to some of his best form. It is some time now since he played for Arsenal, but an injury to him may yet mean more of a chance for Oxlade-Chamberlain to get some bench action - though it won't be tomorrow I suspect.
Dortmund come to London off the back of a massive win away to Bayern Munich. A good result tomorrow night is imperative to Arsenal. We really don't want to be going to Greece and needing a result against Olympiacos. At the Westfalenstadion we were outplayed, but ultimately unlucky to concede to a once in a lifetime strike. However, if Dortmund enjoy a similar sort of dominance tomorrow it is hard to imagine Arsenal being able to hold out quite so well again. In Mario Goetze they have one of the biggest talents in Europe, and Andre Santos may well have his work cut out if Goetze plays on the right tomorrow evening, as he did in Germany. Certainly the Brazilian will have to curb his attacking instincts. I hope that, if Diaby starts, he can have the same sort of impact he did those few years back at Fenerbahce.
I'm looking forward to the game tomorrow. It promises to be a great atmosphere with the Germans travelling in their thousands. I believe that many Dortmund supporters have secured tickets on the general sale, so we can expect to see a lot of yellow in the home sections of the ground. The people in Germany made the Arsenal fans incredibly welcome a couple of months ago, so I hope we can all return the compliment tomorrow evening. This is what European nights should be all about, with two major Club's going head to head. Proper European Cup action.