Poor old Abou Diaby. Released by Arsenal as of the end of June, his has been a career that could have promised so much, yet because of a North Eastern based call centre yob, was smashed in to as many pieces as his ankle was after Dan Smith made his horrible tackle all those years back.
I say ‘poor’, but if there’s any consolation for the fella, it’s that he’s anything but that. He will be devastated that his Arsenal career has ended the way it has ended, but when you see stories of refugees in UN camps in Iraq and Syria, or watch the plight of migrants coming from Africa to Catania in Italy to avoid bloodshed in their native countries, I guess it’s all relative. It’s all relative when you also consider that he need want for nothing even if he retired now. He will be a multi-millionaire.
The big question will be whether a club takes a punt on him. On ability you’d say ‘undoubtedly’, but with the wages he’d want as well as the propensity he has for injury, it would be like walking along a tightrope with no balance ‘just on the off chance I can make it across by myself’.
I saw him play majestically at a 2-2 draw at St Andrews a few years back. I think it was the 07/08 season and although we Almunia’d the game right up, he was in sparkling form. When you can get 90 minutes out of him he is quite a handful. Good on the ball, chips in with goals, decent passer and stronger than his beanpole approach would have you believe. Some might say that perhaps he needs a new lease of life, a fresh environment with which he can regain fitness, but I can’t see him being anything else than just an unlucky footballer. West Ham thought that Kieran Dyer just needed another chance after he was released by Newcastle, but he suffered the same fate and broke down every time he made the first team. Abou has a decision to make and some club out there has a gamble to take.
Sadly, the Premier League free transfer list is always one I’m intrigued by, particularly if there are some curve balls thrown in there. I must also confess that historically I have take a look at the list and said ‘hmm…he might do a job as a squad player’. I know, I know, madness at its very core, because released players aren’t released because somebody in admin just forgot to hand them a contract to sign. They’re there because nine times out of ten they aren’t good enough for their respective club. There are one or two exceptions and this season’s are probably Ron Vlaar from Aston Villa and Brede Hangeland of Crystal Palace. There a few others, but those are the ones that stuck out for more, particularly because they were regulars for their clubs and they have also been linked with us in the past.
But the great thing is that we are so far beyond those players, we have evolved so much more as a squad, that even I haven’t really bothered to look at the list with any kind of interest in who could be available, merely curious as to what other clubs are doing.
It’s nice to be in the position where I’m not hoping Arsène will pick a winner from a bargain bucket.
We’ve also released Ryo Miyachi, a player with whom we’ve learnt nothing more than the fact he’s ‘really really fast’. He struggled on any of the performances that he’s played or come on as a reserve, so that one comes as no surprise really, so I expect he’ll be finding a club abroad to ply his trade.
What the Hangeland, Vlaar and Miyachi situations do show – I think – is that although he does not know everything, contrary to what some might say about the manager, he does tend to be more successful than not in his acquisition and retention of players. Rarely are there examples of a player he has cast to one side, who has then gone on to greater things. Think Reyes, Bentley, Adebayor as examples. Arsène can spot a good player and the ones he does toss out don’t tend to come back in a cup final and tear us apart, do they? Sure, there are players like can Persie and Fabregas who have gone on and won trophies, but they have done so against Arsène’s will. When Arsène has a will to let a player go, they’re not usually going and getting more glory.
So when Arsène doesn’t pick up a Brede Hangeland in 2011 from Fulham, or snap up a Ron Vlaar after the 2014 World Cup, there’s probably a good reason. That’s what I like to think anyway.
What about you? Any on the Premier League freebie list you’d take?