It remains one of football's most perplexing mysteries: why is Abou Diaby is so frequently compared to his illustrious predecessor in the Arsenal midfield, Patrick Vieira? Since arriving at the club in 2006, Diaby has proved to be a very different kind of player to the former Gunners captain, and a career blighted by injury ensured that he has not been able to demonstrate the same consistent excellence as his compatriot.
After graduating from France's famous Clairefontaine academy in 2002, Diaby struggled for regular first-team football with Auxerre and joined Arsenal as a promising 19-year-old in January 2006. Though his arrival was somewhat overshadowed by those of Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott, amid an atypical flurry of transfer activity in North London, Diaby quickly settled into his stride.
That early promise was brought to a shuddering halt in May 2006, though, when he suffered a fractured and dislocated ankle following a challenge from Sunderland's Dan Smith. The serious injury prevented him from playing in the Champions League final and resulted in an eight-month absence from first-team football. Arsene Wenger was so furious he threatened to take legal action.
Diaby eventually made his comeback in January 2007, although persistent fitness problems continued to afflict the dynamic midfielder, with a series of niggles and more serious problems restricting his impact over the next two seasons. He is well known for accidentally booting John Terry in the face in the 2007 League Cup final, leaving the Chelsea defender unconscious and hospitalised.
However, the 2009-10 campaign would see Diaby enjoy a sustained run in the side as he impressed alongside Alex Song in the heart of midfield. After scoring six league goals and enjoying some consistency he travelled to the World Cup where he appeared in all three of France's group games.
He is at his best when afforded a central role alongside a ball-winner, but the versatile Diaby is also capable of performing out wide or in behind the striker. Vieira, for all his qualities, could never say the same.
Yet injuries continued to plague the promising France midfielder, who suffered several long-term setbacks, including an anterior cruciate ligament tear which was feared to rule him out for nine months in March 2013. With his contract expiring at the end of the 2013-14 season, it remains increasingly likely that Diaby will play his football, if any at all, away from the Emirates Stadium.
Strengths: The Frenchman's touch is superb and his excellent close control means he is hard to get off the ball. Though adept at tackling, his real skill lies in the way he uses the ball, either dribbling past opponents or slipping passes to teammates.
Weaknesses: Inconsistency. Diaby has a habit of disappearing for a number of games in succession and he can lack concentration, giving his performances something of an unpredictable air. Despite receiving public backing from Wenger that he can become a top European midfielder, the Frenchman's career has been curtailed by injury.
Career high: Scored his first international goal in France's important 2014 World Cup qualifying 1-0 win over Finland in September 2012.
Career low: Diaby feared for his future in the game after being on the receiving end of a horrible tackle from Sunderland's Smith in May 2006. He was out of action for eight months and suffered persistent fitness problems for some time after.
Style: Languid, elusive, athletic, an enigmatic midfielder.
Quotes: "He can defend, he can attack. He is strong in the challenge. He can dribble. He can pass players. He is very quick in the transition, offence, defence. When you win the ball he can cross the pitch quickly. And he is good in the air…he is a fighter." Arsene Wenger lauds Diaby despite his injury concerns, in January 2013.
Trivia: Diaby graduated from Clairefontaine alongside Marseille's Hatem Ben Arfa in 2002. During their time at the academy the two were caught on camera by a documentary team having to be pulled apart during a prolonged physical confrontation.
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE