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 of 2006 though when he suffered a fractured 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. 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.
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 team-mates.
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.
Career high: A 5-2 win away at Fenerbahce in the Champions League in October 2008. Diaby played in an advanced role and responded magnificently, scoring once in a fine team performance.
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.
Style: Languid, elusive, athletic, an enigmatic midfielder.
Quotes: "This year in central midfield he has really stepped up and improved tremendously. He has become a very strong player." Arsene Wenger during the 2009-10 season.
Trivia: Diaby graduated from Clairefontaine alongside Marseille's Hatem Ben Arfa in 2002. During their time at the school the two kids were caught on camera by a documentary team having to be pulled apart during a prolonged physical confrontation.
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