After our loss at Manchester United, I found myself harbouring murderous thoughts towards Abou Diaby.
He was our worst player by quite a stretch (despite stiff competition from Gibbs and, later, Rosicky).
Every time the ball went to him he either killed the momentum of an Arsenal attack or lost the ball. When most Arsenal players are capable of playing and thinking (plinking?) in the same instant, Abou seems to work like this…
The thoughts of Abou:
“Here comes the ball!”
“I will stop it and bring it under control.”
“I have it under control! (or not).”
“Just checking I have it under control.”
“Good! I do.”
“Now, what will I do with it?”
“Better have a look round to see where my teammates are.”
“There they are – they have run forward but have now stopped.”
“Why do they all look so cross?”
In other words, Abou is just not fast enough in thought or deed to fit into Arsenal’s rapid pass-and-move style. While the others are plinking, Abou is plonking.
However, I can’t maintain murderous feelings for long and pretty soon I fell to wondering whether I was just scapegoating Abou for a disappointing defeat.
To make someone a scapegoat is to blame them for something that was the fault of others. Was I doing this to our lanky Gaul? Should I instead be blaming the defenders who failed to stop United scoring? Or our attackers for not converting any of their many chances? Or Arsene Wenger for being tactically outwitted by the gout-faced Glaswegian?
Well, actually, no. I wasn’t laying all the fault for our loss at Abou’s size 12s. My criticisms of him were based entirely on how he played and would have been the same even if we had won the game. I wasn’t unfairly blaming him for the faults of others. I was blaming him for his own faults. So, not a scapegoat then. We need a new term. How about a scapedonkey?
That’s it! I have decided to make Abou the scapedonkey for our FA Cup humbling.
But here’s the rub.
We Arsenal fans have had scapedonkeys before.
Alex Song was booed off the pitch as a 17-year-old in an away game at Fulham; Fabianski was derided as the worst keeper ever to have played for a Premiership side; Eboue was booed mercilessly at The Grove; Vermaelen was written off before he ever played a game for us for being too small; Walcott, the sages confidently told us, would never be a must-have player; earlier this season Djourou was being talked about as a fourth-choice-if-we’re-desperate CB.
I am happy to accept that Arsene Wenger knows more about football than me, and more than every single Arsenal blogger or online commenter.
He is also not stupid and he also desperately wants success.
So if he believes that Abou Diaby can make it as a top player for Arsenal then, on reflection, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Ditto the other current scapedonkeys, like Denilson, Gibbs, Bendtner, Arshavin, Squillaci and Rosicky. If the boss feels they can contribute to our success, I will yield to his better judgement.
They may not have covered themselves in glory in some recent games, but we have been here before with players who have gone on to become vital parts of our first team. We have to believe in their potential to improve precisely because AW believes in it.
For all those who have been so adamant that Arsenal “must” get rid of players like Abou and Denilson I hope that Arsene makes fools of you again, as he did with Song, Vermaelen, Walcott, Fabianski and others.
I hope that we lift the title come May on the back of a rip-roaring run that has seen vital contributions from our thoroughbred scapedonkeys.