Just before the away game at Aston Villa we were told that Abou Diaby would be back in “three to four weeks.”
That game took place on November 24th, you may remember (and who could forget such a thrilling display of attacking football?).
So if we are to trust Arsene Wenger’s assessment of Diaby’s fitness, he is due back at the earliest around December 15th (just in time for Reading away).
For some reason (can’t quite put my finger on it) I am reluctant to assume that the lanky Frenchman will be mending his damaged bits in an accelerated fashion… so let’s forget that “earliest” return date.
In fact, let’s not even buy in to the later date – which would be around December 22nd (Wigan away).
Let’s assume instead that Abou appears all shiny and mended in our big Arsenal Christmas stocking. With all the batteries included so he’s in full working order.
At that point, provided he doesn’t injure himself on a walnut while extricating himself from the stocking, he might well be ready to resume his Arsenal career when we entertain the Hammers on Boxing Day.
I know what the cynics among you are thinking: “who still puts walnuts in Christmas stockings?”
Oh, and: “Diaby has as much chance of being back in three to four weeks as a three hundred pound fat bloke with a red suit and white beard has of fitting down my chimney.”
Well, that’s the joy of the festive season: magical things happen; wishes become real; and for a brief moment in time we all become children again.
The simple fact is that this Arsenal team, which has made such heavy going of a string of recent games, is in need of fresh impetus.
In the first half against Olympiacos on Tuesday night a returning Tomas Rosicky showed exactly what a talented player can bring to the team – especially one who has not been involved in the morale-sapping outings of recent weeks.
Diaby can have a similar effect if (please let it be a “when”) he returns to full fitness at the end of the year.
He can be a frustrating player at times, but he also showed earlier this season how effective he can be against even the strongest opponents. Imagine that man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool repeated in game after game during the rest of the season.
His injuries have made his Arsenal career more stop-start than the Central Line and it’s understandable that many supporters have given up hope of him ever becoming a regular fixture in the side.
The odds must be against him but maybe – just maybe – this time he will come back for real. Maybe all those months and months of treatment, all the surgeries and physiotherapy will finally rid him of the legacy of that ghastly Dan Smith tackle.
You can’t help but feel that the half of the season that runs from January to May is Abou’s last chance to show he can do it.
If his ailments keep him out for all or most of that period surely even Arsene Wenger will have to give up on him.
It would be a crying shame for a gifted player – and for Arsenal. We have already lost the best part of several seasons’ worth of his contributions in his seven and a half seasons with us.
But right now, just like children all round the world, I am willing to believe.
Come on Abou – you can do it!