Why you'll love himHe brings a silky, rangey, yet physical style to the midfield.
Why you'll hate himHe will break your heart when he accidentally heads the ball into your own net and then disappears into the ground.
Abou Diaby is, to many Arsenal fans, the most frustrating and mystifying players the club has ever put on the field. Since arriving from Auxerre in 2005, he has alternately shown tremendous promise or the ability to vanish into thin air when he plays. His career has been marked by extremes: just this season, for example, Diaby both headed a Ryan Giggs free-kick into his own goal at Old Trafford in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United and scored a wonderful and deceptively easy-looking flying header in a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at the Emirates. Blessed with outstanding technique married to lanky limbs, Diaby possesses all the physical tools necessary to be a dominating box-to-box presence, and yet he has struggled to find a good run of form due to injury and sheer bad luck (such as being, one might suspect, deeply psychologically troubled after nearly ending John Terry's career or life in the 2008 Carling Cup final). When he's on and active on the pitch, though, he displays a good range of passing, good dribbling skills, and a deceptively powerful shot with both feet.
Diaby made his Arsenal debut in the 2005-06 season. He made 12 Premier League appearances that season, scoring one goal in April vs. Aston Villa. Sadly, the first negative incident that would affect his career took place the following month, when Dan Smith of Sunderland recklessly tackled Diaby, severly dislocating his ankle. He would not return until the following January. He made 12 appearances for the rest of that season and 15 in the next, although his 2007-08 campaign was sidetracked when, attempting to clear a corner kick in the Carling Cup final, his boot met John Terry's chin at full force. Some quick thinking by Arsenal trainer Gary Lewin and a lot of good luck meant that Terry would only miss a few games, but Diaby was visibly shaken by the incident and seemed to play tentatively for the rest of the season.
2008-09 marked a new beginning for the midfielder, as he made 36 appearances in all competitions for his club, scoring four goals and providing two assists. He followed that year up with a solid 2009-10 season, making 40 appearances despite struggling with injury. His season, and his standing in the minds of Arsenal supporters everywhere, was a mixed bag, as he provided some of the worst moments and some of the best moments (including a mazy run and great finish versus Aston Villa at the Emirates) of the club's year.
So far Diaby has only made five appearances for the French national team. He most likely will not start in the midfield for France, as the central positions will probably be filled by Jeremy Toulalan and Yoann Gourcuff, whereas Diaby's other possible position on the left is full of a bunch of Franck Ribéry. However, the recent diagnosis of asthenic syndrome for Lassana Diarra means that Diaby is probably a good bet to come of the bench for either Toulalan or Gourcuff, depending on if France want to use him in a more attacking or defensive role.
What to look for
When Abou Diaby is full of confidence, he can be a nigh-uncontainable presence in the heart of a midfield, capable of both dribbling around opposition and breaking up attacking moves with interceptions and tackles. Unfortunately, Diaby's confidence levels are often in question, and he can go missing for large stretches of matches and play poorly from time to time. If he comes off of the bench for France, he may be more likely to play in a more defensive midfield role, as France will have other attacking options such as Ribéry, Nicolas Anelka, and Florent Malouda at work, but he can join the attack and put his good technique to work if necessary as well.