By Tony Attwood
The cynics have written him off time and time again. Indeed the ever gloomy Daily Telegraph wrote on 22 January 2015: Abou Diaby looks to have played last game.
And it needed some faith to think he could return after so many injuries. The Daily Mail had told us on 5 December he would get a new contract if fit, and on 15 March this year he returned to light training. So we all hoped that we might finally see this prodigious talent play for Arsenal regularly.
It all happened on Tuesday 31 March 2015. It is a date to add to the Anniversary files that we run every day on the home page.
Not only was it a return for Abou but it also meant the return for Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy. The Arsenal January signing, just back from international duty, Krystian Bielik, also played.
As you might expect Arteta, Wilshere and Diaby all came off at half time. Debuchy and Flamini lasted an hour.
It is also worth noting who played in the team alongside the old men for these are players who are clearly working their way up in the world.
Arsenal.com have kindly given us a report:
For the first goal…
Flamini latched on to Diaby’s lay-off and powered a deflected strike towards goal. Jack Bonham could only parry it as far as Wilshere who shifted the ball on to his left foot and curled into the top corner.
For the second goal…
Wilshere played a quick one-two on the edge of the box with Crowley and the teenager fired under Bonham to double the hosts’ advantage.
For the third and fourth….
Iwobi tricked his way into the box and found the far corner with a low strike, before racing on to Diaby’s clever pass to score again 16 minutes later.
Here is the Arsenal team…
Debuchy (Maitland-Niles, 60), Bielik (Sheaf, 66), O’Connor, Ormonde-Ottewill (Bola, 46),
Flamini (Eyoma, 66), Arteta (Zelalem, 46), Diaby (Willock, 46), Wilshere (Mavididi, 46),
Crowley (Dobson, 46), Iwobi (Lipman, 68)
Some names to consider, aside from the obvious:
Maitland-Niles: On 9 December 2014, made his professional début aged 17 years 102 days in the Champions League match against Galatasaray, replacing Aaron Ramsey at half time.
Sheaf: Obviously has a brain screwed onto his shoulders. Turned down a contract with West Ham and signed for Arsenal.
O’Connor joined from Palace, played in the Uefa Youth League and signed as a pro last year. Made his début for Arsenal in the Galatasaray game replacing Mathieu Debuchy with 13 minutes to play.
Ormonde-Ottewill is an under 21 regular at left back who has trained with the first team.
Willock: first seen by many of us playing 45 minutes against Boreham Wood as a winger / attacking midfielder.
Crowley: captain of the under 18s, had the Daily Mail raving over him in January, there’s an article about him on the FA web site, and even Arsenal.com called his first season “stellar.”
Iwobi is a winger who managed to play for all three academy teams last season. Also played for England at under 16, 17 and 18.
Of course we know they won’t all make it at Arsenal, but there’s a fair old chance some of them will.
But most of all, those long term injuries look to be coming to an end. How on earth will we fit them all in?
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And another anniversary…
31 March 2001: David Rocastle died. Arsenal beat Tottenham 2-0, the first goal scored by Pires wearing, as always, number 7.
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