Arsene Wenger described Arsenal’s signing of former Southampton full-back Calum Chambers for £16m as a ‘gamble’, which is not an act Premier League fans have come to associate with the notoriously frugal Frenchman throughout his 18-year reign in north London.
Perhaps winning the FA Cup has reinvigorated the veteran, who has made it rain to the tune of £54m so far this summer.
If the new, hair-down Arsene is really up for a roll of the dice, however, he’ll call off the search party currently looking under every stone and down the back of every settee for a new holding-midfielder.
“But why?” you may cry, “Their lack of pace, power and aggression in that department cost them the title last season.”
It played a part, no doubt about it, but Abou Diaby has kicked the sick bay’s door off its hinges and is ready to screen the Gunners’ back four in 2014/15.
The injury-prone French international featured for just 16 minutes last term before falling foul of a cruciate knee ligament injury that completely curtailed his campaign.
He was involved in both of Arsenal’s pre-season friendlies thus far, prompting his manager to say:
“If you get a fit Diaby back, it will be a major asset for our team. At the moment we go step-by-step and he came through this game so that’s very good news for us.”
A ‘major asset’ is sure to be involved heavily and bwin go 7/10 about the 28-year-old starting over 9.5 league matches this season.
Those who think his dreadful injury luck will prevent him from passing this mark can back fewer than 9.5 starts at 21/20, but despite his seemingly never-ending spell in the treatment room, history suggests a punt on the latter price represents an unwise investment.
Only twice in his nine-year Arsenal career has Diaby failed to make double-digit league appearances, starting at least ten times in four of the previous six seasons.
Long-term injuries provide the mitigation for his failure to fill the quota in the two years in question.
His prowess in the anchoring role first came to prominence in the 2012/13 season, when he started in the position for the north Londoners’ opening three matches, overseeing a trio of clean sheets.
Diaby’s return to full fitness, assuming he can maintain it, negates Arsenal’s desperation to hassle the book balancers for further transfer funds without compromising their title credentials.