Abou Diaby, the oft-injured Arsenal midfielder, will be offered a new contract if he is able to prove his fitness.
Diaby, 28, has made just two appearances in the last 21 months, having spent most of that time out with a cruciate ligament injury, and is currently out of action due to a calf complaint. He has played just 67 minutes this season, in Arsenal’s home Capital One Cup defeat by Southampton in September.
His current contract runs out at the end of the season and Arsène Wenger, the manager, said: “If Diaby is fully fit, he will have a new deal at Arsenal.”
It is a remarkable display of faith in a player who made only one 16-minute Premier League appearance last season and has failed to play 20 games in a season since the 2010-11 campaign. His troubles started near the end of 2005-06, his first season with Arsenal, when a broken ankle kept him out of the Champions League final and sidelined him until the following January. There followed thigh injuries, knee problems and more ankle complaints, before the ligament damage.
Wenger added: “Abou Diaby is on the fringe of coming back into full training but he is not there yet. He has a calf problem. His injuries are never severe but little grade one [problems]. He is not available yet.”
Wenger played down talk of bad blood between his side and Stoke City, to whom they travel today. The Stoke captain, Ryan Shawcross, had said that the club’s fans “dislike Arsenal, so it is going to be a tasty game”, following Wenger’s allegation in 2010 that the Potteries side “played rugby on goalkeepers”.
Arsenal have not won in four visits to the Britannia Stadium since February 2010, when their 3-1 victory was marred by Shawcross’s leg-breaking tackle on Aaron Ramsey.
In response to questions about a potentially intimidating atmosphere today, Wenger said: “I think that’s exaggerated. It’s a football game, it’s not a hate game. You want to focus on playing football. In our job, it’s difficult to be surprised by anything [anyone says].
“We are in a job where you have risks. The physical risk is part of our job, we accept that. What you want is to go into a game with everybody being 100 per cent committed but fair. After, you accept that any accident can happen.
“You do not want to have any suspicions before the match starts. That’s not very good. We can handle the physical side of the game and we have a good opportunity to show that.”
Nacho Monreal is unavailable with an ankle problem which could see the Arsenal left-back ruled out for several weeks, while his natural understudy Kieran Gibbs is battling to be fit due to a hip injury. Central defender Laurent Koscielny is a doubt with an achilles inflammation which flares up after matches, but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny returned to full training yesterday and could feature after missing three games with a hip injury.
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