We could debate this for days. Sometimes you just have to pick a course of action and see what happens.
So how about this. Try vacuuming a small spot, in the back. Be as gentle as possible while still being thorough.
If it goes well and without the AS falling apart, proceed to vacuum the rest. Then perform a couple of big water changes to flush any detritus and dust out of the water column. Finally, try a new, expendable plant to see if the problem is solved.
sounds good, either way its gona be hard to work with because its a winter and slow everywhere, otherwise it would be much easier, lets hope it goes well.