I am sure this week there are hundreds of blogs suggesting transfer targets, bemoaning those targets we have not signed and of course those screaming that we have no targets. 1 Nil Down 2 One up could happily join in and indeed is sorely tempted. In fact some of you will have noticed that even I have not been my usual irritatingly positive self of late. It is however deliberately because of this I will not enter the fray and add to the negative noise as I would surely do. No I am reverting to an idea for a blog that has been on the back burner for a few months. It has absolutely no relevance to the transfer window, our form, our midfield or defensive frailties, or our total lack of leadership or tactics. It is absurdly positive, cheerful, smile provoking and a welcome distraction I hope to the alternatives.
One of our main preoccupations as Arsenal fans is of course to continually berate those players who left us for greed and glory. How dare they? We slag them off continually particularly Adebayor, Nasri and of course Van Persie. We are divided on Fabregas and couldn’t really care about Clichy, although he was the last of the Invincibles. In fact the obsession you all have, and yes I do exclude myself, with RVP is quite frankly perturbing. The one player who asked to leave we still all tolerate or even like is Kolo but then we accept he hated Gallas so had to leave. We all get that sentiment don’t we? Part of the problem quite obviously is that most of them left close to home and have had immediate success and silverware. How very dare they? So who is the subject of my blog today? Who is the Gooner departed who has also enjoyed success that has gone under the radar and who to my knowledge we all think fondly of and smile when we say his name? EMMANUEL EBOUE!
Why now? Well why not and because yesterday saw the ever popular Eboue win his 74th cap for the Ivory Coast in their AFCON win over Togo. A game which had multiple positives. Adebayor was on the losing side, 2 popular ex Gooners are on the winning side and Gervinho scored a spectacular 88th minute winner. (YES FOREHEAD!)
Eboue joined us in 2005 from Belgium club Beveren. He struggled to adapt at first but after replacing Lauren (out for the season due to injury) he never looked back. In his first season, he was part of one of the best defenses in the world. Arsenal weren’t so successful in the league but we made it to the Champions League final in 2006. Eboue started in the final and overall had a great season. He made it into ‘the Champions League team of the year’ and many thought he was one of the best right-backs at the time (just 16 months after joining Arsenal). Good times.
He continued his great form the next season and even won ‘player of the month award’ in September voted by fans. He was a decent right-back and was very good going forward. Wenger really liked him for his versatility. He played right-back, on the wings or even as central midfielder.
After the player of the month award in September, things went downhill for him. Injuries plagued him and the diving and faking injuries started to kick in. He started to make a lot of mistakes and looked very dodgy at the back (though must be said he was great going forward). Wenger decided to sign Bacary Sagna in the summer of 2007 and Eboue was moved to right midfield with Rosicky still out. That seemed like a master stroke from Wenger but it did not always work out and many fans questioned his selection over Walcott. A period of frustration for the team and fans in 08/09 saw Eboue somehow lose some of his natural confidence and the man who once was great going forward was struggling doing just that.
Probably his worst match in an Arsenal shirt was in December 2008, at home against Wigan. The infamous game in which he came on as a substitute only to be taken off 20 minutes later after a horrible performance, littered with multiple stray passes, gifting of possession to Wigan and culminating in tackling Kolo Toure is own team mate and being rounded booed by sections of Arsenal fans. So much was the shameful derision that Wenger had to remove him from the abuse. He left the pitch in tears. The Guardian the next day:
“As he left the pitch with the arm of Emmanuel Adebayor around his shoulders, the 25-year-old Ivorian looked a broken man. Not even players who miss penalties in World Cup final shoot-outs are reduced to such a state of helpless distress. What could have made so many of his own team’s fans turn against a player who has been a member of Arsenal’s first-team squad for the past four years?”
I was there and hand of heart did not boo but it was painful to be there. The fans were embarrassed (and rightfully so,) because in reality his performance meant he individually got the brunt of our frustration, which was actually for the team as a whole. However in the months and matches following the incident we cheered him because he bounced back and refused to hide. He regained a bit of his old form, and bizarrely fans fell in love with him and his comedic nature all over again, so soon after his lowest ebb. To this day the strength of character he showed to get back on the Arsenal horse will always impress me.
This character shown ensured the beginning of his journey to a cult status. For those old enough, like me, he had evolved into the modern day Perry Groves. Certainly not the greatest player in the squad, yet a Gooner through and through, with 100% effort and commitment guaranteed, just like our Perry. In fact I remember being on Wembley way before the FA Cup Semi Final v Chelsea in 2009 and all we were singing was “Emmanuel Ebooouee!” and “We like Eboue-boue, We like Eboue-boue, We like Eboue-boue, We like E..boue! . Ridiculous looking back but that’s how it was in 08/09. Some 3 months after being booed off he had hit a brace v Blackburn, helped us to the semi with a goal v Burnley and was back lining up at right back as Sagna was injured. Indeed by the end of that season and into the next whenever he made the team us witty home fans would sing to the visiting fans “You’ve only come to see Eboue” and the final tribute and the icing on the cake: “He comes from Africa, he’s better than Kaka!” I guess many of you thought the Vieira chant was only converted for the likes of Cesc? Well you were wrong!
No wonder Eboue will always think of himself as a Gunner.
The following seasons Eboue kept his spot in the 1st team squad and started quite a few matches. His last season at the Emirates wasn’t very successful however and he struggled to cement a first-team place. A rather ignominious end was assured after his needless push on Lucas against Liverpool on the 17th April ended our faltering title challenge in 201/11. This Guardian headline greeted him the following morning:
“Eboué’s foul may come to define an era of missed chances at Arsenal.”
The press knew what we all knew, Arsenal throwing away a title challenge has happened in the weeks and even seasons before. Yes the draw at home to Liverpool was Eboue’s fault and this made it mathmatically unlikely we could win the league but the damage has already been done.
The summer of 2011 saw us we sign numerous players including Gervinho who was given number 27 upon his arrival. That was Eboue’s number so his future was in doubt. After much speculation Eboue left us for Galatasaray but on good terms after an honest exchange with Wenger to who Eboue acknowledges he owes so much. It cost the Turkish club €4m to sign our Ivorian clown. Emmanuel Eboue played 214 matches (159 starts, 55 as sub) for Arsenal in total since joining the club in 2005 (till leaving in 2011).
Eboue’s (28 years old at the time) departure had mixed responses from the Arsenal faithful. The reality was we had Sagna and the newly arrived Carl Jenkinson for right backs and our shift away from 442 had removed the right midfield role. So EE moved on to a new challenge but unlike his peers in Clichy, Nasri and Fabregas who left the same summer he moved on with Gooners blessing and only well wishes from the majority us.
What is not so well publicized or commented on by us is that Eboue also left us and went on to instant glory in Turkey. Is there any reason why this is less significant than Fabregas’s instant trophies in Spain of the title lifted by Clichy and Nasri in England? The lack of coverage we have given it suggests so but the reality is that Galatasaray are huge club, with an enormous fan base. When Eboue arrived they has not won their domestic league for 4 years, unheard of, and had failed to qualify for Europe, so what ensued in 2011/12 was to the huge credit of Eboue and his team mates. The summer of 2011 was a big one for Gala, knowing as they did that Champions League football was to be denied them but the club invested well and Eboue was just one part of an extensive rebuild. He was joined as new arrivals by Filipe Melo, on loan from Juventus, Fernado Muslera from Lazio. Albert Riera from Olympiacos, Thomas Ujfalusi from Athletico Madrid, Johan Elmander from Bolton and others. Incredible then that this virtually new team went on to win the Supa Lig by 11 points, losing only 3 of 34 games. Our Eboue was integral featuring in 31 of the 34 games in the sensational campaign and scoring 3 times.
Eboue has handled the transition superbly, risen above early racism and has become a huge fan favourite at the new and impressive Turk Telekon Arena. Last season as the team rebuilt the belief of the faithful who surged back and the new stadium began to fill to its capacity of close to 53000 as Gala powered towards their first title in 4 years. Only a year earlier a capacity crowd on March 18th against arch rivals Fenerbahce of 52652 roared their team on and broke the world record recording noise at 131.76 decibels. Certainly even Fabregas in front of double sizes crowds will not have experienced this and we can safely say that Nasri and Clichy won’t at the Etihad. Just in case you don’t know what 131.76 decibels feels and sounds like to play in front of and doubt Emmanuelle Eboue has moved on to success check this out from that record breaking day.
So well done Eboue you Gooner cult hero. You have won the league in your first season away from the Emirates which Fabregas has yet to do. You are currently top of the Turkish League again this season, you play every week and are readying yourself for a Champions League last 16 tie with Schalke. None of the above can be claimed by Nasri or Clichy. Your superb form for your club and regular football has also secured you your starting place back for your national team. This again, a claim which none of the other 3, who departed with you from N5 can make.
Warm Gooner congratulations Emmanuelle and we wish continued success. You were always positive, your loved our club and your occasional brilliance we will remember alongside your occasional calamities, with equal affection. You like Perry Groves before you for reasons we cannot logically explain are an accepted Gooner with a place in our hearts for a long while to come. Here’s hoping we draw you in the Champions League quarter final so we can welcome you back to the Emirates in style as we did Dudu.
Oh and one last thing for those who have not had the pleasure or do not recall Eboue’s exaggerated dancing celebrations this is how he and Felipe Melo celebrated and the Galatasaray end of season victory party:
So popular they have taken it on to the pitch this season;
I hope you have enjoyed today’s break from the transfer speculation which will drive you to distraction if you are not careful. You cannot influence what Wenger and the board to between now and Jan 31st but you can sit back, smile and chuckle quietly to yourself and remember Emmanuel Eboue. The player for left in 2011 who we all still have affection for right now and the answer to my riddle.
Until next time thanks for reading.
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