Ade steals the ball from Hreidarsson
I’ll admit it. I’m biased toward the big fella. See, I was there, at Highbury when Ade scored his first home goal. Here was this big guy, lanky, kinda frustrating, but a nose for the goal and the ability to add something new to Arsenal’s, erm, Arsenal. Ironically, he had had several gilt edged chances to score up until that point but his first goal had to wait until a Hreidarsson gaffe gifted him the opportunity and he took it with aplomb. Funny… he’s the same player now as he was then, except now he’s scoring bags of goals.
Ade came to Arsenal in January 2006 (our last year at Highbury) and even though I mentioned that it took him 3 months to get his first home goal, he had gotten a goal in his very first appearance (away to Birmingham).
In a sense, Arsenal were forced to throw Ade on in that first season due to injuries to Robin van Persie and Reyes. And though he finished that first season with only 4 goals and 4 assists he greatly impressed everyone with his work rate, attitude and added dimension that he lent to the team. Henry noticed he might be special right away:
Manu is the type of striker who is really nice to play with because he shows the ball well and he does the bad [hard] work… He gives us a plus because usually we have players like Dennis [Bergkamp] and Robin van Persie who try to get the ball behind, not really trying to shield the ball and wait for the team to come. Manu has that, so finally we have the striker who we have been looking for that when you kick the ball forwards, he will be there to shield it.
So too did Le Boss:
Adebayor is a bit more in-the-air player. He works hard and overall he gives a little bit more freedom to Thierry.
By the end of the 2006/2007 season, Ade hadn’t quite lived up to expectations: he only scored 12 goals in 35 starts and added only 4 assists. It’s not like he didn’t have his chances, playing alongside Thierry Henry for most of the season, he got 81 shots and only converted 12.
The one hugely positive outcome of that season was the Adebayor/Henry dance.
(There’s some neat assists and goals in there too)
Still, he worked hard, maintained a positive attitude, and played his ass off.
Then Henry left. Then van Persie was injured again. Then his other strike partner had his leg broken by Taylor. And Adebayor was left all alone up front and no one thought he could do it. Here was this big fella who did so well to hold the ball up for his strike partner to get a hold of left without a strike partner. A 23 year old, still a kid, being asked to fill the shoes of one of the greatest Arsenal players of all time with little or no help.
In that context, 26 goals and 4 assists on 118 shots in 37 games (SO FAR!) is a hell of a return. During the period when Arsenal were flying high we all have to admit, it was Adebayor who was leading the team. From December 29th, where he came on as a sub against Everton, to the Feb.11th game at home against Blackburn (that I attended) Ade scored 12 goals — an amazing run.
Since then, I think the toll of playing up front by himself, losing his only other strike partner (Dudu), and just the amazing amount of work he puts in had left him looking a bit jaded. Before the boss rested him, he simply looked unable to overpower defenders as he had done earlier in the season. He also looked tired on his runs and tired legs often lead to blown goals. So, as good as he was during the first month and a half of this year, he was equally and oppositely frustrating for this last month and a half.
I get it when Arsenal fans are frustrated by Ade’s touch. I get it when you get frustrated by his seeming lack of ability to put the ball away. I get it when you are frustrated by his constant offsides. The man is not perfect and the last month has really shown that to be the case.
But the month before showed us a glimmer of what I think we should expect from a fully fit strike duo that features Adebayor; he could be our Drogba — minus the divey, fakey, cuntery. But more than any striker before him, he needs a strong partner to play off of, a goal scoring threat who will take some of the defensive pressure away from him. Because as lone striker, defenses have been able to single him out, harass him, frustrate him, and make him work harder than he should have to to get the goals.
I may be biased because I was there when he got his first home goal but I think even an unbiased person would have to admit that his return in front of goal this season has improved massively. Not only that, but he gives Arsenal an aerial threat that they lacked the last two seasons and a big, strong striker who terrorizes and frustrates the best defenders in the Premiership. You can’t tell me that John Terry and Rio Ferdinand look forward to playing against Adebayor. Those three things alone would be enough to warrant a place in my 5 player spotlight but Ade has another quality that few people talk about: leadership.
I am not the only one who has improved. So have Cesc [Fabregas] and [Mathieu] Flamini, Kolo [Toure] and [Emmanuel] Eboue. Without them, I’m nothing. ‘They have made me the player I am today, the way I played at the San Siro. Every single day in training, they’re telling me what I should be doing. Am I becoming a world-class player? I don’t know. That’s for others to judge. I am just doing what Arsenal ask me to do and enjoying myself on the pitch. I don’t care about achieving individual things. The most important thing is to achieve things with the team, to win the Premier League and the Champions League.
That was his quote right after the 2-0 win at the San Siro. That is a man who’s humble, who knows his place on the team and who knows his place in Arsenal history. That is a man who, despite his prominent role as a striker, chooses to defer to others on the team and highlight their hard work. That is a man who rightly knows that all his hard work would be for naught if the team hadn’t made him what he is this season.
That’s a leader right there folks. A leader who puts the devastation of last month in perspective and who encourages his teammates to take the last 4 games seriously:
You have to show whether you are a man or not. In the difficult moments, that is when you have to come out and show character, personality and play your football. It is difficult, but I know my mum will be somewhere watching the TV, so I have to play for her, all my family and all the people who love Arsenal. We have to win all those games now, to play for our honor and for our fans. The fans have been great to me this season, always singing my name and taking me into their hearts.
Emmanuel Adebayor — one of my top 5 players of the 2007/2008 season.
Not much going on in the news, you probably already heard that Arsenal are 100% certain of signing David Villa from Valencia, or that maybe he’ll go to Liverpool, but Chelsea is right out.
I hate these kinds of stories because they are frustrating to the Arsenal supporters. Every year Arsenal are linked to someone (Babel, Torres, Wright-Phillips, Essien, etc. etc.) and every year that person signs for some other team.
All the Arsenal bloggers and readers ought to boycott those stories. They don’t do a single positive thing for the team, for the fans, or for the club. “Hleb is leaving,” “Villa is coming in,” “Arsenal to sign Ronaldinho!” Nothing more than amateur speculation and rumor.
That settles it. If you want rumor news, go somewhere else. I’m not printing it here any more except as a joke or out of irony. Frankly, I don’t know what I’ll print this summer… I guess I’ll have to be creative!
Those two stories are good for a laugh, huh?