Arsenal 1 – 0 Wigan (Adebayor 16)
Highlights here, Arsene on Eboue here
There’s been a lot of debate already about the ‘Eboooing’ incident. It is a debate I have not been part of, and I have to say, feel loathe to wade into. I find the whole thing utterly distasteful.
For me, there is no debate. The reaction of the fans when Eboue’s number was held up was, in my view, appalling. I was not sat in my usual seat, and was instead ensconsed with the players’ families and friends. I was as shocked as them by the reaction, and as the ironic cheers turned to hateful boos I found myself stood there, open-mouthed, looking round at what suddenly felt like 60,000 strangers.
We don’t need to go over Eboue’s faults. I’ve done that myself enough times. The guy is not well-liked by Arsenal fans, and his theatrics and apparent laziness have made him somewhat of a joke figure among the crowd. The recent “We’ve only come to see Eboue” chant is a light-hearted attempt at alleviating frustration with a player who has thus far failed to fulfill his undoubted potential.
But there are mitigating circumstances. It’s not the first time Eboue has ever played on the left, but it can’t be more than the third. Some have said, “Well, that doesn’t affect much”, but I don’t neccessarily agree. If you are predominantly right-footed, playing from the left shifts your entire body position in relation the ball. Some players are happier this way: Henry, Pires etc. But if you’re not used to it, it can offset your balance and spatial awareness. For anyone who doubts this, compare performances by William Gallas when playing as the left-sided centre-back and the right.
Granted, a very good footballer would be able to shift position without thinking. But Eboue is not a very good footballer. And that is not his fault. It is not his fault that Arsene chose to bring an unfit, out-of-form, and ultimately not-very-good player on in an alien position.
I know many will disagree and feel booing such a poor performance is justified. I don’t. In the stadium I am incredibly positive, even about the players who I freely criticise on this blog. That’s because I cannot see how booing a player helps anybody.
If this was a team full of hardened veterans, I would consider it more acceptable. But this team so plainly lacks character that a boo is far more likely to frighten them than inspire them. The fans are victimising certain players – in some ways Eboue I can understand, but the fact that a player as inexperienced as Nicklas Bendtner was booed when his name was read out before the game is shocking.
We are supposed to be ‘supporters’. What kind of support is that?
When do the players play well? When the crowd are raucous and behind them- think of this season’s Man Utd game. When a kid like Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey hears the treatment meted out to Eboue, can you imagine the mental pressure that applies, and the degree to which they must fear the consequences of any mistake?
Arsene actually bringing off Eboue potentially sets a worrying precedent. The fans demanded Gallas out, and Arsene concurred. The fans demanded Eboue off, and Arsene concurred. I have no doubt that the manager is his own man, but there is nothing more dangerous than a club where the fans have the illusion of power – see Newcastle United. I dread to think what happens to the next player who has a bad game – he’ll be booed until withdrawal.
It’s impossible to really guage the effects of the incident until a way into the future. If Eboue’s and the team’s performances suddenly pick up, then those who booed will, I’m sure, feel justified.
The only positive aspect of the whole pullava is that Arsene stepped up and pulled Eboue off. As with stripping Gallas of the captaincy, it displayed the ruthlessness that has marked Arsene’s most successful moments as Arsenal manager. It’s certainly a good sign ahead of January, when he will have to be equally ruthless in the restructuring of his squad.
But the boos followed that decision. Arsene knew Eboue had to come off. He didn’t need to be told having already decided to withdraw him.
Eboue is expected to play in Portugal on Wednesday night. I know the travelling fans will back him as they would any other player.
Anyway, it’s easy to forget, but we actually won the game. I’m angry that all this has taken the focus away from a third win in three games with Cesc as captain. It wasn’t our prettiest performance but a neat Adebayor finish was enough to see off a very solid Wigan outfit. Johan Djourou continued his good form in defence, whilst Alex Song had one of his better games in midfield – something I didn’t neccessarily realise about Song is that he’s quite good in the air, and he even beat the towering Emile Heskey to a few long-balls.
This piece has been a right old ramble. I haven’t enjoyed writing it, because I’m not particularly proud to be associated with many of the goings-on it discusses.
What happened on Saturday didn’t feel very Arsenal. I can only hope it’s part of the cathartic healing process that might just turn our season around.
Whether the same will ever happen for Tomas Rosicky, seems unlikely.