Emmanuel Eboue’s treatment at the Emirates on Saturday is symptomatic of a divided club and it finally shows all the world that all is not well at the Arsenal. There can be no excuse for the treatment that Eboue received. None what so ever. When your team is on the field, booing the players is tantamount to saying, I’d rather the other team won. The ironic cheers when he was substituted again must have been gut wrenching for the player. We as Arsenal fans can hang our heads in shame. Yet I am going to upset a few readers here by stating that as unacceptable and disgraceful as it was, some of the blame for this attitude at the club at the moment must be placed squarely at the door of Arsene Wenger. This is based upon what I hear from fans around me in the stadium. They say that for at least two seasons, they have put up with the frustration of the loss of excellent players and seen their replacement with youngsters. Arsene Wenger for his part has remained defiant throughout and asked for the fans trust.
I feel that it was following the shareholder’s meeting with Arsene Wenger when he was challenged about Eboue, that the damage was done. Arsene Wenger was publicly criticised for his use of Eboue, but did he lay down and take the criticism? Did he acknowledge that despite being a talented young player, Emmanuel Eboue has regularly brought the shirt of Arsenal football club into disrepute? I am no fan of Eboue and I can recall his part in the brawl against Chelsea, where he cowardly struck a Chelsea player from behind. Arsene Wenger has suggested that Eboue is better than Ray Parlour, the Romford Pele, and then later he made matters worse by labelling him the pass master. Yet I can see why Arsene Wenger uses the player, he has undoubted technical close ball skills and is the best crosser of the ball that Arsenal possess. He can play the high tempo one touch game, but lacks the scoring edge.
Emmanuel Eboue is at his most devastating when making runs down the right flank, and he can cross the ball flat, accurately and with pace. It is because he crosses better than Theo Walcott and is a better defender, that explained why Walcott hardly got a regular run in the team last season. But it is the diving in the Champions League final, upon arguably the biggest stage of club football, combined with the off the ball incidents that show Eboue at his very worst. What was his reward for this? Arsene Wenger criticised him for simulation after the Paris debacle, but there has been silence with respect of all subsequent Eboue dives Most recently against Tottenham. Then there are the tackles where he has left his foot in deliberately. The waist high tackle against Evra of Manchester United perhaps the most notable. Finally if any player in the Arsenal team is likely to wave an imaginary card, or feign injury, you can bet your life it will be Eboue. So Arsene Wenger has not changed Eboue’s attitudes in private, so therefore must take part of the blame for his continuing bad behaviour.
However despite all of these indictments. This does not justify or condone the actions of the fans booing Eboue on Saturday. You MUST support your team one hundred per cent in the stadium. I held my head in my hands as he repeatedly gave away the ball, and failed to run after the lost possession to retrieve it. He was constantly out of position on the left, and it resulted in Gael Clichy being exposed. This meant that we had no pace down the left flank, however Clichy quite sensibly was restrained, as evidenced by one moment in the game when Johan Djourou passed the ball into the left channel expecting Clichy to be overlapping, and Gael was nowhere to be seen. As I said, I dislike Eboue intensely, but still I didn’t boo him. When he was substituted, is there any Arsenal fan reading this who cannot honestly say that they felt relieved? Eboue’s confidence was shot to pieces, and he was a liability out there. Wigan could have scored and then where would we have been? For those last five minutes prior to the substitution of Eboue, I had felt so sick and nervous in the pit of my stomach, expecting to see us concede a goal.
Yet I felt so sorry for Eboue as he trudged off the pitch being consoled by Adebayor, but I was extremely fearful for the team as a whole with the crowd on his back so much, so I was very happy that even with only three or four minutes to go that Arsene had finally taken the decision to substitute him. He was in the wrong position at the wrong time. However we who support Arsene Wenger to the hilt, must also question the wisdom of Arsene Wenger to provoke his detractors by his long term handling of Eboue. Playing Eboue on the left wing surprised me greatly, when we had Carlos Vela on the bench. At a stroke we lost a vital attacking edge, which enabled Wigan to probe down the exposed flank. But it is with regard to past performances when Eboue has been woeful and Arsene Wenger has stubbornly refused to substitute him. The fans booing Eboue, if we can for the sake of argument call them fans, will not see the last of this player. You can bet that Eboue will play against Porto, and will feature heavily in the game against Liverpool.
Arsene Wenger said of the incident
“We started to lose balls in the middle of the park. I want to show him nothing, I want to win the game. Do you really think I am at the stage where i want to show a player something? What would I want to show him? I just think that it could have put our 90 minutes hard work in trouble and you want to save the game. He would be the first unhappy one if he loses the ball because it makes him lose confidence and the team can drop points.
“He is a sensitive boy who wants to do well and cares about the club. He was tired because he didn’t play for a month and on top of that it is difficult when you have the crowd on your back. You do not want the fans to do it but if you say to do they have the right legally to do it, then of course they do.
I just felt it got to a point. I wanted to keep the player on to get the boos right, but when it goes as far as that it becomes a danger for the result and it is a relief for the player to come off.”
“At the end of the day you want to make the right decision for the team.”
So Eboue was tired… So why play him for over an hour then Arsene? A big mistake. To play him on the left, and then see him constantly drift infield and over to the right means that Arsene also miscalculated about the ability of Eboue to feel comfortable as a utility midfielder. Placing Traore on loan at Portsmouth seems like a big gamble lost now. Which comes back to my opening assertion, and why I placed some of the blame for the behaviour of the fans at the Emirates on Saturday squarely upon the shoulders of Arsene Wenger. He must know that it is hard being an Arsenal fan at the moment, even on Saturday, our game was average and I have not seen anything but glimpses of the beautiful game all season. In fact it was only evident when the youngsters took to the field. Arsene Wenger has failed to get the high tempo beautiful game going, and the teams that he picks of late seem uncharacteristically lethargic and devoid real counter attacking pace. All this allows teams to get back and defend heavily in numbers.
But again, what does it say for our club if we boo our own players? This is very very wrong, and I was ashamed of it. My feelings when Eboue came off were mixed, relief for the team, sadness for the player. That is bec ause when Eboue pulls on that red and white shirt, he has earned the right of our support during the game, we may like me, dislike the player intensely, but Arsene Wenger has chosen a team, and so we the fans must help them win. We must express our feelings later on blogs or message boards, or over a few beers inthe pub. I condemn the fans booing Eboue despite my expressed feelings of relief as the player was substituted. He will prove us all wrong in the future, because Arsene Wenger says so, and he knows his players better than anyone else. It also indicates the mindset of the intolerant fan at the moment. I would wager that many of the fans booing Eboue, also booed the team as a whole when they lost at the Emirates. Could they will also be the ones leaving early, and the ones not singing? By booing a player or the team, the images sent around the world are not one of a dignified loyal support base. The behaviour of this vocal minority stains us all, and it was a sad day to behold. Arsenal fans will be seen as fickle and spoilt and not worthy of the up and coming talent assembled by Arsene Wenger.
If Arsene Wenger does not strengthen the side in January, then we can expect more of the same from these mindless fans in the matches to come. I was amazed that the Emirates stadium had up to then been so quiet apart from the Red Section. The moaners had finally found their voice over one player. The noise of the cheering as Eboue left the field was louder than the boos of condemnation that had preceded them. It suggests that perhaps the influx of new supporters into the Emirates are not fans who support the team in sickness and in health. Yet I also saw established loyal Gooners around me cheering as Eboue came off. From the comments that I hear them make during the game, they are certainly fans of the manager, but are very concerned about the club’s current difficulties. They did not boo the player thankfully, and they were fans that I have seen for years at Highbury. I can understand them and conclude therefore that we are witnessing an unhappy turn of events at our club. William Gallas may have lost the dressing room, but Arsene Wenger has lost the stadium.
Fabregas the King.