Saturday’s fixture marks Emmanuel Adebayor’s first return to Arsenal since his somewhat acrimonious departure last summer. His gleeful dancing celebration with Thierry Henry on the Emirates touchline is now but a dim and distant memory with a more recent and contemptible celebration overshadowing that once pleasant scene.
Earlier in the season the Togolese striker infamously ran the length of the field to celebrate his goal in front of the Gunners’ away support, earning himself a two-match ban in the process. Such was the provocation to the away support that the fact that he was later given a three-match ban for a stamp on Robin van Persie in that match has been all but forgotten. Another former Gunner was involved in the celebration, but his role was altogether different. Former skipper and fans’ favourite Kolo Toure quickly emerged on the scene to drag his teammate away and calm the incendiary atmosphere arising. King Kolo has again sought to bring a calming influence to proceedings, advising his teammate that: “He needs to keep calm because he is a professional player… He needs to show more intelligence.”
Understandably, the welcome greetings that each will receive on their return could not be more polarised. Toure will be applauded and saluted as a tremendous servant to the club, having been a key component of the side for a number of years, while maintaining a humble demeanour. Toure received a substantial offer from Man City, as did Arsenal, prompting Wenger to let him go and start to rebuild his defence. Contrast Adebayor, who after stepping into the limelight in the wake of Henry’s departure, became Arsenal’s most potent goal threat. His form in the 2007/08 season, which yielded 24 goals in 36 games, saw him linked with a transfer to AC Milan – a move he refuted – before immediately backtracking to say that his options were open. This prompted Arsenal to extend his contract and also brought the player a substantial wage increase. However, seemingly unsettled by the speculation, he visibly lacked effort the following season, leading Arsenal fans to question his attitude and desire. Following an engineered move to City’s billionaires, he cited a lack of love from his former club as the reason he left the Gunners: “Arsene Wenger can never say that I wanted to leave… It was because Arsene didn’t want me anymore.” It is a comment that rankles many Arsenal supporters.
The two factors were inextricably linked as the Togolese was distracted by the riches on offer and so his performances for Arsenal plummeted, leading Wenger to deem him surplus to requirements. Upon his return he will be roundly booed and jeered, but that should be the extent of it as elements of derogatory chanting heard at the City of Manchester Stadium do not bear repeating – although it must be noted that these were a repetition of chants previously made against Arsenal. Yet the contrasting emotions evoked by the two former Gunners, as well as the warm reception that would herald another returning visit from Patrick Vieira, shows the value of loyalty in the fans’ hearts.
Arsene Wenger will hope that the value of loyalty is not lost on his current crop of players either, as he once again defended Lukasz Fabianski: “He is a top-class goalkeeper. I repeat that many times and you will see that one day, I am right.” His comment comes in addition to one made in a similar vein after the goalkeeper’s error in judgment during last season’s FA Cup defeat to Chelsea: “Lukasz will be one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world.” That howler against Chelsea came on his 24th birthday and ironically, the latest entry in the catalogue of errors marked his 25th birthday. To say that his age is responsible for his lack of composure is stretching credibility somewhat as 25 hardly makes him a youngster, although goalkeepers generally have longer careers, peaking at later ages.
Wenger, a manager renowned for missing incidents and having selective eyesight, has shown blind faith in the Pole. In Manuel Almunia’s continued absence, Fabianski will play against Man City as Wenger has very few options between the sticks, and as such his comments may be an attempt to boost the player’s morale before he is relied upon to see the season out. However, the strength of his comments – lauding the keeper’s potential rather than merely stating that he has faith in him – denotes a genuine belief in his ability. Although Wenger has not proven himself to be the best judge of goalkeepers, you get the feeling that he may well be right in that Fabianski will be a world class keeper, but you also get the feeling that if this is to happen it will not be with the Gunners.
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