While the stock of many Ivorian players is at an all-time low following their disappointing and thoroughly underwhelming exit at the hands of Nigeria in the recent Cup of Nations, one of their squad players looks to be on the up.
Arouna Kone has often failed to hold down a regular place with the Elephants, and in truth, it isn’t too much of a mystery as to why.
Didier Drogba has been the emphatic spectre of the side’s strikeforce, dwarfing the remaining stable of talent the national side can boast. His status as one of the world’s finest forwards, the honours earned individually and alongside his Chelsea teammates, as well as the stature he enjoys in his homeland, mean that ‘The Drog’ has always been the first name on the teamsheet.
This has left the rest scrabbling around for game time.
The Guardian quoted Kone Monday as saying that he didn’t feature in South Africa as much as he would have liked to, and indeed, this may be the striker’s international legacy, where he has often been on the periphery of Cote d’Ivoire’s disappointing decade.
However, while he might have been marginalised to the role of spectator for the Elephants, he appears to be almost single-handedly spearheading Wigan Athletic’s bid to retain their Premier League status for another season.
Far from a disinterested observer in the North West, Kone is relishing the responsibility heaped upon him, as well as the expectation that comes with being the figurehead striker of a side struggling near the danger zone.
This may be a new experience for Kone—previous stints at Levante and Sevilla have rarely brought the woes of a relegation dogfight—but the striker looks up for the challenge and is prospering under the pressure that accompanies Wigan’s plight.
Kone currently has 10 goals this season, eight of which have come in the Premier League; not bad for a forward in his maiden season in England.
Speaking to the Wigan website on his arrival at the club, the Ivorian was explicit in stating that Roberto Martinez’s progressive, attacking style of football coaxed him to the DW Stadium—indeed, the move could have been seen as a coup at the time, with clubs such as Spurs having been linked with the Ivorian towards the end of last season.
Martinez was quick to compliment Kone for the way he adapted to life in England, and the Spaniard will surely be delighted with the decisive finishing and incisive forward play which stands in stark contrast to previous Martinez signings Mauro Boselli and Franco Di Santo.
Crucially, the Anyama-born frontman appears to be hitting a purple patch just when the Latics need him most. With two goals in the decimation of Huddersfield and another brace in the side’s demolition of Reading in a crucial six-pointer, Kone could well emerge as the difference between an extended stay in the top division and a relegation which has often felt inevitable for a club punching above its weight.