As the sale of Emmanuel Adebayor is finalized, albeit hitting a slight snag today as he asks for more time, and he completes his move to the North West and the riches of Manchester City, Arsenal fans can be forgiven for wondering quite why Arsene Wenger is allowing the giant Togolese forward to leave the Emirates.
The truth is that for the last twelve months Adebayor's move was inevitable, and this was the right time for a deal to happen.
Wenger will probably be loath to let him leave, as will many Arsenal fans, as his strengths as a player are not in doubt—but Wenger and Arsenal were forced by circumstance.
Certainly City are signing a player who on his day is a potent mix of strength, speed, athleticism, and deadly finishing—a handful for any defender. Rio Ferdinand named him as the toughest opponent he has come across.
Despite a disappointing season, he was Arsenal's second top-scorer in the league, and over two legs in the Champions League quarter final he was a potent threat throughout—capping his performance with a wonder-strike which few could match.
However, against these highs, there were lows—shuddering lows. A general malaise seemed to afflict his performances, capped by a horror show in the Champions League semifinal. The verve and vibrancy of his performances, which were such a mark of his breakthrough 2007-08 season, were gone.
That season, Adebayor was at the peak of his powers, and inevitably such a level of performance will attract attention.
The manner in which he whored his services to AC Milan seemed to permanently affect, not only his affection for Arsenal, but also his relationship with the club's fans. From that point, there was always going to be one end to the relationship and it would not be amicable.
Wenger will sell him, making at least three times what he paid for a bit-part player from Monaco.
He can take Adebayor's development as the latest evidence of his innate ability to develop world-class players at a bare minimum of expense, and by selling a player who was becoming a disruptive influence he can hopefully look forward to a more harmonious dressing room next season.
In truth, the club he leaves behind is unlikely to miss him. Arsenal struggled last season, but this had little to do with the absence of Adebayor. Arsenal's defense remains its Achilles heel, while they can still call upon a relative wealth of attacking talent next season.
In terms of like-for-like, the continued development of Nicklas Bendtner, who made promising strides last season, could lead him to become a direct replacement. The likes of Robin Van Persie, a returning Eduardo, the promise of Carlos Vela, and the scheming play-making of Andrei Arshavin all represent credible first team options for Wenger.
Of course, he can also sign a replacement. Names have been bandied about, but as with any transfer talk, the credibility of many of the targets can be questioned. The likes of Huntelaar and Dzeko are likely links due to their "availability," but one must wonder why Wenger would choose now, when both are at a premium, to sign them.
Other named targets perhaps represent more credible targets. Marouane Chamakh at Bordeaux is much discussed, is capable in the air, and though his goal-ratio is relatively poor, his price—£6 million—makes him a likely Wenger target.
Another name is the unknown Demba Ba, a pacey, tall striker with Hoffenheim who has been receiving rave reviews and is similar in style to Adebayor. A fee of around £10 million has been mentioned.
Both are targets in the Wenger mold, direct replacements, at a cheaper price—and their signings are likely, while the rest of the Adebayor funds could also be used to strengthen the team in more vital areas.
While the arrival of Thomas Vermaelen has certainly addressed Arsenal's weakness in central defense, another centre half could be an option. Mamadou Sakho has been mentioned in dispatches, though whether Wenger would be willing to spend so much on a relatively inexperienced centre half is doubtful.
Another option is Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic, a 6'4" 20-year-old who has a price-tag of around £10 million. He would be a credible defensive option, and has previously been linked with both Arsenal and Chelsea.
Furthermore, Arsenal's failed pursuit of Felipe Melo revealed that Wenger is still targeting a holding player and a move for St. Etienne's Blaise Matuidi could well be in the offing, once more utilising the funds which Adebayor's move secured.
So while Adebayor departs the Emirates for pastures new, Arsenal fans need not be disheartened. As the old mantra goes: “In Wenger we trust” and now more than ever they must trust their manager, as the sale of Adebayor could prove to be the making of his team.
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