Arsenal: Why Emmanuel Adebayor May Never Fulfill His Potential

Amartey ArmarCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2008

Emmanuel Adebayor has managed to alienate the Arsenal fans that believed in him from the beginning. By being arrogant enough to assume that after one good season at the club he deserves the status of Thierry Henry and should be paid as such, he has also vindicated the people that put question marks over his attitude to the club, and to football in general.

I remember a conversation I had with a good friend of mine about two years ago, during which I vehemently defended Adebayor’s attitude, which my friend had questioned due to his chequered history. At the time I thought he was a brilliant prospect for the club, slightly rough round the edges, but he definitely had the determination and ability to become a top player. 

My friends distaste for him was based almost entirely on his attitude and he had allowed that to cloud his judgement of the player himself, which I was at pains to point out.

At the time, Adebayor was not the goalscoring leader-of-the-line he is today. He was a brilliant foil for Robin Van Persie and Thierry Henry, tirelessly making runs to pull defences out of position, creating chances with his movement and sweating his proverbials off for the Arsenal cause.

He also showed flashes of skill that in my opinion were out of the ordinary—you could see he had a slightly unique way of controlling the ball, and a different take on how to beat defenders that often caught them off guard. I admired him for these reasons, and most importantly, for his commitment to improvement. You could literally see him getting better.

At his age, if he continued on the right path and honed his finishing skills, I thought Adebayor would become a monster. To be honest he still can, but he has made two fatal errors that I’m not sure he’ll recover from. 

The first, and the most dangerous for his future if he is to be the kind of club-hopping, prima-donna striker that is becoming all too common, is publicly holding to ransom the club and manager who showed such belief in him when the rest of the world was wondering how we’d cope after we lost TH14. That shows a shocking attitude and I’m sure it contributed to AC Milan pulling out of the race to sign him.

Who wants a young player who is yet to peak, in the papers talking about himself as if he was “the one,” claiming everybody wants him so his club need to buck their ideas up and pay him an extortionate amount of money?

The kind of manager that wants an ego like that on his staff is probably only doing it to appease his fans, and it’s no coincidence that the clubs that court him are the ones that instigate tugs-of-war every summer to make sure they have the players who will sell the most shirts come the start of the season.

The second mistake, and the one that former Arsenal players seem to make time and time again, is thinking that he was the biggest contributor to his success, and that he can play like that at any club. He has no chance. Look at former “world’s best left back” Ashley Cole. Compare him to his replacement, Gael Clichy, this season. 

Look at all of the players Wenger has allowed to leave… How many of them have actually become better footballers since leaving Arsenal? With the exception of Bentley, who in my opinion could have been even better than he is now, had he not lost patience and left when he did.

At the time you could understand his reasons for leaving and he’s doing very well at Blackburn, but a bit of patience may have seen him nail down one of the regular spots with the departure of Pires.

Adebayor performed so well for Arsenal this season because he was playing for Arsenal. The system is suited to his strengths. Wenger made sure of that, ensuring that tactically Ade had the correct supply lines, and Fabregas and Hleb ensured he consistently received the ball when he’d be at his most dangerous.

All he had to do was work on his game. That’s the beauty of the system we have, its ability to allow each player to bring his own personality to the side, and grow into his role. That’s why time and time again Wenger seems to get the best out of the talent at his disposal. 

Adebayor will not get the opportunity to develop at the rate he has thus far if he goes to any other club, and he still has plenty of things to work on. He’s not the finished article, but his belief that he already is, is the reason I won’t be too sad to let him go.

I’d rather that than have him resting on his laurels for a season, or upsetting the rest of the squad with his “I’m the man” attitude. We need players that will push themselves harder each year, and not congratulate themselves on their personal progress until they win something with this team.

If he hadn’t had a dip in form at a crucial time last season, we may have won the league. He could have just been happy with earning wages most of us can only dream of, playing football for the club that loved him, and working to further improve on his consistency over the whole season and win us some trophies. 

It’s all there for him… we were so agonisingly close last year that you can still point to inexperience in some respects. If Hleb could shoot, if Gallas/Toure learned how to deal with aerial crosses—they are both good in the air individually, but when relying on each other to cut out the danger they’re still not quite there, if Eduardo or RvP had been fit, if decisions had gone our way… there were so many ifs and buts in the last campaign I had really hoped the whole squad would be itching to come back and put things right. 

After a season in which we were the best team in the league for sustained periods I’d hoped they’d all be looking forward to going one better.

Adebayor’s numbers last year were phenomenal, and if he leaves will be a big loss, make no mistake. But with RvP and Eduardo fit (hopefully for the season this time), Walcott starting to show his true colours, hopefully some more goals from midfield now Hleb’s gone, and the asking price we have set, if he leaves we may be able to plug the gap.

And with the attitude he has shown, how much better is he really going to get anywhere else? I hope he realises that with massive wages come massive responsibility. The numbers he put up last season will be a pre-requisite, and failure to produce could see a rapid decline in his career.

If we lose Adebayor I can see another Anelka-type career, one which may or may not be laden with trophies but will fail to live up to the promise he has shown thus far. Remember that at this stage in his career, Thierry Henry was not as good statistically. The difference with Henry was that he knew that Arsene Wenger was undoubtedly the man to make him the best player he could be.

If he stays, he will have plenty of egg on his face. He just needs to shut his mouth, play his position, perform consistently at the level he has already reached and continue to work hard to improve. Then I may sing his name again, but not before.

What do you think about Adebayor and the Arsenal system in general?

How big a part does the system play in the individual performances of the players Wenger has?

Will Adebayor perform better elsewhere?


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