Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday April 3 2009
Coverage of Arsenal supporters and their bellicose expressions of dislike towards their own players has been vast and exhaustive and I will try my best not to rouse that particular sleeping dog here. However, where there is ill fame there is room for convalescence; in crisis there is opportunity and so forth. This article is of a much more "ask what your country can do for you?" sort of composition. Arsenal are at the sharp end of the pineapple now with regards this season with a punishing schedule from now until late May. At the beginning of the season, this is where a football fan hopes to be, in the pressure games on the pressure occasions; for these pave the path to glory. For players, these are the types of matches they breathe for, the reason they eschewed the street corner for the local field in their early teens, whilst the rest of us were swigging white lightning and smoking incredibly cheap, sawdusty fags. For Arsenal, in a season where the winter was filled with discontent from the Arsenal public, the hope springs eternal that one of those players who has felt the acid tongues could just make themselves an Arsenal hero.
With league games at Old Trafford and Anfield, as well as a visit from Chelsea, an F.A. Cup Semi Final date with the latter and a Champions League Quarter Final the very least we will have to negotiate in the next seven weeks; the opportunity for one of Eboue, Bendtner or Adebayor to permanently etch their name into Arsenal folklore. As is usually the case with boo boys, criticism for all of the aforementioned has been over the top. Bendtner`s performances and finishing away from home offers circumstantial proof that the home crowd are a millstone for him, Adebayor`s 12 goals and 8 assists in 27 appearances this year will always be dismissed owing to his moronic behaviour in the summer, whilst Eboue, well when he`s actually got a bit of confidence in him is a half decent player. These are all points that will be lost amidst the brickbats of the public, but what price an Emmanuel Eboue winner at Wembley versus Chelsea? How will the home crowd`s perception of Bendtner change were he to head a last ditch diving header into the roof of the net to take us past Villarreal? An Emmanuel Adebayor winner at Old Trafford in September 2006 marked the start of a sea change in opinion against him at the time, how ironic if he could repair his rapport with us by securing Champions League qualification with a few vital sighters against United and Liverpool?
Consistency is always the hallmark of a great footballer, (look up Gerd Muller`s statistics for confirmation- frightening); however, football careers are usually underpinned by moments of inspiration. Someone like Alan Shearer will not be as well remembered from outside the North East due to a lack of really iconoclastic moments that the big occasion can give you. These moments can elevate even the most average of careers into the stratosphere. Ask Steve Morrow and Andy Linighan. Hell, ask Jimmy Glass. Few remember that Gus Caesar was considered the country`s finest young defender until he fell on his arse at Wembley. It seems to me there is little else the aforementioned players can do to win fans over; when you are the victim of this kind of prejudice the detractors will focus on the bad and filter everything else out. Bendtner and Walcott are peas in the same pod, both young, obviously talented, produce a great deal of end product for the team, both have proven themselves at international level yet, being young, both make very elementary and frustrating errors. Yet it is obvious which is treated better by the supporters, largely I would argue by virtue of nationality, but Walcott also captured the supporters` hearts with his sixty yard saunter at Anfield last April. The next two months will leave plenty of opportunity for those that find affection difficult to come by for redemption. As we move ever closer to the 20th anniversary of Anfield 89 it`s worth recounting that Michael Thomas` Arsenal career was pretty average. What I wouldn`t give for Eboue charging through the midfield in Rome in May 2009.LD.
Date:Friday April 3 2009
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