Meeting with fellow Addict contributors after Saturday’s victory over Wigan, the talk in N5 was of how embarrassing Manu Eboué’s performance had been.
“I don’t agree with booing but that’s the closest I’ve ever come” said my Addict pal, and I knew where he was coming from.
All around me, people were shouting and lambasting the Ivorian and not without good cause.
Coasting around without doing very much when he replaced Samir Nasri, Eboué’s contribution as the game wore on was nothing short of a disgrace. Mis-timed passes, getting in the way of his team-mates and looking like a little boy lost in a man’s world, while the personal vilification was uncalled for, his withdrawal was not before time...
It appeared to me that, after five weeks out and with so few outfield players fit, Wenger had to replace like with like and Eboue is as close to an experienced winger as we had on the bench, despite his lack of fitness.
Of course, the likes of you and I would have loved to have seen Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey come on, given their impressive cameos so far. But with victory so important, I can well understand Arsène Wenger’s pragmatism when a victory was essential.
Why, with 15 minutes left and Eboué’s pride still not ripped to pieces, he didn’t bring on Ramsey, I don’t know, but it says much about how quickly fans will turn on the Ivorian that he was abused so much.
The simple fact is that Eboué has never endeared us – his diving, moaning, play-acting and lack of substantial skill make him no better than a bit-part player who, despite some occasionally impressive crosses, does not bring a huge amount of productivity to the team.
As others have said, anyone better than Wigan and we would have lost on Saturday, and Eboué just happened to be the worst culprit. He’s had four years now to convince us that he can fit into the Arsenal way and that he is way better than some of the other cut-price wingers who would be available and he has failed to impress.
Sure, Denilson hit the post, growing into the game as it wore on, Adebayor did the same and RvP also was inches wide.
But, profligate finishing apart, there was a timidity to our performance that suggests we really do have a fight on to retain fourth this season, especially when you see how Aston Villa fought back yesterday. Eboué just happens to typify the ‘don’t care’ impression that too many of our players seem to exhibit.
Whether it’s true or not, the team gives the impression that it lacks heart unless the opponents are glamourous.
Apart from the ongoing lack of a midfield general to protect Cesc Fabregas, we have been decimated in wide positions – Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky would be almost certain starters and with Samir Nasri also leaving the fray early, we don’t have anyone else capable of playing wide with aplomb.
Coming top in the Champions League is vital for Arsenal with the number of tricky opponents we could otherwise face in the knockout stages.
But with so many injuries, this really is the time to push Jack Wilshere forward and see how well he can do against Porto. I’ve all but given up on Rosicky taking his place permanently in the side again: his fitness concerns are too persistent.
Wilshere may not be the answer to all our problems, but he’s certainly got to be fast-tracked to give us that unpredictable brilliance we have missed for so long.