If you’re a Togolese fan, reports suggesting that Emmanuel Adebayor has temporarily suspended his career with the national team probably don’t’ constitute the best news you’ve heard all season. For Tottenham Hotspur fans however, the ex-Manchester City man’s decision to stay away from the African Cup of Nations next month offers their side a timely boost ahead of the hectic festive period.
And in many ways, it’s a boost that’s felt a long time coming from Adebayor this season. While a combination of fitness and injury issues have understandably lessened his availability for Andre Villas-Boas’ side, the biggest mark he’s made this term was the one on the inside of Santi Cazorla’s leg – and even that was questionable.
Indeed, while Spurs’ No10 might not wield too much control over a niggling hamstring, he’s certainly got the power to decide whether to fling himself into reckless lunges or not. His red card against Arsenal in the 5-2 defeat at the Emirates last month cost his side dearly and in many ways, put both his team and particularly his manager, well in the mire.
A hotheaded derby day red card isn’t necessarily something that Adebayor can be crucified with, but it certainly couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Lilywhites. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but make no mistake about it, the sounds of discontent at White Hart Lane before the West Ham game were a lot more palpable than simply mere whispers.
Andre Villas-Boas and his side have of course subsequently came through the gauntlet unscathed, taking nine points from crunch fixtures against the Hammers, Liverpool and Martin Jol’s Fulham side. The relevance of his absence may certainly seem dampened, but these were vitally important fixtures that Adebayor should have been there for.
The 3-0 win at Craven Cottage on Saturday saw the big Togolese sit out the final game of his three-match suspension, but given the superb recent form of Jermain Defoe, there are no guarantees that Adebayor is simply going to waltz back into the side. And this is perhaps where his first real test since first arriving at White Hart Lane in 2011, may lie.
A man never short of a spot of speculation or a comment or two to the media, supporters have heard Adebayor pipe up several times this season. Although reports of discontent with Villas-Boas over a starting place seem odd, considering his infrequent availability this season, we’ve already heard the ex-Arsenal man claim he’ll leave if Spurs want him to. A fair enough statement perhaps.
It hasn’t stopped there, though. We’ve also listened to Adebayor publicly criticize the team’s performances.
“I try to keep positive so I don’t really want to think about how bad it could be, but worse than this, I think we’d be gone,” he said, speaking after the 0-0 draw away to Lazio last month.
“At the moment things are looking bad. We just have to try to find a way to get through this. Why aren’t things clicking? I don’t know. We’re all frustrated about the way things are going. We need it to start clicking soon, otherwise, trust me, we will find ourselves in difficulty.”
Again, there’s not much to seemingly criticize from what appears to be nothing much more than a brutally honest, albeit slightly pessimistic, bit of public opinion. Although whether you agreed or disagreed with his sentiments, the phrase ‘time and a place’ has more than a touch of gravitas, here.
Yes, the fitness issues he faced at the beginning of the season wasn’t necessarily his fault and his injury trouble couldn’t have been helped either. But however you frame it, Adebayor’s not been playing anywhere near enough football to begin piping up and offering doomsday like soundbites to the media. He needs to get his head down and concentrate on playing his football.
What we want to see is a fit, fresh and determined Adebayor return to the fore at Spurs. And that includes playing his part as a member of this squad, as well as simply putting the ball into the back of the net.
Despite his goal scoring form, Jermain Defoe isn’t without faults within this Spurs team, with the England man often resembling something of a peripheral figure during games. Emmanuel Adebayor’s all round skillset would appear a better fit for the 4-2-3-1 system that Villas-Boas employs and when he has actually played, Tottenham certainly seem a better outfit in terms of ball retention.
Although wherever you stand on Defoe’s all round game, the point is that Adebayor isn’t going to be handed a starting place on a plate every week as he was under Harry Redknapp last season. For however gifted his talents may be, he’s going to have to work hard to become a mainstay in the side and on the occasions he may find himself on the bench, there can’t be any room for drama or the courting of sympathy.
Emmanuel Adebayor is going to have a massive part to play if Tottenham really are set to achieve their designs on a fourth placed finish in the Premier League this term. And in many ways, given the abject lack of momentum he’s had so far, perhaps Adebayor’s term is only now truly set to begin.
Bar the flash point at the Emirates, Adebayor has enjoyed arguably one of the most controversy free spells of his career in White Hart Lane. Now it’s time to keep that trend going, with a fuss free, drama free and also a quote free return to form, fitness and availability.