December 2008 against Wigan. Emmanuel Eboue came on as a substitute for Arsenal and was then taken off after a dismal performance saw the Ivorian booed off the pitch by his own fans. Linked with a move away from the Emirates last summer, notably in the deal to try and prise Felipe Melo away from then-club Fiorentina, it looked like Eboue’s days were numbered for Arsenal.
But since that fateful day, Eboue has drastically improved. No longer is he mysteriously tripping over the grass, or trying to earn a place on Eastenders with his play-acting skills. Eboue is an effort player, who can cover every blade of grass, will run all day for his team and loves the ball at his feet to run at defenders, or on the overlap as a full back. He may not be the best passer of the ball, but the game against Sunderland the other week showed that Eboue can be a valuable asset to his team, by setting up Bendtner for the opening goal.
Arsene Wenger has been extremely impressed with Eboue’s recent form, saying:
“Eboue is a good example that you can always change the opinion of people if you keep focused, have talent and produce on the pitch. The people who booed him a year ago today love him. That is down to his attitude and it is the credit he deserves.”
Eboue, in my view, is best suited to the right back role, where he can attack and is a fairly good crosser of the ball. He may not be the best tackler in the world, but has the pace to get back and stop his man. But with the emergence of Bacary Sagna at Arsenal, that right back spot is not available and with the presence of Theo Walcott on the wing means that Eboue is often glued to the bench.
This season, Theo has missed long stretches through injury, leaving Arsenal with no regular right winger. Samir Nasri and Rosicky have been used there, and Eboue has been limited to coming off the bench and playing for 20 minutes, not enough time to have a major impact. It may not be his favourite position, but Eboue is the type of player who will do anything to help his team and his versatility allows him to play there. This season Eboue has played in 16 Premiership games, starting 10 of them and scoring one goal.
There may still be the odd stray pass and the odd dive, but Eboue has undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds since that game against Wigan. He may not hid the headlines and be able to do the spectacular things like Fabregas, Van Persie or Arshavin, but Eboue is the type of utility player that every team needs if they want to challenge for trophies.
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