Subjected to horrific racist abuse this weekend in Turkey, Eboue was an infuriating player for Arsenal but he did once dress up as a Tiger for a Christmas party...
Emmanuel Eboue, eh? Where do you start? A player so Marmite he could harvest his sweat as a concentrate for the delicious/disgusting sandwich spread. He's been with Arsenal since 2005 which in footballing terms should probably merit a testimonial. This season though, it seems will be his last. Some Arsenal fans will be tinged with sadness, Eboue is a player who boasts pace and trickery on the ball, yet he's never managed to fulfill his promise at the home of football.
Others will be over the moon.
I sit firmly in the latter category. In fact, I'm so entrenched in that category I've found it hard over the past few years to display any sort of rationality when writing about him, so if Sabotage Times are expecting me to give a fair and balanced appraisal of his time at Arsenal, I'm afraid they're more mistaken than the brother who gave his Manchester United superstar sibling a spare key to his house.
Eboue's finest moment came during the 2006 Christmas party at Gilberto's. Get this people. He hid behind a door, then when the players walked into the room, he jumped out in a tigers outfit and roared like a sectioned madman. Guess what as well? It wasn't even a fancy dress party! My gosh, it's like impossible to imagine in my head that someone could be so talented at football and comedy at the same time. It's like God literally gave all the talent to Eboue.
Adebayor was certainly entertained by his antics. The Togon who thinks tigers live in his home land said: “People who know me would say I'm a cool guy, always laughing and joking. But Emmanuel Eboue ? He's funnier than the funniest comedians on TV.” if you thought that was funny, Adebayor had even more stories to share: "Sometimes when he eats he puts food up his nose." As you can see, the calibre of humour amongst footballers these days is more intellectual than a Henry Kissinger jokeathon. How did it all start though?
Eboue came through the ranks at Belgian club Beveren. He joined around the same time as fellow invincible Kolo Toure. His introduction wasn't as immediate as Kolo's though it was quite spectacular. He replaced Lauren at right back against Liverpool and when the Cameroonian failed to return due to injury, Eboue took the reins and never looked back. In his first season, he was part of the meanest defence in Champions League history, he played games that included Madrid, Villareal, Juventus and eventually Barcelona. He made it into the Champions League team of the year and many touted him as that seasons best right back.
Whilst we were out in Europe slaying our European enemies, at home was a very different problem. Our form had slumped and Spurs were ahead of us. Our defence was very poor and Eboue's suspect positioning was part of that problem. During that May's Champions League Final, we saw a glimpse of the real Eboue when he theatrically dived to win us a freekick that would give us a life line. I don't like cheats, even when it's against Barcelona. I do like Tiger outfits though.
He was utterly hopeless going forward, being moved up the pitch a few yards totally killed his confidence and made him play like a scared school child.
The next season Eboue did well earning himself a player of the month accolade in September, from there on in things started to go down hill. Injuries plagued him and the cheating and feigning injury started to kick in. He was very average at right back and again, his poor positioning and penchant for totally switching off were contributing to a leaky defence, though it had to be said, going forward he looked great.
Wenger decided to sign Sagna that summer and promote Eboue to right wing. A decision that made sense. A decision that bombed pretty spectacularly. He was utterly hopeless going forward, being moved up the pitch a few yards totally killed his confidence and made him play like a scared school child. Sometimes he'd just run into players or fall over, anything to avoid doing something productive. Unless by productive you mean sticking carrots up your nose. He was super good at doing that.
2008 is when it all started going a bit wrong with the fans. He was infuriating to watch, almost beyond a joke at times. His reputation was souring so much that Wenger had to spin some PR magic comparing him to Ray Parlour, labelling him the pass master.
That was hilarious, but not as hilarious as the time Eboue rolled around on the floor with the Queens Corgi's. I wrote this visionary piece after a Blackburn game in September:
Well, I was pretty much fuming about Eboue’s dive… he’d played well the whole game and then he dived/went down too easily… He also feigned injury and went off… again, I believed this to be a cynical act to stop the press tearing him to shreds tomorrow and I felt that was poor from a player who knows about his bad reputation amongst the faithful…
I let the Grovers know my feelings and Seb put a different spin on it… he reckoned maybe Eboue could become a bit of a cult figure amongst the gooner faithful… in the same way McGoldrick, Jensen, Cygan and the Grimster did… maybe I should start enjoy watching Eboue and the madness that comes with him?
1. I was right about the injury. He did fake it. Wenger said he'd be out for 2 months, he was back in 2 weeks.
2. The cult of Eboue was brewing.
The pathetic thing is that his most famous contribution to Arsenal came at a Christmas party when he dressed up as a tiger and jumped out from behind a door.
I wasn't visionary yet though, it took until a December game against Wigan for that to happen. Eboue came on during a nervy game against Wigan during a poor season. He played quite possibly the worst 20 minutes most people had ever seen culminating in him tackling Kolo Toure and losing the ball in a dangerous position. The Arsenal crowd were on his back and Arsene Wenger unbelievably substituted him in injury time... he was booed when he left the pitch. In fairness though, the jeers were more aimed in the direction of Arsene Wenger for not recruiting adequately enough and throwing on a poor player who was unfit to help the team overcome a poor Wigan side.
The fans were embarrassed. Arsenal fans don't normally boo. We'd picked on the special kid at school. We'd shamed ourselves. This is when the ridiculousness began. The next game we cheered him, like you'd cheer the speech of a best man with a speech impediment. It was all very false, it was all very cringe worthy, but Eboue said he'd repay our love.
He didn't, he continued doing what he does best, running up blind alleys, making poor passes and nearly looking like a good player. Still, like I'd predicted, he became a cult figure, his poor performances were now laughed off, we now had player people enjoyed watching because he was so bad...
Fast forward to this year, rumour has it he's had enough of Arsenal. He want's first team football, he's been grumbling about that issue in training and as far as people inside the club are concerned, he's contributed nothing. He's still loved by certain sections of the fans, the cult of Eboue still lives on, but after the pathetic collapse of our season, people are starting to wake up to the fact that having passengers at the club is no longer and option, regardless of how funny they are. Yep, even if they're funnier than the funniest comedienne in the world.
The sad thing is, he's a technically gifted player. The infuriating thing is that he had all the attributes to be a great. The pathetic thing is that his most famous contribution to Arsenal came at a Christmas party when he dressed up as a tiger and jumped out from behind a door.
Eboue, it's been emotional, hilarious, frustrating but ultimately unproductive. Don't slam the door on the way out...
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