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Return of the Right Back – Why Arsenal have more to be grateful for in Eboue than we have ever understood.

The rampaging Emmanuel Eboue has proved to us again that he is one of the best right-backs in the world. The question remains, how did we ever forget, and do we deserve to keep the services of a player who has been treated so unfairly?

The treatment Eboue received from those present at the Emirates on the 6th of December 2008 was one of the most galling and appalling things I have ever witnessed in football. It is the only time I have ever been made to feel ashamed to call myself and Arsenal follower, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I felt no association to those bastards; it was surreal to consider what was actually happening; Arsenal fans berating their own man to the point of despair, so much so that he was forced to leave the field on the brink of tears. What is even more surprising is that Emmanuel Eboue’s name still fills the ranks of the Arsenal squad list every week, and though most of those pathetic masses present at the Wigan game may have forgotten about it, I’m sure it is an experience that will like in his mind for the rest of his life.

Oh how the tables have turned. Eboue is playing some of the best football of his life, and is performing astoundingly; at the moment there is no Premier League right back whose performance can match him. The real question is, as I alluded to earlier, how did we ever let ourselves forget that this is what he was capable of?

Before I continue, I’d like state now that this article is not intended to be an argument of whether Sagna or Eboue is the better player for us, although I have my strong opinions on that. However, I will compare statistics to emphasise how underrated Eboue has been for us. Rather, it’s meant to be an exploration of just how it is that Arsenal fans have neglected, or even belittled this player at times. Statistics and facts which I put forward comparing Sagna and Eboue are not included as a reference to condemn Sagna, but to show how good Eboue really has been for us.

Let’s start at the beginning. Although Eboue joined us in the 04/05 season, he spent most of this season in the reserve team and made only 4 appearances; he was only 20 years old. By next season, he was playing regularly for us, including in the Champions league against such illustrious opposition as Real Madrid, Villarreal and Juventus. An injury to Lauren had gifted him an opportunity, and Eboue took this, performing very admirably in the League also, and making a total of 32 appearances that season.

His unpredictablity, vision and acceleration are often the undoing of teams.
He almost always beats his man.

The following season, he really came into his own. He helped the team to a Champions Final in the 05/06 Champions League, as well as winning the title of right-back of the tournament. On top of this alone, he made 35 appearances that season with 6 assists, despite spending very long periods of the season absent with serious injury.

In April of 2007, Eboue signed a new long-term contract with Arsenal. Two months later, Wenger signed a new player, Bacary Sagna, to be first choice right back for the team.

Why on earth did he do this?

Effectively since then, Eboue has been merely a bit part player. Relegated to the bench at right-back, Wenger has tried to mould him into a midfielder. But it is apparent to all of us that Eboue is at his dangerous best when he is in his natural flank position. Despite admirable efforts, he has never been at his best at right mid, and thus he was relegated from their too.

On the fateful day that he was marauded by those who called themselves Arsenal fans, he had been suffering from a significant form dip. This, you may remember, was completely in line with the form of everybody else in the team, which was very poor. What happened to him that day was appalling, by itself enough to warrant a player leaving the club. The thing is, Eboue has been in the background of this Arsenal team for three years now, in favour of a player which quite arguably he is a lot better than. His reputation is inexplicably poor compared to his true quality as a footballer.

Aside from his attacking prowess, Eboue’s defensive abilities are often undervalued…

And most of all, not to be ignored, is Wenger’s role in this. The actions of Wenger have done their best to destroy the career of one the game’s most promising right backs. He is a player whose name should be dropped when one considers the best in his position in the world; Maicon, Alves, Srna…Eboue! And yet, Wenger pig-headedly is determined to turn him into a right winger. It’s not only disrespectful to Eboue’s abilities, its just plain stupid. Here we have one of the best right-backs of a generation, and is not even allowed the basic respect of playing as a right back.

And yet, he battles on to prove his worth to us; a fight which he should be delighted does not go unnoticed by many. One only has to watch the games he has appeared in this season to see the quality he offers us. Eboue is dynamic, pacey, and unpredictable to defenders; everything that Sagna is not. The problem is that when a player gets such infrequent chance to prove himself as he has had, that when he has a bad game, people believe it is a reflection of his true ability. This is not an endeavour to say Sagna is not as good; we are certainly lucky to have two such capable players. I just hope to acknowledge that Eboue has never been given the opportunity or respect he deserves as a player. He is perfect for Arsenal, and this shows when he plays for us.

After all that has been inflicted upon Manu, he remains an Arsenal man to the great delight of many of us. He has been booed, berated, dropped and suffered the managers attempts to change him, but he remains with us nonetheless. But with rumours that there are numerous clubs interested in acquiring his services, can we really expect him to stay? He is finally being given the opportunity to prove himself as I am overjoyed to see, but with his contract running out, do we even deserve to keep him?

Eboue; an unsung hero of Arsenal.

And how can he trust Wenger? The last time he signed a contract a new right-back was brought in to usurp him within two months. How can he know that this run of games he is being given is not merely to entice him into signing, before he is dropped again.

And yet he denies he wants to leave the club; perhaps in self-acknowledgement of how well he has played when given the chance.

I sincerely hope that is not the case, for I truly feel that to lose Eboue would be one of the greatest losses of talent that we have experienced. Eboue is one of the best right-backs in the world, and given the chance he shows us. It is not unrealistic to believe that he is one of the best. So what I’m asking really is that he be given the respect he is really due. Let him play and he will prove how good he is, and opposing teams will fear him as a player. We see this time and time again when he is given the chance, Eboue is a player truly capable of magic.


I’m intesrested to hear from you all about this, and hope to see you on the forum to discuss it.


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