Three points overshadowed by Eboue’s extraordinary cameo

Arsenal 1-0 Wigan Athletic

There are so many talking points from yesterday. For a start, we won – and that’s now two league wins in a row. It all tots up.

It wasn’t a hugely convincing win though. In fact, it was a pretty poor game to watch overall. The application was mostly there, but the quality lacked at times. As expected, Wigan made things hard for us, and after the 33rd minute, when Nasri went off injured, we found it harder ourselves with little natural width available. It’s a good job we were 1-0 up by then following Adebayor’s neat finish.

With Denilson on the right wing and Eboue on the left – a position to my knowledge he has never before played – the natural thing was for the players to cut inside and it all got a bit crowded.

We perked up considerably in the second half, hitting the post and having several excellent chances, but the second goal never came and that affected our play too. This is a team with desperately fragile confidence. It’s evident that it’s not the kind of thing we can switch back on either. Any improvements are gradual.

The biggest talking point of the day was, of course, substitute Eboue’s extraordinary substitution. In mitigation, he had been out for five weeks, and he was asked to play on the left wing, but really, the man is his own worst enemy.

Practically his first touch, on the edge of our box, saw him miskick and spoon the ball up onto his hand, giving Wigan a dangerous free kick. The crowd burst out laughing and, I’m afraid, that set the scene for an atrocious hour of Eboue at his worst. He passed the ball out of play here, to the opposition there, and, at times, Clichy even resorted to long balls over the midfield, so ineffective had Eboue become. The last straw came when he dispossessed Toure – I’d laugh if it wasn’t so tragic – and passed it straight to a Wigan player.

The fans had seen enough, and Wenger had seen enough. He was subbed to a bitter chorus of boos. If you saw the look on Eboue’s face on Match of the Day it’s hard not to feel huge sympathy for him. It’s not nice to be hung, drawn and quartered by your own fans; in fact it’s humiliating. I felt very, very sorry for him at that stage.

But like I say, he’s his own worst enemy at times. The backdrop to this is that he’s not a very popular player anyway; seemingly without a natural role and with a reputation for not pulling his weight and feigning injury.

So with Eboue, the smallest thing is magnified. Yesterday, there was little application from him, and that was the worst crime. Had he hurtled around like a banshee, yet still passed awry, I don’t think the fans would have got at him so quickly. But, maybe because he was unfit and not match ready, he looked like his heart was not in it. There’s no doubt that he was affected by the crowd’s reaction.

He might not be very popular, and his reputation does precede him, but collectively we can all agree that to vent our frustrations on him will not make things any better. He won’t improve for being booed. I won’t be sanctimonious and pretend that I haven’t directed choice words towards him; I did so a bit yesterday. But in the cold light of day I wish I hadn’t. He’s not my favourite player but I’d rather see him improve than worsen. Who wouldn’t? The fans are frustrated by him, by the way our season has gone and by our midfield in general, but humiliating Eboue is not the answer.

A fairly grey game then, but positives too. Van Persie had an excellent game and tormented the Wigan defence. He was very, very close to scoring on several occasions but it didn’t quite happen. Song was quite effective too – another player not at the top of my Christmas card list – so he deserves credit too. Almunia made a couple of very good saves and Djourou looked very good too alongside Toure.

So a win – not the funnest win, but a win nonetheless, and it’s Boro away next. If we can take three points there then we can approach the Liverpool game on the back of a run of wins, and as we saw against Man Utd and Chelsea, we have a good chance.

In the meantime, and seeing it’s the season of goodwill, I for one will give Eboue a big old clap when he comes on next. I think he needs it.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.