Emmanuel Eboue pledges future to Arsenal
Emmanuel Eboue's mission to win over a sceptical Arsenal support has been a difficult one, but having accomplished that aim, the Ivorian is now intent on staying at Emirates Stadium and helping the club end their prolonged wait for a trophy.
In December 2008, Eboue suffered the nadir of his Arsenal career when, having appeared as a substitute himself against Wigan, he was removed by Arsene Wenger amid a cacophony of boos from the Arsenal fans who had seen him inadvertently dispossess Kolo Toure and then pass to an opposition player. Wenger said the player had become a "danger" to the team.
That chastening experience led many to speculate that Eboue's time in North London was coming to an end, with a range of Spanish and Italian clubs linked with a move for the versatile player. But Eboue stayed under the protective arm of Wenger and in recent months has become something of a cult favourite thanks to his determination to prove himself once more.
A renewed appreciation of the 26-year-old was evident again on Tuesday night when he showed unusual poise to round goalkeeper Helton and score in Arsenal's 5-0 win over Porto, delighting the home crowd. With his fortunes clearly on the rise, Eboue is keen to remain at Arsenal and repay the support shown to him by Wenger.
"I never spoke with someone or said that I wanted to move," Eboue said. "I have got two more years with Arsenal and I feel very good here. I want to win something for the club because they have helped me a lot, so I want to win something for them.
"Arsene Wenger, when we have some bad days he is always with us so for me I think he is like our dad here and we are all happy to play for him."
"Last year and this year is not the same," Eboue said of Arsenal's hopes of silverware. "This year we are more compatible together, we have got more maturity and more solidarity in our team. If we continue to play like this, together, we can do something this season."
Eboue's goal against Porto was only his ninth in an Arsenal shirt. The Ivory Coast international added: "Every day the players are laughing about me saying 'Emmanuel you do everything but when you come to the goalkeeper you are scared to score,' so I tried to show them I can score and I'm very, very happy."
Eboue first made his mark at Arsenal when performing admirably as a right-back during Arsenal's run to the Champions League final in 2006, but the arrival of Bacary Sagna in the summer of 2007 saw him pushed into a more advanced role, where he looked uncomfortable on occasions and saw his stock fall amongst supporters.
Wenger now utilises Eboue in both positions - at right back ahead of Sagna against weaker teams, and in midfield when looking to close out a game - and that does not faze the player, as long as he is enjoying regular football.
"For me, it doesn't matter," Eboue said. "I just want to play, so if I play I am happy. It doesn't matter if Bacary Sagna plays. For me it doesn't matter where I play, if the boss puts me at right back I play, and if he puts me at midfield I'll play."