Ifonly Adebayor: Don’t Rely On The Unreliable

Since Andre Villas-Boas was sacked as Tottenham manager, one man has emerged from the shadows to become the key influence on Spurs’ success or failure this season. Only Emmanuel Adebayor can unlock the potential of this able but disoriented squad and manager, coach or whatever he is Tim Sherwood has placed great faith in the striker’s ability. So far it has paid dividends but it remains a big gamble.

Manu’s disappearance from first team contention remains the most telling indictment of AVB’s stubborn rigidity. In August, it didn’t seem to matter. Adebayor was last year’s model, barely worth a mention in the excitement that greeted the new era with all the shiny, gleaming signings. Chief amongst them was Bobby Soldado, an expensive marquee centre forward for whom we had searched for years, the stuff of myth and mystery, the holy grail at the end of a seemingly eternal quest who surely would convert the chances that came his way.

Through September we waited for the spark to ignite the flame. Manu was on compassionate leave after the death of his brother, then he was unfit. Supposedly: no one outside the club really knew what was going on and frankly few were that bothered. This was what he does – one season wonder, loses his appetite for anything except his pay cheque, moves on after a sulk. Anyway, we had Bobby, and wingers, and it was only a matter of time until it all settled down.

AVB was happy to blame the fans when it suited him but frankly the flaw in that scenario dawned on us far sooner than it apparently did on him. We had a Soldier but no goals. The system wasn’t working either. We needed a change, some variety, some bloody goals, but apart from one appearance as a substitute, Adebayor remained an outcast. There are rumours of an argument over Manu wearing a beanie to a team-talk. Whatever the truth of that, Villas-Boas appears to have willfully frozen him out at the expense of the well-being of the team and that is unreservedly disgraceful. The club comes before individual pride.

Sherwood brought him back. Call his formation what you like – 4-4-2 which Tiger Tim refuted in a garbled post-match conference after the Ars***l game – Adebayor is the fulcrum. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that when Manu plays well, Spurs play well. They say you need to play to show off your skills. It’s also said that sometimes a player’s true worth is shown by their absence. Against W Ham, Adebayor managed both in a single game, transforming a dour, directionless Spurs into a free-flowing attacking force, target man and goalscorer with an eye-opening volley before coming off with Spurs apparently secure. Whereupon the Hammers took over the last 15 minutes and won 2-1.

That was the warm-up. Against Southampton he was mobile, involved and fully committed. Having a man to lead the line, who knew when to hold it, when to give it and could score too transformed the side. The following weekend, Manu had one of his static days, mooching around up front and we couldn’t break West Brom down. Goals aplenty versus Stoke, a match where the midfield excelled but they just had to look up and Manu was available for them.

Then United beaten and Sherwood coaxed even more from his centre forward. Now Manu was dropping back into a forward midfield position when we lost the ball, vital if we only have four in the middle. The importance of this element of his game and Sherwood’s tactics was reinforced in the NLD when we faded after a decent start. Adebayor was tired, didn’t work back enough and our opponents gained a grip on the centre of the park that they never relinquished.

So he’s Ifonly Adebayor again. Inconsistent, moody, frustrating. Sherwood has done extremely well to motivate him, appealing both to his sense of personal pride in his performance and to the most base of emotions, revenge. Judging by his efforts against West Ham and Southampton, if we could somehow have harnessed Manu’s anger to the National Grid, the nuclear/fossil fuel debate would have become redundant.

Sherwood sees his task as getting Adebayor to play to his best, “go out and do what you do best” or something similar were his comeback instructions. That’s fine but only up to a point. It’s a mistake to see Adebayor as an enigma. He’s a known quantity: we know he will be inconsistent. Not only that, we also know that it’s hard to predict how he will perform on any given day. It may be apparent to people within the club, I don’t know that of course, but that’s how it appears.

This has been the case since he came to this country. A couple of months before he turns thirty, he’s not going to change now. I doubt very much if there are some magic words, some pre-existing conditions, a carrot or a stick that will change him. He’s magnificent, a world-beater, he’s lazy and lacks committment. Adebayor is a contradiction you can’t resolve. That is who he is.

You can’t rely on him and that’s the problem, because that’s exactly what Sherwood is doing. He plays a key role in Sherwood’s formation. He scores goals, makes them, makes space for others by pulling out wide. He slots back deeper when we lose it, defending from the front. Giving him such responsibility is asking for trouble because he’s never been consistent and at the moment we don’t have a fall-back or an effective back-up plan.

Can I say what I am not saying? Sherwood is doing a decent job at the moment with what he has available, and he has limited options up front with Defoe on his way to Canada, so I’m not saying Tim should not play him. I would pick Adebayor and would have back in the autumn as it gradually became clear we had lots of providers of chances but no one on the end of them. I’m also not saying Adebayor should be excused criticism: there are countless times when I despair at his lack of application.

The one thing we know for certain is that Manu will always let you down and so Sherwood needs to look long and hard at plans B, C and D. This could be as straightforward as reinforcing the midfield because a player with a more defensive outlook could provide the cover for Adebayor to do his thing and to compensate if Manu isn’t working back.

Sherwood has put considerable faith in his centre forward. I would like to say to Manu that he should work his backside off to repay his manager. Sadly I know that is never enough. How often have we heard managers moan about the ‘if onlys’. I don’t want Tim to become like Allardyce, creating a team around a centre forward and having nothing left when he’s out except whinging and a redundancy package. You can’t rely him so don’t put all your eggs in one basket.


7 thoughts on “Ifonly Adebayor: Don’t Rely On The Unreliable

  1. Couldn’t agree more, Alan. One small thing – history is being rewritten to say that AVB “blamed the fans” as you say. At the time I remember many of us heard his words and thought he was making an accurate statement about the nervousness in the crowd, and also specifically said he wasn’t criticising the fans who showed great support at away games. Like a previous government, it’s easy to blame the previous manager for for all that’s wrong. AVB was without fault, but the rewriting of history that’s going on allows the real issues to be ignored. All imho of course


    • Might re-write history at some point, Martin, but all I recall is that the Fisher family, stuck in a traffic jam after the Hull game, going the wrong way after the Tottenham Hale gyratory re-routing, did not take his post-match remarks too kindly…

      The crowd was nervous but I suspect his uncertainty with the team was doing more damage than we were.

      Regards, Al


  2. The best game I see Ade in was against Newcastle at home, when we tonked them by 5 goals.Ade had a hand in all of them, it was surreal to see him play absolutely brilliant.
    I got the train from WHL to Liverpool st to go Loughton, and all the Newcastle lot in the carriage could not stop raving about the guy.
    That was the game when we were all urging HR to stay after the court case and England rumours. Then disaster, we went on a bad run, and Ade went from hero to Zero.
    Season after under AVB he was awful, then against Chelsea away he was back to his best under AVB.
    If only he could at least be up for it in the big games Alan, that would be more than enough to help us in the league, but against Arseanal he was quiet for a NLD game.
    We need him more than ever for now, just hope Tim sorts this dilemma with Ade.


    • I remember that game, a superb display of attacking football and Ade was great. Your post is right and it’s the problem at the same time – he can never be consistent. I’ve said it before – at his best he is one of the best centre forwards in Europe, perfect for the modern game. And for us, but we can’t depend upon it.

      Regards, Al


  3. I have to disagree about AVB’s culpability. As you say Adebayor always lets you down and last season he was a disgrace. He’s done it everywhere he’s been. This is why AVB was right to freeze him out. What is the point in persisting with him, he’ll just end up letting you down which in the long run is bad for the team. He should have been sold and replaced in the summer but the club didn’t back the manager.


  4. There is no such thing as a one man team, but Ade has again played a huge role in keeping Spurs out of CL contention. Between Levy and Adebayor this is 3 years of snatching failure from the jaws of defeat.
    That must have cost the club at least 150 million on revenue.
    The 110 K spent last summer wasn’t wasted; but the raw materials need to be molded into a team.
    Having inconsistency as the main hope drags the team down.
    It looks like we’ll be able to cling to 7th spot. Sigh !


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