Adebayor left to chase shadows in Wenger's safety-first plan

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The Porto fans like to sing many songs during a home game but one of their more surprising ones is Moonlight Shadow. It may come as a big surprise that Mike Oldfield's early 1980s hit ever found popularity in Portugal's second city but the Ultras were to be heard happily humming the chorus.

Then again it may just have been in homage to Emmanuel Adebayor, for Arsenal's lone striker was simply chasing shadows. In the absence of the suspended Thierry Henry, the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, plumped for his Togo international in what rapidly turned into one of the most thankless tasks in this game. Wenger had declined to pair him up with Robin van Persie, who was left on the bench, meaning Adebayor's task was difficult in the extreme.

It is not a role that even Henry, with his pace, particularly enjoys, even though he made it work as the Gunners reached last season's Champions League final. Here now was Adebayor having to make a fist of it in his place.

The former Monaco forward, who joined Arsenal in January this year from the Principality, did score a well-taken goal last weekend in the north London derby, when he flirted with offside, before breaking through and slotting his shot around Paul Robinson.

Here in the Dragao stadium, Porto rarely played such a high defensive line and left Adebayor to scrap for what he could, with the central defenders Pepe and Bruno Alves on his back. With his tendency to drift over to the left, à la Henry, he could take up the space left by the attacking right-back Jose Bosingwa.

However, that implied the ball had to come to him and Arsenal's counter- attacks were on the slow side, which meant the supply to him was meagre in the extreme.

Without the ball, he had to go looking for it, in what was only his second start of the Champions' League group stage. His other one was the first game, away to Hamburg, when he at least had Van Persie up with him.

He at least worked hard. Running back to the centre circle to contest headers, surprisingly not one of his strong points even though he is 6ft 4in, he rarely escaped the clutches of at least one of his markers.

Adebayor's ability is more evident in his close control on the ground and 10 minutes after the interval he linked up neatly, just outside the area, with Alexander Hleb to give the Belarussian a return pass, although nothing came of that move, thanks to the outstretched boot of Alves. What Adebayor would have given for the slackness his own defence was showing, when Ricardo Quaresma was given the room and unluckily hit the post, not once but twice.

To no great surprise, Adebayor finally made his exit after 78 minutes, replaced by Van Persie. He did not appear too disappointed by that and he probably did not do his chances much good of playing against Chelsea on Sunday. He barely left a trace here, not even a shadow.