With their away form non-existent and failure to qualify for the Champions' League a real possibility, Arsenal have probably never been so turbulent under Arsène Wenger, and yet for Emmanuel Adebayor, when he arrives from the African Nations' Cup this week, Highbury will seem a haven of calm. Arsenal fans seeking a messiah to save their faltering season, though, might be disappointed, at least if Steve Keshi is to be believed. "If he is going to be a star he needs to act like one," the Togo coach said. "He is a baby; he needs to grow up."
The past month has been a turbulent one for the 21-year-old, who finished as top-scorer in the African section of World Cup qualifying. The arrival of Francesco Guidolin to replace Didier Deschamps as coach of Monaco precipitated an acrimonious departure, and the disharmony continued when he joined up with Togo in Egypt.
Keshi, pointing out he had had just two days of training in over a fortnight, left him on the bench for Togo's opening game against DR Congo, leading to a furious altercation on the team bus in which both had to be restrained.
Keshi insists the two have since made up, but admits to doubts as to whether Adebayor will ever fulfil his potential. "It's up to him," he said. "He has to decide what he wants to do when he gets to Arsenal - either 'I will learn from the big boys', or 'I'm there already'."
Adebayor compares himself to Kanu, choosing the No 25 shirt at Arsenal in the Nigerian's honour but, although there are obvious similarities in build and style, Keshi, who played with Kanu at a training camp ahead of the 1994 African Nations and later coached him for Nigeria, has serious doubts as to whether he can ever match his hero.
"If he wants to follow Kanu he has to go all the way," Keshi said. "When I put Kanu on the bench when I was coach of the Nigeria team, he just said 'OK, coach'. Kanu had a lot of respect. I'm not saying Adebayor doesn't have respect; he just needs to be more humble. He is the big star of Togo. Sometimes he gets his own way, but with teamwork everybody has to contribute. He has to play by the rules."
Adebayor himself is indignant about the criticism. "My state of mind is that I'm ready," he said. "I'm keen to do something over there to show my qualities and that I've got what it takes. I have to prove that I'm cool-headed. If I'm at Arsenal it's because I have shown I have what's needed. In the end we'll see what happens on the pitch."
Adebayor's captain, Abalo, added: "His behaviour has been infuriating and it certainly hampered our preparations. Everyone was counting on him. He is the only Togo player on the books of a big European team so he should act like a professional and set an example."
Keshi has no doubt of the youngster's talent. "I hope he learns, because he's a good boy," he said. "He will be a success if he gets his feet on the ground and his head on his shoulders."
Arsenal, he feels, may be the ideal environment for him to mature. "Maybe he tries to impose and do what he wants with me because I am a black person and he thinks I am his brother. I don't think he can do that with Arsène Wenger. He should be grateful that he is going to Arsenal to learn from such a coach."Reuse content