When the Arsenal fans turned on Emmanuel Eboué last season, it seemed that the 26-year-old from the Ivory Coast would have to leave the club in order to save his career. Yesterday, Arsène Wenger said that it was the moment that the supporters realised they had gone too far.
Arsenal play Wigan today at the Emirates, the fixture during which, on 6 December last season, Eboué was booed by his own fans before and during his substitution in the 80th minute. This week the focus has been on Arsenal's fans for the alleged slurs they aimed at Emmanuel Adebayor last Saturday, but yesterday Wenger said elements of his club's support realised they had gone too far with Eboué.
"I think it [the booing] worked for him [Eboué] because people think 'Come on, we have gone too far,'" Wenger said. "I also believe the fans realise that they can go too far and in that case part of the public said: 'No that is not right no matter what happens. We have to stand behind the players.'
"During the game, it is an emotional response. After, when people take a distance, they think 'Oh no, we have gone too far' and they correct it. But I understand when you want so much to win during the game you can go a little bit too far."
Wenger said he believed that discontent with Eboué was also evident after his needless red card in the first half of Arsenal's game against Spurs at White Hart Lane which was two months after the Wigan match in which he was first booed. As for Eboué, however, Wenger said the player, who was linked to a move to Fiorentina during the summer, had come through the experience.
"How low he became is very difficult to describe," Wenger said. "Of course he was very disappointed. He is a guy who wants to do well and is humble and decent to people. And when you have that in life you always have a chance to improve your behaviour. If you only think you are right you cannot improve. He analysed what happened well and changed. He has always been a good guy, loved in the dressing room.
"As a manager, it is difficult because on one side you want to defend them and on the other side they are in a privileged situation. They have to behave well. I believe a club internally have to look after the human side and prepare the player to face what might happen to them. It is part of the difficulty of the job but it is like that and you have to deal with that."
At least Eboué has been grateful for the support. Not so Adebayor who launched another attack on Wenger yesterday, accusing the Arsenal manager of selling him behind his back. Wenger said that he had long since accepted that a manager's lot was to feel betrayed by the players he made famous.
Having lambasted Adebayor for his challenge on Robin van Persie in mid-week, Wenger was reluctant to re-enter the slanging match with his former player. Instead Wenger said his role was similar to the thankless task of being a parent of cantankerous teenage kids. "It's exactly the same, you do your best but its never enough," he said. "It is like that [being a parent]. You just look back at how you behave with your parents.
"I feel my job is to give to people as much as I can and without expecting any return from that. That is how I approach my job. In this case specifically I don't feel I have done too badly. I tried [to help Adebayor]. I believe I succeeded but you can always do better and that is my approach. I try to help every single player to achieve something in his career and over they years I feel I have done quite well."