The most important goal of this Premier League season may be one scored in a different competition, 3,000 miles away, by a player who left these shores in 2005.
Frédéric Kanouté's goal for Mali against Togo in Lomé three months ago meant Emmanuel Adebayor did not join Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Ayegbeni Yakubu and 32 other Premier League players in Ghana this weekend for the African Nations Cup. Instead he was at Craven Cottage, heading Arsenal towards a comfortable win against the relegation-haunted hosts.
The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, insisted that he would been covered had Adebayor gone south, but for all the promise of Nicklas Bendtner, and the prowess of Eduardo, Adebayor is as irreplaceable as Drogba.
"He's a monster," said Fulham's Jimmy Bullard of the Togolese. "The big man has jumped as high as the crossbar for his goals. I don't think anyone in the Premier League can mark that. It's a standing jump as well. It's frightening."
When asked where he got his leap from, Adebayor, who admitted he would rather be in Ghana but would "settle for my goals, three points for Arsenal and enjoying myself in England", cited a tale that brought to mind the young Peter Shilton's habit of hanging from the banisters at his parents' house to lengthen his arms.
"The first thing I worked out for myself back in Togo was that I should be able to win a lot of headers if I was tall and could jump high," Adebayor said. "When I was young, I used to suspend a ball from the ceiling in my mum's house in Togo, and see if I could jump high enough to head it. Every time I managed to head it, I would shorten the string attached to the ball and try to leap even higher. I don't know how high I could go but I've always come first in every jumping test, and not just because I am tall."
Adebayor has added another option to Arsenal, a useful one against teams defending deep. As Wenger said: "It is important we can score not only through our quick passing in the middle, but also from balls to the flanks and quality crosses."
The first example came when Adebayor rose above Dejan Stefanovic to head in Gaël Clichy's cross. Next he climbed above Moritz Volz to head Alex Hleb's cross inside the same post. In the stands Roy Hodgson's first signing, 6ft 5in Norwegian defender Brede Hangeland, received a text from a Fulham official reading: "That's why we need u."
The third goal was more typically Arsenal. Eduardo sped past Clint Dempsey on the left and Rosicky arrived late to turn the cross in.
Arsenal did not get out of second gear, but Bullard nevertheless said: "They are awesome to watch and awesome to play against. Everyone's comfortable on the ball and they all run off it. There isn't really a weak point in their game. Their movement is frightening. They keep the ball, pass before you know, they're on your right shoulder, then your left. You've got to have a fighter pilot's neck on."
Fulham began brightly with Danny Murphy and Steven Davies passing well, but they were 2-0 down before creating a decent chance, Murphy side-footing over. Hodgson accepts their prospects of survival lie with the signings he can bring in.
Yet while he has captured Hangeland, Marlon King's move has been put in jeopardy by adverse medical reports and Eddie Johnson needs a work permit. Neither Johnson nor Hangeland, who are out of season, nor other putative saviours, the returning Bullard and Brian McBride, who remains absent, will be match-sharp before mid-February. By then the gap between Fulham and safety, currently five points, could be daunting; especially as their away form is abysmal and Manchester United, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Everton are yet to visit the Cottage.Reuse content