From Emmanuel Who? to Adebayor the superstar

JEM MAIDMENT on Arsenal's new goalscoring sensation. He may be the new darling of the Arsenal fans, but when Emmanuel Adebayor arrived at Highbury in January 2006, it hardly registered. The Togo international striker transferred from AS Monaco with Arsene Wenger predicting that, in time, his new signing had

He may be the new darling of the Arsenal fans, but when Emmanuel Adebayor arrived at Highbury in January 2006, it hardly registered.

The Togo international striker transferred from AS Monaco with Arsene Wenger predicting that, in time, his new signing had all the tools to become an Arsenal star.

The press pack, however, was decidedly underwhelmed at the record of a stranger who had only scored a goal every five games in Ligue 1.

His attitude was also called into question. As Wenger admitted recently: "Did he realise himself that he had wasted enough time?"

In addition, that same week his move to Arsenal had been overshadowed by those of highly-rated France U21 starlet Abou Diaby and, in particular, speedy Southampton forward Theo Walcott.

Even his goalscoring debut - two years ago this very week at Birmingham City - was nothing more than a sideshow.

Most Read

He netted the second in a 2-0 win at St Andrews on February 4 2006, an achievement all the more remarkable after returning late from the Africa Cup of Nations and having barely trained with his new teammates.

But Thierry Henry's opener was his 200th for the club and the Frenchman, on the umpteenth occasion, had taken centre stage.

Now he's gone and Adebayor is very much the main man, a fact underlined this week by his manager. With 11 goals in his past eight games - in which he has scored in every game - Adebayor is now the hottest forward in English football.

He now has Ian Wright's club record of 12 successive scoring games, achieved in 1994, firmly in his sights.

"The biggest compliment I can give him," Wenger said after the 23-year-old netted two more in last Saturday's impressive 3-1 win at Manchester City, "is that he has filled the void left by Thierry Henry.

"And that is not easy because Thierry is a world-class player. He is strong, aggressive and generous to his teammates.

"He has big, big stamina plus great strength and power. Emmanuel lacked a bit of composure in front of goal last season, but now he is calm when he has a chance."

As Diaby and Walcott's progress has, at best, been stuttering, Adebayor's reputation is in the ascendancy.

There are many admiring glances from Europe's top clubs, but they can all put their chequebooks away - Adebayor signed an improved, long-term contract only last summer.

The 6ft 3in targetman is just thriving playing the game he loved while growing up in his hometown of Lome, the capital of the tiny West African state formed less than 50 years ago, with a population under five million.

Back home he is a national hero, despite being briefly axed from the national side last year for some outspoken comments made during a pay dispute.

And even a spat with teammate Nicklas Bendtner on the pitch during the 1-5 loss at Spurs in the Carling Cup last month has failed to dampen his spirits.

"I am enjoying life like a little child," he said after picking up the man-of-the-match champagne at Eastlands.

"Everyone loves me, the fans love me and the goals are coming in every game."

Adebayor's confidence stems from his long-held belief he was destined to make it in red and white.

Like many aspiring African youngsters his hero was Nwankwo Kanu and he became an Arsenal supporter as he sat avidly with his pals watching the Nigerian playmaker on television.

On arriving at London Colney, his first duty was to request the famous No25 shirt, immediately inviting comparisons between the two.

But while there may be physical similarities, the two are very different beasts - Adebayor is a powerful attacker with a hunger for goals and awesome aerial ability, while Kanu's frustrating inconsistency and lack of goals was generally overlooked because of some head-scratching moments of magic.

Adebayor is now the very epitome of consistency - and Wenger is unashamedly delighted Togo failed to qualify for the current African Cup of Nations.

"At the moment I am glad in every match that he stayed at home with us," he said.

"He has made big improvements this season and has been remarkably consistent."

His tally for the campaign now stands at 21 and a hat-trick against Derby County earlier in the season was also the first by any senior player at the Emirates Stadium.

Ironically, he went nine games without a goal after that treble, but since returning to goal-scoring form in a 3-1 win at Reading in November, he hasn't looked back.

His goals-to-games ratio on the French Mediterranean coast was adequate at best, having netted 20 times in exactly 100 appearances. At Arsenal that has crept up to more than one every three games, currently reading 37 goals in 87 appearances in all competitions going into Monday night's Barclays Permier League game against Blackburn Rovers.

And here's a stat that makes welcome reading - Arsenal have also yet to lose in the league when Adebayor has scored (his league record is 30 in 65).

Wenger won't set targets, but clearly believes there are plenty more goals in his African jewel, now being spoken in the same breath as Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba back in his homeland.