In September, 2007 Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor played for Tottenham and Arsenal respectively in the north London derby at White Hart Lane. Five and a half years later, they both played in Sunday’s encounter but were wearing the white shirt of Tottenham.
Bale who was 18 years of age had recently joined Tottenham from Southampton for a fee of £5 million and was making his home debut against Arsenal in 2007, having made his first appearance as a substitute against Manchester United at Old Trafford a fortnight earlier. It was to be a season for finding his feet in the Premier League but it was to be curtailed by injury in December, missing the rest of the season.
Adebayor had been with Arsenal for over eighteen months and was a ‘star ‘ in a team which included Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. He had scored 16 goals in 57 appearances for Arsenal but season 2007 – 08 was to prove to be a ‘big’ year for him as he went on to score 30 goals in all competitions.
The north London derby saw Bale make an immediate impact and endear himself to the Tottenham fans with a goal from a free-kick after 15 minutes to put Spurs ahead. It was his second goal in two games for Tottenham having scored the previous weekend at Fulham. Tottenham held their lead against Arsenal until the final 25 minutes when running out of steam, their tormentor-in-chief at that time, Adebayor, scored two of the three goals which saw Spurs lose 3 – 1.
Gareth Bale struggled to rediscover the form which had attracted so many top clubs to watch him while he was with Southampton. Plagued by injury and a loss of confidence, not helped by Tottenham’s constant change of manager or playing in a poor team, Bale was very much an outsider in the Tottenham squad. There had even been suggestions that he might leave White Hart Lane if a suitable deal could be agreed. It was only an injury to Benoit Assou-Ekotto that saw Bale given another chance in January, 2010. From that point on his career has taken on an upward spiral. Now, as he continues to propel Tottenham towards a Champions League finish, every club in the world is casting envious glances towards White Hart Lane.
Emmanuel Adebayor proceeded to have his best season in English football in 2007 – 08 but the following year was less productive as he was restricted by injury although he still scored 16 goals. In the summer of 2009 he was transferred to Manchester City for a fee thought to be around £25 million pounds and started his City career with early goals including two against Arsenal. He infuriated the Arsenal fans by running the length of the pitch to celebrate and relations soured further when he was found guilty of violent conduct and banned for three matches after van Persie had accused him of deliberately kicking him in the face. After making an early impression with City he gradually fell out of favour and a change of manager saw him sidelined until going on loan to Real Madrid from January, 2011. He continued to be the scourge of Tottenham with two goals in the Champions League match in Spain.
The following summer saw Adebayor arrived at Tottenham on a season long loan and become a very influential member of Harry Redknapp’s team in terms of goals and assists. After protracted negotiations he signed a permanent deal at White Hart Lane last August but he has struggled to make an impact this year through initial lack of fitness, injury, suspension and attending the Africa Cup of Nations. The injury to Jermain Defoe who has kept him out of the team gave him an opportunity to play regularly but he has failed to reproduce the form of last season.
Moving in Opposite Direction
The match against Arsenal on Sunday illustrated how after five and a half years Bale’s and Adebayor’s careers are moving in opposite directions. Before the match all eyes were on Bale, questioning whether he would be able to deliver another top rate performance in the pressured atmosphere of a north London derby. The questions surrounding Adebayor were less flattering, querying whether he would be able to maintain his discipline against his former team, having been sent off for a rash challenge early in the match at the Emirates. Some fans were even prepared to start with Defoe in the team even though he had only just recovered from injury.
Bale delivered once once again – a goal to put Spurs ahead and another demonstration of his class. Adebayor struggled and received an early booking for another rushed tackle as his frustration at having little impact on the game surfaced. His involvement was limited and after 66 minutes he was stretchered off injured, although it is not thought to be serious. Adebayor is on the fringes of the Tottenham team and with Defoe’s recovery, he may not be certain of automatic selection in Andre Villas-Boas’ first choice eleven.
The manager has admitted to finding it difficult to get the best out of Adebayor. Last month he was quoted in the Metro,
“We’re trying to unlock the best from the player. Last year is an example for what we’re trying to get out of him.”
The careers of Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor are currently moving in opposite directions. At present, everything Bale does is received with rapturous applause and plaudits but no matter what Adebayor does it’s met with groans and shouts of frustration.