Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Out of Africa, Eboue Proves to Wenger He's the Real Deal; after Starring for His Country in Egypt, the Ivory Coast Defender Has Been the Perfect Tonic for an Arsenal Side Hit by Injuries, Writes Steve Stammers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Out of Africa, Eboue Proves to Wenger He's the Real Deal; after Starring for His Country in Egypt, the Ivory Coast Defender Has Been the Perfect Tonic for an Arsenal Side Hit by Injuries, Writes Steve Stammers

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE STAMMERS

COME the end of the season, Arsene Wenger may find himself indebted to the tournament he once cursed. When Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure went off to Egypt for the African Nations Cup at the turn of the year, the timing could not have been worse for an Arsenal manager trying to cope with a growing injury list in defence. But the long-term benefits could be significant if the evidence of Tuesday night at the Bernabeu is reliable.

Before Eboue went off with the Ivory Coast team he had yet to start a Premiership match and his only significant appearances in the Champions League had been against Swiss minnows FC Thun and in a dead group game with Ajax.

However, the experience he gained at the tournament proved invaluable as he showed in a superb display during Arsenal's excellent 1-0 victory over Real Madrid.

Eboue was pressed into action because of the injuries that have left Wenger short of options in the fullback department. With Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy and Pascal Cygan already ruled out of action, Wenger learned three weeks ago that knee problems would rule out experienced Cameroon international Lauren, 29, for the rest of the season.

Wenger wanted 22-year-old Eboue to take Lauren's place at right-back but had to put those plans on hold until after the African Nations Cup.

With Ivory Coast reaching the final, where they lost on penalties to Egypt, Eboue was not able to play for the Gunners until last week's match at Liverpool.

Arsenal lost 1-0 but Eboue, signed for [pounds sterling]1million from Belgian feeder club Beveren last year, put in an assured and impressive display, ensuring that the vulnerable right flank was shored up.

He carried that through to the Real clash where he had such an impact that Robinho, a [pounds sterling]20m buy from Brazilian club Santos last summer, was taken off dispirited and dejected.

Eboue, in contrast, just got better and better, staking a place as Lauren's natural replacement.

"He is a great player - as he showed in Egypt and Madrid," said Toure. "He played his part in a big win for Arsenal and maybe this could be the turning point for the season."

Midfielder Freddie Ljungberg added his praise. "Emmanuel did well," he said.

"Robinho never got past him as he stayed tight to him. …

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