Arsenal had done it. The team accused of having a weak mentality had just done what we expect from the likes of Manchester United. They had scored in the dying minutes of the game and rescued their title challenge.
Arsenal had it won. They couldn’t lose it now. They were going four points behind Manchester United and there was still hope. Arsenal fans were celebrating a win they never expected.
But no. Emmanuel Eboue pops up and, in a moment of sheer stupidity, he bundles Lucas when there was no threat.
There are many times I have felt like ripping my hair out watching Arsenal, but this one outdid them all. It was worse than the 4-4 draw against Newcastle, worse than the 3-2 loss to Spurs.
It hurt because Arsenal had shown character on the verge of defeating a gutsy and passionate Liverpool. One moment of madness from Emmanuel Eboue ended that. Arsenal’s many critics will be quick to the now common refrain: “Arsenal are not strong mentally.”
But this was not the result of Arsenal’s fragile mentality.
It happened simply because one player lost all his senses in one costly moment; I can never forgive him. I still don’t see why he fouled Lucas, a foul that has all but ended Arsenal’s title challenge just when it seemed to be back on.
Emmanuel Eboue is no stranger to hate from the fans. Following his truly horrendous performance against Wigan back in the 2008-09 season, he was booed off by the Arsenal faithful, leaving the pitch in tears.
On Sunday, he once again incurred the wrath of Arsenal fans for effectively ending their club’s title challenge, barring a miracle.
It’s hard to see Arsenal fans ever forgiving Emmanuel Eboue. Last time around he hadn’t cost Arsenal the match, nor did his offense occur at such a critical juncture. The match against Liverpool was make or break for the Gunners, a match in which the win was the only outcome that could truly give them a shot at the league.
He won back the fans with gutsy performances after the last time he was booed off. The fans were truly sorry for booing him and they even apologized.
But this time I don’t see the fans ever forgiving him and, for now anyway, neither can I. Maybe we will consider it when the emotions settle down and all the frustration ebbs. Certainly not any time soon though.
You grow accustomed to disappointment as an Arsenal fan. You see, time again, your team throwing away leads and losing when it was least expected.
Considering the manner of this defeat, and the circumstances surrounding it, to say that what I am feeling now is disappointment would be a gross understatement.
The sheer ecstasy of winning a match so late is overwhelming; the disappointment of throwing it away so late is even moreso.
With Manchester United playing in the FA Cup, this was Arsenal’s chance to close the gap to a mere four points before the North London derby on Wednesday.
After Robin van Persie’s calm and composed penalty in the 98th minute, a goal that exuded composure, Eboue ended all hopes with a clumsy lunge that only he can know why he attempted. Dirk Kuyt slotted home the penalty in the 102nd minute—yes, the 102nd minute—and Arsene Wenger went berserk, and rightfully so. In a moment, Arsenal’s ecstasy had transformed into anguish and shock.
I have always been a fan of Eboue and I have always enjoyed seeing him play and do well for the club. But right now I feel disgusted by him. In my opinion, there is no player the Arsenal fans hate more right now than Emmanuel Eboue.
I would love to see him bounce back from this latest setback, but I just don’t see myself forgiving him. He may go a certain way in redeeming himself, but I doubt if he can win over the fans like he did the last time. He may enchant the fans with his happy demeanor, but his foul will remain etched in my mind as the foul that cost Arsenal a title.
Arsenal has players, like Almunia, who have cost their club countless matches. But right now it is Eboue who is most despised amongst all the players. When van Persie scored, there was no need to fathom a 1-1 draw; it should never have happened.
This match was petering out to a tame draw, but in five stunning stoppage-time minutes it transformed into one of the most frantic finishes of recent memory. Two penalties and two correct decisions saw the game end 1-1 and, at the end of it all, Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger had a clash of words.
Emmanuel Eboue might give his all and may put in great performances in an attempt to win over the Arsenal fans. In my mind, however, there will remain only one picture of the Ivory Coast international: that of him inexplicably bundling over Lucas Leiva.
Liverpool fans celebrated as if it was a win. It certainly felt like a loss to the Arsenal fans, and a bitter one at that.
At the end of it all, I have just one question to ask: Emmanuel Eboue, what were you thinking out there?