Togo to Congo, Arsenal’s greatest Africans

Number 5

Name:

Emmanuel Adebayor

Date:            

2006 – 09 

Appearances:

142 (62 goals)

Arsenal honours:

None

Arsenal Bio:

Although hated by Arsenal fans for running the full length of the pitch to taunt them after scoring a goal for Manchester City, Emmanuel Adebayor was a fans’ favourite during his prolific spell with the Gunners. The chant of ’Adebayor, Adebayor, give him the ball, and he will score’ was often heard ringing out from the Arsenal faithful. The 27 year old linked up with Arsène Wenger’s men from Monaco in January 2006 for a reported £3m fee, scoring on his debut against Birmingham City. He forged a partnership with club legend Thierry Henry, before the latter left for Barcelona in 2007.

Adebayor thrived on his new role of being the main striker, finishing top goalscorer [in all competitions] with 30 goals for Arsenal in the 2007-08 season. His goals propelled the Gunners to within of a whisker of the Premiership title that season, only to be pipped by rivals Manchester United. His final season wasn’t so prolific with 16 goals to his name, however one special moment was his spectacular bicycle kick in a Champions League Quarter-final against Villarreal.

The former Togo international ended his three and half year spell to join Manchester City in a £24m deal. He has currently just finished a loan spell with at Real Madrid, where he won the Copa Del Rey winners’ medal after defeating Barcelona in the final. 

Adebayor scores wondergoal against Villareal

Number 4

Name:

Emmanuel Eboué

Date:            

2005 – present 

Appearances:        

214 (10 goals)

Arsenal honours:     

Champions League Runners-up 2005
League Cup Runners-up 2006
League Cup Runners-up 2011

Arsenal Bio:

Arriving in January 2005 from Belgian side Beveren, the then 21 year old Ivorian previously played alongside former Arsenal team-mate Kolo Touré for ASEC Mimosas. Ivory Coast’s most successful youth academy (Mimosas) has produced other top African players such as Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou, Manchester City’s Yaya Touré, and former Tottenham midfielder Didier Zokora.

Since making his debut for Arsenal in the FA Cup against Stoke City, Eboué has been nurtured under the guidance of manager, Arsène Wenger. His development has seen him become one of the most versatile players in the Gunners’ squad, capable of playing right-back and across any of the midfield positions.

Eboué played an integral role in the Gunners’ passage to the 2005 Champions League Final, only to lose 2-1 to Barcelona in a memorable game. Some of the Arsenal faithful have criticised his performances in the recent times, but Eboué has bounced back and showed his blistering speed and skill to emerge as a fans’ favourite.

Eboue, Arsenal’s African star

Number 3

Name:            

Lauren

Date:            

2000 – 2007 

Appearances:

241 (9 goals)

Arsenal honours:

Premier League Winner 2001-02
Premier League Winner 2003-04
FA Cup Winner 2002
FA Cup Winner 2003
FA Cup Winner 2005
Community Shield Winner 2002
Community Shield Winner 2004

Arsenal Bio:

Lauren signed from Spanish side Mallorca in the Millennium year. The Cameroon international became one of the most consistent full-backs in the top flight during his spell with the Gunners. Lauren was a member of the ‘Invincible‘ side that won the 2003-04 Premiership title, unbeaten all season long.

The African’s versatility saw him play in the centre of midfield, but more often in the full-back positions. An accurate penalty-taker, Lauren’s hero status grew even more in the 2002 double winning year, scoring a penalty in the 86th minute in a 2-1 win over bitter rivals Tottenham. He left the Gunners in 2007 to join Portsmouth, where he won his third FA Cup winner’s medal.

The 34 year old retired in 2010 after a short spell Spanish side Córdoba.

Lauren scores the winner in this classic encounter V Spurs

Number 2

Name:            

Nwankwo Kanu

Date:            

1999 – 2004 

Appearance:        

198 (44 goals)

Arsenal honours:      

Premier League Winner 2001-02
Premier League Winner 2003-04
FA Cup Winner 2002
FA Cup Winner 2003
Community Shield Winner 1999

Arsenal Bio:

Kanu arrived at Highbury in 1999 from Inter Milan for a £4.1m fee. An Olympic gold medalist with Nigeria, he came to Arsenal already possessing a glittering array of silverware. With Nicolas Anelka joining Real Madrid, Kanu was billed as his replacement. However, the Nigerian was used as an impact substitute at first, often coming off the bench to score important goals for the Gunners. The Nigerian could operate either as a target man or playing just behind the other striker. His close control, and skills complemented his clinical eye for a goal.

Kanu’s beaming smile and two finger salute (resembling the club’s nickname of the Gunners) had already made him a fans’ favourite, but the two-time African Footballer of the Year’s 17 minute hat-trick against Chelsea sealed his place in Arsenal’s history. One of his strikes is still recalled as one of the finest in top flight history, beating two defenders and shimmying past the keeper, before curling the effort from a ridiculously tight angle into the top corner. 

The Nigerian departed Arsenal in 2004, joining West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer. He later went on to Portsmouth, winning his third FA Cup winner’s medal. The 34 year old is currently in the twilight of his career and has spent the last season with Pompey in the Championship.

Nwankwo Kanu was recently voted 13th in Arsenal’s top 50 players of all time, voted for by the fans

Kanu’s mesmeric hat-trick against Chelsea

Number 1

Name:

Kolo Touré 

Date:            

2002 – 2009

Appearaces:        

326 (14 goals)

Arsenal honours:     

Premier League Winner 2004
FA Cup Winner 2003
FA Cup Winner 2005
Community Shield Winner 1999
League Cup Runner-up 2007
Champions League Runners-up 2006
Community Shield Runners-up 2003
Community Shield Runners-up 2005

Arsenal Bio:

Kolo Touré has racked up the most appearances from an African player for Arsenal. Kolo arrived in 2002 from his country’s youth academy, ASEC Mimosas. The Ivory Coast international started originally playing as a midfielder and winger for the Gunners, but he eventually became a regular in the heart of the defence, partnering another legend, Sol Campbell.

The now 30 year old excelled so much in his position; he is still regarded as one of the best overall centre-backs to have played in the top flight. In 2003, Touré is another member of the ‘Invincible’ team of 2003 and is widely regarded as the best centre half Arsenal have had since the days of Tony Adams and Steve Bould.

He was appointed vice captain in the 2006/07 season before being made permanent skipper and he led them out at the Millennium Stadium for the 2007 League Cup final which unfortunately Arsenal lost 2-1 to Chelsea.

The Ivorian sought pastures new in 2009, joining Manchester City for an undisclosed fee.  This season he added a third FA Cup winner’s medal to his name, however he didn’t play in the final after unceremoniously being suspended for a failed drugs test.

Kolo is the last member of the 2003 ‘Invincible’ side to leave the Gunners and has etched his name firmly into Arsenal history.

Arsenal’s greatest African, Kolo Touré

Daniel Cox

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