By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has given Emmanuel Adebayor his backing ahead of tonight's season-defining second leg against Manchester United.
The Togo striker failed to make an impact at Old Trafford last week and was condemned for his performance after Arsenal lost 1-0. For many Arsenal fans it was another sign that Adebayor has struggled to live up to the high standards he set before last summer's speculation over his future.
Wenger understands why his centre forward has attracted criticism but insists that Adebayor is as committed as anyone in the Arsenal squad. The manager believes the 25-year-old will come good if the team functions properly.
"I can understand [the criticism]," said Wenger. "But I watched carefully last week's game and he put a lot more effort in, more than people think, and he was really isolated. We didn’t give him enough support on the night.
"He works hard in training. He’s focused and he wants to do well. I believe they [the fans] question his commitment since the summer because he was injured and hadn’t score as many goals. But look at his recent efficiency in the Champions League and it’s impressive – six goals in eight games or something like that.
"Emmanuel Adebayor is like everyone else. When the team dominates he will have chances. You wouldn't want to put more responsibility on his shoulders than anyone else.
We are more than a selection of individuals. We are first a team. We have developed like that and our game is based on the collective play. I want them to focus on that. How well we play collectively will make the difference."
A powerful performance from Adebayor tonight will silence his critics and perhaps end the speculation which continues to surround his future. As far as Wenger is concerned, last season's leading scorer will be at Emirates Stadium next season.
"He signed a new contract last year, so yes [he will be here]," said the Frenchman.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 5 May 2009