The three goalscorers last night - Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor - are fantastic representatives for Arsenal. I say this not simply on the back of their goals in the win over Villarreal to place Arsenal into the semi-finals of the Champs League, but more broadly because of their individual temperament/character and what their meshing in the forward line lends to the overall character and force of the team.
Walcott is ice. When Arsenal bought him from Southampton I wrote on this site that Walcott reminds me of another sporting TW: Tiger Woods. There was a sense in his demeanour, in his choice of words, that he had a calm and winning temperament of exceptional quality. In his first cup final aged 17 years old he demonstrated his superb ice-cool temperament with a wonderful opening goal after five minutes against Chelsea followed by a celebration which showed his passion and desire behind the quiet demeanour.
This attitude combination: ice calm and winning desire, is one that transmits to teammates who should gain confidence knowing they have a teammate not only blessed with sensational natural talent in their side but who vitally also has the cool not to be daunted by any occasion. Witness Anfield last season in the Champs League quarter final; England away in Croatia; and last nights big Champs League match, for further examples aside from the 2007 Carling Cup Final of his ideal temperament for big match occasions. Walcott has a temperament far beyond his years.
RvP is a fighter-thinker-technician of the highest level. On the pitch he fights for the ball, and then with the ball at his feet he is mentally alert and thoughtful in looking for either a killer pass or killer finish with a technique that I still think is the most aesthetic and awesome in the league.
His fighting mentality also is one that transmits to teammates and supporters - he sets an example for fighting for the ball and not shirking from a battle or opportunity. Instances of this that standout for me is his lunging finish at the far post for an equaliser against Man Utd in January 2007 (which resulted in a broken foot and a four month lay-off), his two goals against Chelsea this season when Arsenal were at a very low point confidence-wise; and THAT kung-fu kick goal against Charlton where only a player of massive fighting desire and technique would have attempted, let alone executed with masterpiece brilliance, that running high-jump volley. He is a superb member of the team and has matured into a growing leader of this third-gen squad.
Adebayor is a footballer I have supported during his tough spell earlier this season. He puts in a tremendous amount of a work in the forward line which is well appreciated by teammates and a good portion of the Arsenal support. And when he talks I notice he always genuinely accentuates a team-ethic and a focused positive attitude which I think reflects well on an excellent perspective to his football and his teammates.
However, more than most players in this Arsenal side, Adebayor is also a 'confidence player' - a guy who can be unstoppable when he feels the confidence of the fans and his team, but who loses his technique and confidence quickly if he feels the ire of the fans. The latter was the case earlier this season - where a clumsy piece of tactical play in his negotitation (I guess probably demanded by his agent) for a new Arsenal contract last summer offended some fans, many of whom, I suspect, were already doubters of the player despite the fact he shouldered the burden of the front line last season with 30 odd goals and an immense amount of running without the injured RvP and Eduardo and the departed Henry. It was clear to me from his demeanour during the first half of this season that Adebayor decisively felt the criticism from this section of the Arsenal support and as a result his edge in confidence and sharpness diminished.
The recent seven week layoff was a blessing in disguise for the big Togolese player - giving him the space to re-group, re-focus and re-energise. His two goal comeback against Man City was also massive for the resurgence of the 'big-on-confidence' Adebayor that we have seen in the last fortnight - a change in the atmosphere of fan reaction to Adebayor was tangible and so with it the bolstering of his self-belief. Subsequent goals in both matches against Villarreal are testament to the return of an Adebayor who looks to have gained his vitality. This gives me satifaction because for his workrate for the team and his expressions of a team-ethic and a positive approach to football I like to see him feeling good about his game and the support around him. It is also great for the team because it is clear that an Adebayor who is 'big-on-confidence' is also a profound - and quite unique - attacking weapon.
I feel that when you have three players in the forward line of the team who exhibit a great array of positive mental characteristics on top of excellent footballing ability you have the makings of something sensational. Arsene Wenger has recruited into his third generation side in Walcott, RvP and Adebayor a stunning complement of attitudes in the forward line: an ice-calm winner; a fighter-thinker; a positive team-orientated runner and finisher.
Due to injuries this mix has not had the chance to apply itself together. Last night was really the first time all got to start together in a big match. And all three contributed their considerable physical, technical and mental qualities decisively to a winning effort.
It is also a trio that from their interactions on the pitch look like they have a good understanding and relationship to each other - which can only be conducive to their development as a forward line. I feel yesterday saw just the start of an explosion of play from this attacking trio as a collective unit - which should be fantastic for all Arsenal fans and supporters of good football to watch.