Deadline day marked the sad end of an era for Tottenham. The departure of Aaron Lennon signaled the conclusion, as every member of the squad that embarked on that glorious Champions League journey five years ago has now left the club for pastures new. It was a quiet exit after a wonderful ten-year career at Spurs, filled with memorable moments and defining points in the club’s recent history, all of which Lennon was heavily involved in.
His leaving has contributed to another, very different, evolution of the squad and club, one that was completed on Sunday morning as Tottenham confirmed the termination of Emmanuel Adebayor’s contract by mutual consent. Spurs have finally moved all the ‘bad eggs’ on.
Lennon’s farewell was so unceremonious seemingly due to a falling out with his former manager, Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine was typically guarded when explaining why Lennon, and Adebayor, would not be part of his plans this campaign, but one can only assume something went very badly wrong in their relationship for such a previously valued performer at the club to be so ruthlessly banished from any first team action.
This is something that Pochettino has shown to be a key trait of his - if he doesn’t like a player’s attitude, or feels they are detrimental to team spirit, he is not afraid to amputate to avoid the spreading of the infection. This has positive and negative consequences. It was certainly disappointing to see the great servant that Lennon had been to the club thrown out in the cold. It also seemed that Tottenham’s striker situation is so desperate this season, that it would have been more worthwhile to try once more to reintegrate Adebayor to become a useful tool for Pochettino. However, we don’t know the extent to which both players misbehaved or defied their boss and if Pochettino feels this is the right course of action, we can only now accept it, hope that it doesn’t backfire and support the players that remain at the club.
It was Adebayor’s sudden exit at the weekend that seemed to complete the goal Pochettino had in mind. A squad without trouble, without mutineers; a group that are part of a family, all pulling in the same direction. The burden that Adebayor often is has finally been lifted from Tottenham Hotspur’s shoulders and no matter how he could have been used if he had stayed this year, it is a relief for everyone that the Togolese striker has left the building.
In the end, Adebayor just wasn’t worth the trouble. The inconsistency of his form was beyond frustrating and the fractures he caused in the fanbase were tiring. It was therefore quite refreshing to see plenty more understanding and forgiving people than you might expect after his long sought-after departure was confirmed. Many chose to remember the highlights; Adebayor’s home debut against Liverpool, his unstoppable performance in the 5-0 win over Newcastle and his heroic run of form to drag Spurs to the finish line under Tim Sherwood. Possibly above all for some will be what he did in the sky blue of Manchester City against Arsenal in 2009.
It is difficult to completely crucify Adebayor for his poor behaviour too when you weigh up some of the torturous events he’s had to endure. In 2010, Adebayor watched the murder of his friends and colleagues, in the shooting of the Togo team coach before the African Cup of Nations in Angola. The former national captain has also previously enlightened us on his broken family, deciding to share some distressing events that no man should feel they are forced to reveal as a result of abuse from fans of his own football club.
It is these events that blur the conclusiveness with which we can judge Adebayor’s actions whilst playing at White Hart Lane. With his inconsistency and seeming lack of effort on the pitch, his often undeserved and astronomically high wages and his overt showings of his wealth on social media - Adebayor often posts images of himself sitting on golden cars outside massive properties whilst wearing copious amounts of jewellery - it is understandable why the striker became such a target for fan’s abuse.
When the club were in particularly poor form, Adebayor would often be booed by large sections of the crowd, as if he was the only one underperforming and the root of all problems. Of course, this was unfair on him and certainly not something that is going to help the team, but the loud boos last season revealed that the strained relationship between player and fanbase had become irreparable.
Whatever your feelings towards Adebayor - hatred, sympathy, admiration - everyone can agree the decision to let him go has relieved some tension. The striker issue will have to be solved by Pochettino and his coaching team with the options he currently has, at least until January, but at least any underlying uncertainty about the former African Player of the Year has been permanently resolved.
Adebayor was the figurehead of a group that had previously had run-ins with managers at White Hart Lane. The likes of himself, Lennon, Étienne Capoue, Paulinho, Vlad Chiricheș and Younès Kaboul had all shown a lack of commitment and respect to the vision the manager had for the team. As a result, all of them, quite remarkably, were culled from the squad in the summer, leaving a younger, hungrier and more devoted group of players at Pochettino’s disposal this year.
The difference was wonderfully exhibited on Sunday afternoon, hours after Adebayor left. After an outstanding flowing attack carved open the Sunderland defence, Ryan Mason deftly finished past the onrushing Costel Pantilimon. Mason likely knew he may have to take a hit from the giant Romanian goalkeeper, but put his body on the line to score the winning goal for his team. The midfielder had to be substituted soon after with injury, but would no doubt do the same again to win the game.
Compare this to showings from some of those Pochettino has dismissed and there is a stark disparity. Most notably, when Paulinho and Adebayor both turned away from Stewart Downing’s free-kick in a 2-0 loss away to West Ham in 2014, allowing the ball to go between them in the wall and end Tottenham’s hopes in the game.
With this streamlined group, Pochettino can hopefully build towards what he wants to achieve and with players that are willing to do it his way. It’s difficult to let go of a rich recent past in the form of Tottenham’s Champions League heroes, but it is much healthier for the club to remove a culture that had manifested mostly from the second season of André Villas-Boas and had become a poison last year. Now that Pochettino and Daniel Levy have completely cut out the disruptive culture, the Argentine can hopefully move forward with a squad fully behind him and bound together