Man City 4 (Almunia og 20, Bellamy 74, Adebayor 80, Wright-Phillips 84) Arsenal 2 (Van Persie 62, Rosicky 88)
Twice we’ve travelled to Manchester in recent weeks. Twice we’ve played well, created the bulk of the chances but not had the clinical edge or the luck to put them away. Twice we’ve been caught with sucker punches at the back. Twice we’ve come away with nothing.
And twice the football itself has been only a partial story in an unsavoury day.
Before I take a look at that, I want to deal with the actual football. On the most part, we played well, without giving Shay Given too much to do, always a worry bearing in mind how well he always performs against us. But we controlled the midfield despite Cesc being successfully shackled by de Jong, and gave nothing away. City never looked threatening in the first half.
And then, out of the blue (no pun intended), they scored. A free kick was met by the head of an offside Richards, Almunia’s hand wasn’t strong enough to turn it around the post, instead he pushed it on to the inside of the woodwork, where it rebounded on to the back of his head and in. He is getting castigated in some quarters, which is harsh in my view – while he hasn’t had the best start to the campaign, it seems there are too many just waiting for him to slip up, in a way they don’t for other players.
The first goal was critical. From there, City could counter attack at will. In fact, the only time they seemed uneasy was for the period we were level following Van Persie’s equaliser, and even then, they seemed content to hit us on the break, taking a draw if it were the best they’d manage. With their noses in front, they invited us on and picked us off.
No more so than with their second goal – Clichy was robbed in City’s half, Song came out to cover at left back, but that left us one short in the centre, where either Diaby or Cesc could have been had they tracked back. To me, they are more to blame than Clichy or Song (despite his weak challenge, which was very unlike him but was largely down to the yellow card hanging over his head).
From there, of course, Adebayor and Wright-Phillips took the scoreline to highly flattering territory, before Rosicky managed the consolation he deserved for an excellent first competitive appearance in some twenty months.
Two defeats in four games
With City trying to break into the top four, and having won their first four games, the media are already playing the ‘who will miss out on the Champions League’ game. After our sparkling start to the season, Liverpool briefly caught their beady eye, but with this defeat, you can be sure we’ll be back in the firing line.
I’m actually not all that worried, strange at that might sound. We’ve faced Everton, United and City away, games that anyone will struggle in, and while four or five points would have been a good return, three isn’t a complete disaster. Add to that the fact that we’ve been the better side in every match we’ve played this season and there really is no need to panic.
That isn’t to say I’m not concerned – Chelsea, for example, don’t tend to lose matches they play well in, but this time last year we were deservedly losing to the likes to Fulham, creating nothing and looking hopelessly flat, so you’ll forgive me if I consider this an improvement.
We now have a run of games leading up to Chelsea at the end of November, and there isn’t a single one we shouldn’t win. I’m not saying we’ll win them all, but take each one on an individual basis and you’d be confident of three points.
Put it this way – if United lose to City next weekend, thus suffering their second defeat of the season, do you think they’ll panic?
Adebayor, pantomime villain extraordinaire
Before the game, I expected the big man to get booed. I expected him to play well. I even half expected him to score.
I didn’t expect him to follow a series of ridiculous and dangerous challenges with a celebration that was nothing more than one of the most stupid acts of incitement I’ve ever seen on a football field.
He started early, with a studs up challenge on Cesc (not shown on MOTD) that usually earns a yellow card but was somehow missed by Clattenburg, who went on to give a truly awful display of refereeing, carding Sagna and Song for minor indiscretions compared with what was going on at the other end, and missing a stonewall penalty when the ball struck Barry’s outstretched arms (again, not shown on MOTD).
Worse was to follow. Van Persie went in wildly on him in the second half, missing ball and man in a reckless manner that probably warranted a yellow card, but the reaction from Adebayor was unforgivable. With his body’s momentum falling one way, he looked down, twisted and flicked his leg towards a prone Van Persie, raking his face with his studs. The Dutchman was in no doubt as to Adebayor’s intentions, and made an angry statement on the official site soon after the game:
“I am sad and disappointed by my former team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor’s mindless and malicious stamp on me during today’s match.”
“I knew he was aiming for a collision because he changed the angle of his body to allow contact to be made. He moved backwards when his natural momentum would have taken him forward. I do feel lucky that I have not suffered a greater injury. The contact was only centimetres from my eye.”
Adebayor, of course, has denied it:
“I was trying to kick the ball. I see him tackling and I don’t have time to take my feet back because I’m trying to kick the ball.”
Take a look at the footage again. Note how he does manage to completely change the direction of his foot. Only it is towards Van Persie’s face, which it was not previously destined to connect with. Adebayor then tries to indicate it has already blown over:
“I feel sorry for him and even straight away, and at the end of the game, I said sorry.”
Which is somewhat at odds with Van Persie’s statement:
“I have not received an apology from him, there were no words exchanged afterwards”
Given Adebayor’s propensity’s for modelling to truth to suit him, it doesn’t take an Arsenal fan to figure out who is the likely liar of the two. But what I find particularly interesting is this:
- Not only is Van Persie unwilling to let this be brushed under the carpet, neither are Arsenal. It is unlike a club so quiet in these matters to allow a player to make such a firm and immediate statement. Not only that, but it has been the headline story on the official site for hours now, despite newer items appearing. It seems we want justice.
- If Eduardo diving is worth a two game ban in retrospect, how many is this worth? My guess is three, such are the strange standards of the FA.
Remarkably, at this point in the game Adebayor didn’t even have a yellow card to his name, but he soon put that right with his goal celebration, running the full length of the pitch to slide on his knees directly in front of the Arsenal fans. He didn’t even pretend to face the home support.
Predictably, items were thrown at him, and a crowd surge ensued, neither are which are pleasant in any way, and the latter frankly dangerous. But to charge Arsenal would be to miss the point entirely – this was utterly, completely and wholly the fault of Adebayor. And Mark Hughes knew it. Bear in mind that Hughes debates everydecision with a myopia beyond most, but even he accepted the fourth official’s explanation of Adebayor’s subsequent yellow card with an understanding nod. It was also certainly him that ordered Adebayor to make his public apology to the BBC.
But while City saw the danger and tried to make him appear contrite, it didn’t work, but the player himself wasn’t sorry. You could tell by his words, his excuse-laden piss-poor attempt at an apology:
“When I score a goal, for two or three seconds I can’t control myself. To be honest, I’m very sorry for all this.
“Before the game, people have been saying and writing things. The emotions took over. People who love me and know me know how I behave.”
So that’s a ‘sorry’, sandwiched in between two excuses. Nice apology there, Ade.
The first excuse is the worst – so he loses control for two or three seconds following a goal? Fair enough – I’m sure that immediate burst of adrenaline would make any of us act a little daft at times. But those few seconds would only take him just past our penalty box. What about the few seconds more it takes to reach the halfway line? And then the five or so extra seconds before he begins his slide at the other end of the pitch?
It was an 80m run. Usain Bolt could probably do that in around eight seconds. A man in football boots, who has just run around 7km in the previous hour and a half, would be pushed to do it in under twelve.
Now, count to twelve seconds in your head. Quite a long time, isn’t it? More than enough time for reality to sink in, sensibilities to take over, and that little voice in your head start to say ‘Er, Emmanuel, this really isn’t a good plan’.
Frankly, his excuse is a load of bollocks. Commentators on TV saw what he was doing before he’d made it halfway. There is no way he ‘lost control’ for that long. It was premeditated, I’m sure he got a rollicking for it in the dressing room, and now he’s trying to seem contrite to reduce the ban he deserves.
Ironically, any ban will probably rule him out of the United game, which we probably want him to play in. Such are the vagaries of using evidence post-match.
But that doesn’t stop me hoping that they throw the book at him. I’ve defended him countless times in the past, but enough is enough.