It should have been the crowning of Manchester City’s lofty ambitions in the Premiership this season. The critics had been silenced. Finally it was time to take the challenge from the blue half of Manchester seriously.
However an emphatic victory was soured by the actions of Emmanuel Adebayor which had were the direct result of tensions between the player, opposing Arsenal players and their fans.
For the entire 90 minutes all eyes were on the imposing figure of the Togo international. It was his chance to enact revenge on his former employers.
Midweek had seen Adebayor lift the lid on his well documented feud with former team-mate Nicklas Bendtner.
A disagreement on footwear in the changing room soon embroiled into a physical clash on the pitch after an argument during a Carling Cup match against Spurs in January 2008.
It sparked the beginning of the end for Adebayor. The summer months were spent flirting with A.C. Milan and Barcelona. The player insisted he wanted to stay at the Emirates despite lucrative offers from Italy and Spain.
Before later contradicting himself in a different interview. He insisted nothing had been decided yet and matters would be sorted next week. It led to obvious confusion to the future of the striker.
The Arsenal fans were left disappointed by the perceived lack of commitment by their top scorer to the club. The relationship between the player and club fans became embittered.
Throughout the course of the 2008-09 campaign Adebayor produced languid performances. He was unable to recreate the form of the previous year.
A fruitful 30 goals in the 07-08 campaign was followed by a drought in 08-09 as the player could only manage a measly 16 goals.
When Manchester City left their calling card it seemed inevitable that Adebayor would swap London for Manchester. The £25 million transfer that he commanded represented good value for Arsen Wenger and the fans.
Such were the waning affections for Adebayor by the club supporters they produced a mock booklet, promoting the player's “talents” for potential suitors.
The player felt unloved, unwanted and humiliated.
Since his arrival at the Eastlands the player's ego has been affectionately cradled, his confidence rebuilt and invariably the end result is goals.
The midweek confessions by Adebayor were bound to add extra spice to an already gigantic game. It was built as the first real test for “the great pretenders”.
A perfect record in the league was an impressive feat for Mark Hughes and his expensive bunch of bandits. The real test of any hopes harboured of a top 4 finish would be certified by their ability to compete with the fluid, attacking style of Arsenal.
Adebayor engaged in some meaty challenges with his former team-mates throughout the match. He was ready to prove a point through whatever means.
He left Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas sprawled on the floor after an apparent stamp on the Spaniards ankle. Intentional or simply a strikers tackle? The jury is out.
The situation was already inflamed when Van Persie and Adebayor brushed shoulders near the vicinity of the centre circle.
As soon as the two players lunged for the loose ball it was obvious trouble was brewing. Van Persie slid in while Adebayor remained on his feet.
As the Togo international waltzed away from the Dutchman, his right foot made contact with the face of his former strike partner. It didn’t appear accidental.
If deliberate his actions are inexcusable.
Inevitably Adebayor was going to find his way onto the score sheet. A whipped cross from Sean Wright Phillips was met by the head of 25-year-old frontman who guided his header past Manuel Almunia.
The situation that ensued marred a wondrous win for Manchester City.
Adebayor bounded down the pitch in celebration, looking like a man possessed. He proceeded to dive onto his knees and with arms stretched out, stared into the eyes of the enemy.
Understandably it was release of pent up frustration. It was vexation that had been confined for many months as he endured the taunts of his former supporters.
While his actions were comprehensible after his acrimonious departure from the Emirates, they were undoubtedly stupid and irresponsible. It could be described as incitement.
If players conduct themselves in such a manner then it should come as no surprise when troubles occur between rival fans. Players have a responsibility to conduct themselves in an appropriate matter between a match, regardless of taunting and jeering.
They are paid such ludicrous fees that they should be able to contain themselves even in high octane moments on the pitch.
The similar incident of Gary Neville celebrating in front of a section of Liverpool fans a few years ago could be used as a precedent by the Football Association when dealing with the case. The United captain received a £5,000 fine for his actions.
Surely a heftier fee is required? Or a ban?
The antics of Adebayor resulted in chaos among the Arsenal supporters, stewards and police. Officials were left struggling to calm down enraged fans after the absent minded actions of the player had inflamed the situation.
One could understand the player wishing to exuberantly celebrate. But was there a real need to sprint a 100 yards down the pitch, making a point to the already agitated Arsenal fans. Surely a strike against his old club was a sufficient dagger through the heart.
The player had his say, reminded the fans what they were missing, job done.
Surely if the F.A. and governing bodies wish to eradicate incidents like crowd trouble at Upton Park a couple of weeks ago, it must start with the players behaving on the pitch.
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