Adebayor plays villain of piece

Arsenal 0 Manchester City 0

The Emirates – and previously Highbury – is not a den of spite or vitriol. Former Arsenal players returning to their old haunts are normally given a hero's welcome. Think Thierry Henry with Barcelona and Patrick Vieira four years ago with Juventus. However, Emmanuel Adebayor's return last night saw the home support end that genteel custom.

His poor form last season for the Gunners riled most fans but what happened in September between these clubs will mean the Togo striker is forever reviled in N5. That was proved when he came on as a substitute after 52 minutes for Vieira, who was cheered off, and Adebayor, with his hair in bunches and wearing bright orange boots, was booed on.

Yet, if nothing else, his appearance enlivened a desperately poor game, one where Manchester City were content, from the start, with a point in their quest for fourth place. It was also one where the hosts were not good enough, as Arsène Wenger admitted, to break down a defence that was marshalled by Kolo Touré, another well-received former Gunner.

Arsenal went closest to scoring after 70 minutes, when Shay Given turned Abou Diaby's shot round the post, but dislocated his shoulder in the process and went straight to hospital. It meant a Premier League debut for Gunnar Nielsen, a 23-year-old from the Faroe Islands, but he was hardly tested. Joe Hart would normally step in but he is bound by his loan agreement to stay at Birmingham City for the rest of the season.

With Stuart Taylor, the third choice, recovering from injury, Roberto Mancini will now have to rely on Nielsen to play Aston Villa and, more crucially, Tottenham, a week on Wednesday. Win those two and a place in the Champions League qualifiers is virtually theirs.

Therefore City's European fate is now in the hands of a Faroese with only two full caps to his name. That is, presumably, not what Sheikh Mansour had in mind when he started to pump his petro-millions into the club. "Ironic, is that what you call it?" said Wenger with a big smile on his face after this result which Wenger said gave Arsenal a "90 per cent" chance of third place .

Adebayor's standing at Arsenal changed permanently after the incident at Eastlands, when he scraped his studs down Robin van Persie's face. He also ran the length of the pitch after scoring to celebrate in front of the visiting fans. Adebayor, who earned a three-game ban and £25,000 for that bit of madness, started on the bench.

That didn't stop the home fans from booing Adebayor during the warm-up, contravening their manager's utterly futile calls for restraint, and things got worse when he was brought on. Wenger said: "Adebayor made it lively, our supporters got lively. What can I do about the fans? I said I want everybody to respect him."

Gaël Clichy gained instant respect from the home fans for his heavy challenge on Adebayor. Van Persie, inevitably, was booked for his late lunge on the player.

Respect was lacking and so was any penetration or sharpness to Arsenal's game. Wenger admitted that defeat against Wigan last week was preying on their minds, as it had left third place, and automatic entry to the Champions' League, still at risk, although Tottenham's defeat earlier in the day helped Arsenal. He said: "Losing to Wigan was in our heads, it was absolutely forbidden to lose, they didn't throw everything forward blindly."

Wenger, at least, was happy with Van Persie playing the whole game, his first since his ankle injury in November, while another injured Gunner, Cesc Fabregas, declared he will be fit to play for Spain in the World Cup.

Attendance: 60,086

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the match: Song

Match rating: 4/10

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