Lawton: Adebayor's moment of madness


Manchester City 4 Arsenal 2: The brittle smile of Mark Hughes after this potentially foundation-stone victory over a member of the English football elite he has been funded to supplant was as easy to understand as the disconsolate features of the beaten Arsène Wenger.

Emmanuel Adebayor, after all, had placed before Hughes the dilemma of every football man who ever put his career in the hands of a player of extraordinary talent but perhaps ungovernable character.

Adebayor was immense in this game, huge and luminous in his natural ability. Unfortunately, this only made his lapse into dangerous and shocking professional irresponsibility all the more dramatic and, for Hughes, disconcerting on a day when he might otherwise have been celebrating a significant and untrammelled step forward in a project that has invited so much scepticism.

The big man from Togo showed us the beauty that lies in his natural gifts and why Hughes parted so enthusiastically with £25m – and then the beast.

He was so caught up in the obsessions created by his view of the world that the consensus belief around football that he will almost certainly receive no less than a four-game ban for his behaviour was a report veering to the side of leniency.

It was hard to know which was least measured in its irrationality, his pitch-long dash to bait the Arsenal fans who had jeered him from his first kick of the ball – or the stamp aimed at Robin van Persie's head which left ugly marks around the Arsenal player's eye.

Hughes' concern about his ability to control his virtuoso player can only be partially reduced by the fact that Adebayor had to run such a gauntlet of disdain from his former club's supporters and that Van Persie, for all the wounded innocence of the statement he issued against his old team-mate on Saturday night, mighty easily have been given a red card for the brutal, two-footed tackle which provoked the flashpoint.

A degree of control will always be one of the key requirements of an outstanding professional and whatever the short-term consequences, Hughes will know well enough now that his most dynamic asset has, to a level not seen before, revealed a skin no thicker than the most faded parchment.

After Adebayor's nationwide television apology, Hughes made his own contribution to the damage control, saying: "He has shown emotion and you should never take emotion out of this sport. But there are obviously various things that will have a negative impact and he has come out very quickly and apologised. He knows he should not have done it.

"When I said we need to cut him some slack it was because of the breakdown in his relationship with the Arsenal fans. That was the sad part for him. He really loved his time at Arsenal, he will tell you that himself, but for whatever reason he wasn't appreciated by his own fans at the end and that is hard to take for a professional footballer.

"Obviously you want to be loved by your own fans because you get enough abuse from the opposition's."

Here, Hughes, for all the tightness of his corner, could not escape the charge of being disingenuous. There is no mystery in the disaffection of the Arsenal fans. Adebayor was liked well enough in his first brilliant season in the wake of Thierry Henry but then, hardly before that affection could be properly cemented, he was flirting most publicly with Milan. It is not the way you underpin your hero's status in modern football.

For Wenger, who at one point must have seen in Adebayor an ability to outstrip the potential of another of his discoveries, Nicolas Anelka, before he defected to Real Madrid at vast profit but leaving an unshakeable sense of betrayed hope, it all seemed to form a great wave of angst.

He was asked if, at the very least of it, Adebayor had shown disrespect. "You can take it as that," said the Arsenal manager. "I don't want to focus on it but it was not enjoyable to see. I was concerned that there could be some reaction from the fans. At Arsenal we tried to treat him well. He came from Metz where he didn't play [and moved on to Monaco] and now he is the player he is. I do not feel we have treated him badly. I have to see the Van Persie incident again, but if he has done it, it is very dangerous."

Even given the frequency in recent years of Arsenal's failure to exploit often exquisite football properly, it was hard to remember Wenger in such a forlorn mood after defeat. Perhaps it was when he lost the 2006 Champions League final to Barcelona. Certainly when he lost to United two weeks ago, after long phases of the control Arsenal also displayed against City, he was relatively sanguine.

Most worrying, no doubt, was the ease with which City were able to counter-attack. Their first goal was largely another embarrassment for Manuel Almunia, and came in their first significant occupation of the Arsenal half, but the other three were all the result of the flimsiness of Arsenal's resistance when their attack was turned.

Tomas Rosicky brought a sharp increase in coherence and drive when he came on as a substitute, but Wenger continues to be concerned by his fragility after a long injury. He must also hope it was the effects of a much shorter lay-off that made Cesc Fabregas so inconsequential, rather than any dwindling of his determination to resist the overtures of Barcelona.

Wenger said: "It is worrying. We have played four games, three away and, unfortunately, we have lost two of those games. I thought we were controlling this game. It is hard to take."

Hughes has, of course, won all of his games. Apart from Adebayor's stunning football – not least one run which Shaun Wright-Phillips should have knocked in and then always remembered it as the gift of the most magnificent assist received in his entire career – he had excellent performances from Craig Bellamy, Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong.

Yet the smile of victory never reached Hughes' eyes. It said that whatever lies ahead it is not too many sleep-laden nights. Having Adebayor around is not exactly a guarantee of such delights.

Manchester City (4-3-3) Given; Richards, Touré, Lescott, Bridge; Ireland (Petrov, 73), De Jong, Barry; Wright-Phillips, Adebayor, Bellamy. Subsitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Onuoha, Zabaleta, Sylvinho, Vidal, Weiss.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Sagna (Eboué, 77), Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Fabregas, Song (Eduardo, 77), Denilson (Rosicky, 52); Bendtner, Van Persie, Diaby. Substitutes not used: Mannone (gk), Ramsey, Silvestre, Gibbs.

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).

Booked: Manchester City Lescott, Adebayor, De Jong; Arsenal Sagna,Song.

Man of the match: Adebayor.

Attendance: 47,339.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London