Manchester City 1 Arsenal 3: Adebayor rebirth contrasts sharply with City's decline

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The Independent Online

While Sven Goran Eriksson yearned for a striker who only dragged himself up to Manchester in the last few hours of the transfer window, Arsène Wenger was reflecting on one who couldn't believe his good fortune when Arsenal first called him up. Such is the current contrast between Wenger's side, striding on purposefully towards the season's denouement, and City, a team fast tumbling out of any active part in it.

It is just over two years since Wenger contacted Emmanuel Adebayor – a player who, after missing training at Monaco and falling out with every coach he was working with, Francesco Guidolin in France and the Togalese coach Steve Keshi, was drifting on to the wrong side of the lines in football.

Wenger admits there was a question mark about "his attitude and spirit" and is not entirely sure why, with 21 goals to his name now this season and a display here which made a mockery of Manchester City's previously unbeaten home record, he has been so transformed at Arsenal.

"Did the club manage to change him or did he realise he had wasted enough time?" Wenger asked, without providing an answer.

"He found a club where he could express his talent and that it was a magnificent chance." Adebayor might not be in the Didier Drogba bracket quite yet for Wenger – he will make it there, the Frenchman thinks – but he moves off the ball like never before, has a new-found composure in front of goal and he embarrassed Micah Richards at times, on the day whenFabio Capello had arrived to watch England's great hope.

If only Eriksson could speak so confidently of Benjani Mwaruwari, whose failure to arrive at City's training ground before 11.10pm on Thursday evening does not seem to have made the Swede any less keen to sign him. "I will push hard [for him] but I don't think it's on my table," said Eriksson after his side, who have scored only seven times in nine games, offered minimal threat to Jens Lehmann. "He is a good player, he has scored 12 goals so far, one of the top scorers in the country."

The club may take a bit more persuading, though, and the initial £7.6m price will need to be considerably lower if the player is to make it north, where City are nursing a profound sense of indignation about Portsmouth and Benjani's contribution to the late-night chaos surrounding attempts to sign the player. The club believe that Benjani could have stayed in Manchester after Portsmouth's match at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, by which time Harry Redknapp had already made City's bid known to his son, Jamie, who was discussing it on Sky TV.

The absence of a chaperone for one of football's less organised individuals – or a driver, when his initial plane was cancelled, is also a source of indignation to City who are preparing to demonstrate that they are not contractually bound to pay for him.

Eriksson also needs more from the players already at his disposal. It is impossible to emphasise how badly they want Richards' contract negotiations to be concluded and on this evidence a player who has looked vulnerable too often in the past few months will be wise to put the uncertainty behind him.

Richards was found wanting four times in the first half. His lunge to prevent Adebayor squeezing Arsenal's opener in came too late – the ball ricocheted in off his own legs – and he was a yard behind Eduardo when the Croatian scored an acrobatic second after receiving Adebayor's header.

Gelson Fernandes, who slotted home City's goal after Vedran Corluka had dispossessed Gaël Clichy, showed most of the bite which Eriksson has found so lacking and Elano looked livelier in the first half than he has for weeks. But Arsenal's speed of thought was faster, Mathieu Flamini showed just why they now call him Gattuso, after the general of Milan's midfield, and if Arsenal's decision-making had been better – Alex Hleb could have been put clean through by Cesc Fabregas, who picked out Adebayor instead – the result could have been put out of doubt much sooner.

Goals: Adebayor, (9) 0-1; Eduardo (26) 0-2; Fernandes (28) (1-2); Adebayor (88) 1-3.

Manchester City (4-5-1): Hart; Corluka, Dunne, Richards, Ball; Ireland (Mpenza, 83), Hamann (Geovanni, 75), Fernandes, Petrov, Elano; Sturridge (Vassell, 55). Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Jihai.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy; Hleb (Hoyte, 89), Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby; Adebayor, Eduardo. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Bendtner, Traoré, Walcott.

Referee: A Marriner (W Midlands).

Booked: Manchester City Petrov, Elano.

Man of the match: Adebayor.

Attendance: 46,426.

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