Arsene Wenger has appealed to the Arsenal support to "show some style" and express their "gratitude" to former players when three one-time Gunners return to the Emirates in the colours of Manchester City this evening.
The manager's appeal may well be heeded when it comes to Kolo Touré and, in particular, Patrick Vieira ("He would always be ready to die to win the game"), but it seems unlikely to be extended to Emmanuel Adebayor, who received a three-match ban and a fine in the wake of his first game against Arsenal earlier in the season. The ban was for raking his studs down Robin van Persie's leg and the £25,000 fine for an over-exuberant celebration in front of the travelling support at Eastlands that seems certain to result in a heated welcome in north London.
"You want all three to get a good reception because I believe we want to show some style and some quality," said Wenger. "We want to help Arsenal and be above all the rest and show some gratitude for players who used to play for the club. I'm convinced that people pay money to come to the game to watch us play football, play well and win the game, so it's important to focus on that. All the rest doesn't help us to win. My job is to win the game, and to have a go at Adebayor doesn't help us win the game."
Wenger is concerned enough about the possibility of events over-heating that he will caution Van Persie to keep his cool and "just to focus on the game". The Dutchman was so infuriated by his former team-mate's challenge that he issued a statement accusing him of a "mindless and malicious stamp".
He has been on the bench for the last two games – demoralising defeats at Tottenham and Wigan – and may make his first Premier League start since November. "He is ready," said Wenger.
The defeat at Wigan, where they were 2-0 up with 10 minutes remaining, ended Arsenal's designs on the title and has left Wenger ruing a missed opportunity as he believes this season's race had been wide open, although as ever he claims progress for his side.
"To win games in the Premier League [this season] was harder," said the Frenchman, "but to win the Championship it was easier because everybody could beat everybody this year. It's the first year you can say – Man United goes to Blackburn, you know they can drop points, Chelsea goes to Hull, you know they can drop points, so it was interesting.
"We are much closer this year. I believe, naturally, we will improve because we are a very young team."