How well Arsenal has been helped by Togo’s inability to qualify for the African Cup of Nations currently being held at Ghana.
Already devoid of Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Alex Song, Emmanuel Adebayor’s participation in the African Championships for Togo could have been a telling loss for Arsene Wenger in his pursuit of the Premiership. As it stands, the tall Togolese was again instrumental in sealing a stylish Arsenal victory which broke Manchester City’s unbeaten home record since the start of the Premiership season.
The 3-1 win takes the North London side above Manchester United in the Premiership table for a few hours only. United pay a visit to Arsenal’s bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur and for once the Gunners would be looking forward to Juande Ramos’ men to take something out of the game.
Sven Goran Ericsson started with a not too positive approach with a 4-4-1-1 formation with Brazilian Elano just operating behind Daniel Sturridge. As expected with two deadly strikers upfront in the form of Adebayor and Eduardo, Arsenal immediately took control of the match.
The Gunners had all the possession, yet they could have easily fallen behind as Stephen Ireland sneaked behind the Arsenal defence after being put through by a clever Elano cross but the young midfielder somehow hesitated in connecting the ball past Jens Lehmann, who was deputising for the injured Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal. Immediately afterwards, Arsenal punished City with some trademark free-flowing football. Bacary Sagna was a nightmare for City on the right hand side and the French wing-back gave Martin Petrov a hard time all day long. In the tenth minute the former Auxerre player was set up on the right side by his Arsenal teammates after a quick short-passing attack and he fed the devastatingly in-form Adebayor who bundled the ball in for Arsenal’s 50th goal of the league this season despite some desperate efforts by England defender Micah Richards to stop Arsenal from taking the lead.
It was all Arsenal at that moment and City had no answer against Arsenal’s quality in passing the ball all round the park. The Eastlands crowd had no cause to raise their voices and the men in light blue found themselves 2-0 down courtesy of a classic finish from Eduardo in the 26th minute. He may be a Croatian international but his finishing justifies his Brazilian roots. Gael Clichy’s perfectly measured cross from the left found Adebayor who headed the ball into Eduardo’s path with a massive leap and the Brazilian-born Croatian then produced a skill of true ingenuity. Having controlled the ball in his chest, Eduardo volleyed a left-footed shot over his shoulder past goalkeeper Joe Hart with his back to the goal. Truly stunning and the young English goalie was left stranded.
There was no way back for Sven’s faltering side but a moment of childish defending turned Gael Clichy from a hero to a villain a couple of minutes later. Instead of clearing an inocuous looking ball away, the French defender tried to run it out of play and was robbed by Croat Vedran Corluka on the right side who passed it to Gelson Fernandes and the midfielder neatly side-footed the ball past a helpless Jens Lehmann.
Eastlands suddenly came alive and City had come back into the match from nowhere. But Arsenal kept plugging away and Hart smartly saved an Adebayor header and Cesc Fabregas nearly latched on to a William Gallas pass from the corner. As the first period came to a close Manchester City finished the stronger side with a somewhat dominant display but it was probably a bit too late in the half. Clichy’s mistake could have cost Arsenal in the second half but City hardly troubled the men in red and white and the away team looked the more positive as usual. Lehmann, who had a rare start, was hardly called into making a genuine save as Arsenal pushed on to secure the game.
Phillipe Senderos looked more composed and assured partnering the excellent William Gallas at the back and the Swiss looked to have shaken off his lack of confidence that had crept into his game as a result of limited first team appearances. Indeed he was a threat as well for the City defence upfront from setpieces due to his huge frame. Arsenal had numerous chances to kill the game for good with Fabregas going close twice with long range efforts and Adebayor’s purposeful run was somehow blocked by the joint efforts of Micah Richards and Richard Dunne.
But the inevitable was just round the corner when with two minutes from normal time a quick counter-attack saw Adebayor get tripped by Elano but the referee played a perfect advantage that helped Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas set up the Togolese typhoon to fire in Arsenal’s third and increase his personal league goals tally to 18, just one behind Manchester United’s Christiano Ronaldo.