We’d passed a sign “Players’ Car Park 150m” as we were looking for somewhere to park, some distance from Eastlands on Saturday. Obviously many of Man City’s multi-millionaire stars aren’t inclined to stretch their legs to retrieve their lary looking motors, as there were crowds thronging around a glittering array of expensive supercars, gleaming in the late summer sunshine directly outside the ground.
I’d imagine there’s a vast number of impoverished Mancunians who'd probably need a mortgage to purchase just one of the alloy wheels. Yet there was a hint of pride in the voice of the City fan, who informed us that apparently the silver Audi R8 belonged to Petrov and the white and blue one with the vulgar custom-paint job was Stephen Ireland’s (but then I guess the no. 7s on the side were a bit of a giveaway), as if to suggest that the ostentatiousness of the cars alone confirmed City’s new-found status amongst the footballing elite.
I guess it’s going to be some months before we discover whether City have more genuine pretensions of securing a highly-prized pitch at the Champions League trough. On paper, Mark Hughes squad certainly appears to have the proper credentials and perhaps Saturday’s sickening result will start the perception snowball rolling, as City begin to acquire the sort of big club aura, which might enable them to attract more stars and which might see them accruing plenty of points on account of the limited expectations of opposition teams who begin to afford them far too much respect.
Hopefully Man Utd might burst City’s rapidly inflating balloon next weekend. Although such desires are an indication of the downsizing of Gooner expectations. In the past we’d have been up for City and even our sworn enemy, Spurs, hoping they might take points from Man Utd in order to prize open the door for our own title challenge. But after losing two of our opening four and based on our form in recent seasons, only the most blinkered optimist would be focusing on anything other than the results which might best enable us to consolidate third or fourth spot.
If Saturday’s game achieved anything, it was to let Cashley Hole off the hook as no. 1 target of Gooner ire. There was a silver Lamborghini parked in front of the fleet of Audi R8s outside the ground and there was some speculation as to whether this might’ve been Adebayor’s. His subsequent performance suggested he’d be perfectly suited to such a tacky motor - all flash and no genuine class!
Unlike many Gooners, I was fairly ambivalent about Adebayor prior to Saturday, as to my mind I couldn’t really bear a grudge against someone who’s merely a product of the mercenary modern game, where the gods of mammon have usurped the footballing deities. I’m gutted he’s not still scoring goals for us but then he wouldn’t be and I rather suspect that as the novelty wears off and the winter draws on, it won’t be too long before Ade is back to his indolent best, spending his afternoons loafing offside. Let’s see how long he continues to “feel the love” from the City fans then.
However Adebayor can’t be all bad. I heard tell how he was having a tattoo done in Muswell Hill and the tattooist mentioned that his Gooner pal has an entire museum’s worth of Arsenal memorabilia. Obviously this pre-dates the beginning of divorce proceedings, when his love affair with the Arsenal was still in it’s first flush, as apparently Ade was still sufficiently enamoured, to arrange to turn up at this Gooner’s modest gaff and spend the entire evening going through his treasured collection.
I was no less infuriated by the striker’s lacklustre efforts last season but as “supporters” we’re contractually obligated to remain loyal to those wearing the red & white, no matter what we might think of them in private. There’s no good purpose to be served by us getting on our own player’s backs and to the contrary, as the sort of insecure person who seemingly measures his worth by his approval rating, the Togonator was a prime example of the perils of turning on one of our own.
With Van Persie having acquired a Heskey-like tendency to hit the deck and Bendtner so ineffective out on the right flank (hard to believe he scored in both games for Denmark!) our expansive football and dominance of possession counted for little without a cutting edge, while City fans taunted “you’re just our feeder club”!
Greedybayor’s revelations that his barney with Bertie Big Bollix Bendtner began over something as ridiculous as the Dane’s refusal to adhere to the dressing room footware policy, prompted an image of our glorious leader throwing his hands up in Gallic fashion, exasperated by futile efforts to snuff out such petty fires. Le Prof’s prodigious knowledge all counts for nought, compared to the nursery nursing qualifications needed, to keep the matches out of reach of such immature, ego-driven pyromaniacs.
Thus I’m sure any sense of striker-envy on the day was more than balanced out by the thought that it now befalls Mark Hughes, someone who’s hardly renowned for his sensitive side, to tiptoe his way around the minefield of wet-nursing his large bevy of spoilt brats (watching N. Ireland v Slovakia in midweek, it’s hard to believe the talented likes of Vladimir Weiss will be content to continue warming the Man City bench!).
I can fully appreciate Adebayor wanting to stick two fingers up at some of our fans. I didn’t appreciate the decidedly racist tone of the opposition fans’ chant when he wore an Arsenal shirt and although it was inevitable, I’m no less disapproving and definitely won’t join in, now that our lot have adopted this offensive ditty. Mind you, I have to admit to being tickled by City fans “he’s hung like an elephant and his missus is sore” variation on the theme.
A classier act would’ve appreciated that merely by putting the ball in the back of the net, was all the pain he needed to inflict on those who’d taken his name in vain. As he ran the entire length of the pitch, to rub it in, there was time enough for anyone with an ounce of common sense to appreciate quite how irresponsible his actions were.
Not that I’m condoning those Gooners below us in the lower tier who allowed themselves to be provoked into quite such a rabid, almost primeval response, but I was truly grateful not to be caught up in it. For several minutes it was like witnessing a stomach-churning flashback, as fans, police and stewards all lashed out at one another and defenceless civilians were dragged from the melée in a distressed state, struggling to catch their breath. Adebayor’s feeble post-match apology would’ve sounded even more hollow if someone had been badly hurt!
Personally I’ve always thought it preposterous that players are penalised for over-exuberant goal celebrations as it’s being able to share such unfettered moments of euphoria that is the very essence of the beautiful game. Moreover there’s invariably an obvious distinction between harmless expressions of joy and a blatant incitement to riot!
As for the stamping incident, I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed that the club gave official sanction to Van Persie getting on his high horse. Anyone who has played the game knows just how easy it is to lash out at an opponent in the heat of battle and our hot-headed Dutch striker could just as easily have been the offender as the target. But then perhaps in this instance the noble virtue of forgiveness has fallen victim to more practical considerations and having failed to take points off City on the pitch, we’ve adopted a “by hook or by crook” approach to try and ensure they drop points elsewhere in Adebayor’s absence.
Time was when Machiavelli was more likely to be the “librero” at AC Milan, than the chicanery on which the Gunners’ Champions League qualification depended!
Meanwhile we certainly don’t appear to have benefited from the International interlude. I doubt the 8 goals Belgium conceded did much for Vermaelen’s confidence but Rosicky’s return could prove significant. Traditionally weaknesses at the back have only been a problem for Wenger’s sides, when we’ve lacked sufficient potency to compensate up front.
Some contend we’ve a relatively easy run of games ahead, against lesser opposition. But personally I’m always more confident of this side rising to big occasion and I really don’t like the way in which our progress from a relatively easy Champions League group is being taken as read. There are no easy games nowadays and to my mind it will be our ability to impose ourselves in several less glamorous encounters in the coming weeks, which will be the true test of whether we’re likely to spend the season trying to cling to Chelsea’s coat-tails, or slipping down into a “no holds barred” dog-fight with the more ambitious sides amongst the also-rans?
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