x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

City must put their striker into context

It is about context. Emmanuel Adebayor's destructive display and self-destructive behaviour cannot be separated from the circumstances.

It is about context. Emmanuel Adebayor's destructive display and self-destructive behaviour cannot be separated from the circumstances. By bloodying Arsenal, both literally and metaphorically, and leaving his former teammates pained on the Eastlands turf while maintaining Manchester City's 100 per cent record in emphatic fashion, the Togolese made his mark on every aspect of Saturday's 4-2 victory.

It is about context. That is why it is impossible to believe that the stamp on Robin van Persie was accidental. "Mindless and malicious," in the words of the Dutchman, formerly his rival for top billing in the Arsenal attack, their fractious relationship has long been apparent. In a court of law, the background to the case would enable any skilled lawyer to secure a conviction, even without the aid of the damning slow-motion replays: there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest this was no innocent mishap. As it is, Adebayor should consider himself fortunate his studs did not come into contact with Van Persie's left eye.

It is about context. That was why Adebayor ran the length of the field to celebrate his goal in front of the Arsenal supporters who have christened him "Greedybayor" (a British newspaper has now dubbed him "Madebayor" instead). Gloating is never edifying, especially when it appears incitement. There is a mutual sense of rejection, but Adebayor should remember that, by courting AC Milan 15 months ago, he was the initial offender.

It is about context. That is why it was much more than another game not just for Adebayor, but for Arsenal and Manchester City. The Gunners occupied fourth place last season, and were thus deemed the most vulnerable of the Big Four and City's immediate target. Yet Arsene Wenger, with his innate confidence in his side's ability, was willing to sell such a potent goalscorer to their rivals, whereas Everton fought a long and unsuccessful battle to prevent Joleon Lescott leaving. Adebayor was derided as a mercenary by some; this was a result that suggests City was a legitimate destination to fulfil his footballing and financial ambitions.

It is about context. With four goals in as many games, Adebayor has reasserted himself as the closest equivalent to Didier Drogba in the division, spearhead and scorer rolled into one menacing package. Though Fernando Torres remains unrivalled as a predator, City's new recruit can be called the most intimidating lone striker in the Premier League. It is why, within a month of his debut, he has assumed the mantle of City's pivotal player. Robinho may remain the flagship signing, but his absence appeared insignificant on Saturday.

It is about context. That is why the consequences of Adebayor's actions may be so far-reaching. He is expected to be charged by the Football Association, principally for the stamp on Van Persie, but perhaps also for taunting the Arsenal fans. If, as is likely, he is suspended for three games, he will miss Sunday's Manchester derby and the games against West Ham and Aston Villa. Yet with Robinho likely to be out for four weeks and Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez also sidelined, Mark Hughes could return to Old Trafford short of strikers. While overcoming Arsenal was a statement of intent, the ultimate ambition is to overhaul the champions, not merely to settle for fourth place. Ruling Manchester is an essential prerequisite for national and continental domination.

So, not for the first time, the eventual beneficiaries of events at Manchester City could prove to be Manchester United. And that would place City's outstanding win in an unwanted context. Paul Scholes contrived to condense the cases for and against his continued inclusion in the Manchester United team into an hour at White Hart Lane. The endearing excellence of his passing tends to be compromised by the enduring awfulness of this tackling, and so it proved on Saturday.

A first-half masterclass in distribution was followed by two mistimed challenges: from running the game to removed from it within a matter of minutes. This observer has felt for a while that it is safest to use Scholes against weaker sides where United are more likely to dominate possession, rendering his inability to tackle less of an issue, yet his performance against a side of Spurs' stature was a reminder of his gifts.

His dismissal, however, could have cost United victory and while Sir Alex Ferguson criticised the decision, Scholes' first caution could have been a straight red card. His manager's complaint also raised two other issues: firstly, sympathy should be mitigated by the sight of Scholes, among other United players, urging referee Andre Marriner to caution Tottenham's Wilson Palacios; and secondly, Ferguson, who has seen Scholes sent off enough times before, may consider substituting him next time the midfielder picks up a yellow card.

The unofficial award for the chant of the weekend belongs to the Stoke City supporters, who told Chelsea: "You're not signing any more." So simple, but so clever. One postscript to Sunday's second city derby: Birmingham City could not sell all their tickets for their biggest game of the season. It is one of many reasons to debate the wisdom of Carson Yeung in buying the club. Richard Jolly is an authority on the English game, having written for, among others, The Guardian and The Sunday Telegraph

@Email:rjolly@thenational.ae