Adebayor the drama in dull affair
MANCHESTER CITY 0
This had all the ingredients for a burlesque, but didn't deliver a decent row for Punch and Judy.
Emmanuel Adebayor made his appearance -- well cast as the pantomime dame in his luminous orange boots and hair in pigtails -- to the predictable accompaniment of boos, which he took in the best possible taste. But, ultimately, a tame draw left neither of these teams sated. Arsenal still crave two points to confirm third spot and the Champions League guarantee that comes with it. City remain a point behind Tottenham in the hunt for a top-four finish.
City were sent out with three holding midfielders beefing up the orchestra, leaving Carlos Tevez to lead the line as a soloist. It meant that City lacked the ambition and thrust to quickly get at the shredded nerves of Lukasz Fabianski, who was granted yet another opportunity to repay the seemingly endless faith of his manager.
City clogged up the patch between centre circle and goalmouth very efficiently. Of greater consequence to Arsenal was the return of Robin van Persie, who took the captain's armband as he made his first start in five months since recovering from ruptured ankle ligaments. Largely well marshalled by City's well-manned defence mechanism, it was not the easiest occasion for him to find some of the sharpness Arsenal were desperate to see.
It took 40 minutes for any player to manage a shot on target. The energetic Samir Nasri found some space to angle a drive from the left, which Shay Given parried. City awoke and Vieira, of all people, ambled into the box, but just as he shaped to shoot, Sol Campbell arrived with a classic last-ditch tackle to snuff out the threat.
The contest effectively started in the 52nd minute when Adebayor crossed the line and onto the pitch he once ambled onto in the red and white. As if a switch were flicked City were a new team -- more attacking, more motivated, more psyched up. Arsene Wenger leaned back into his seat and looked anxious. Just what he needed was to see Mikael Silvestre take his customary slip at just the wrong moment -- Adebayor was in, cantering upfield. The Togolese overran the chance, however, and could even bring himself to smile broadly as the ball ran out of play.
Wenger brought on Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue in an attempt to change the game's direction. Abou Diaby immediately jinked into space and shot low and hard towards the bottom corner. Given saved superbly, but injured his shoulder in the process. He needed oxygen as he was stretched off the pitch. On came Gunnar Nielsen, a 23-year-old goalkeeper from the Faroe Islands, for his debut. He was grateful to watch a van Persie free-kick dip centimetres wide.
Both Arsenal and City were guilty of not challenging inexperienced keepers enough.