Arsenal were easy prey for Manchester City but Mikel Arteta has now fixed their inferiority complex and instilled some of the ruthlessness he'd seen inside Pep Guardiola's winning machine... their progress is clear


This very modern sporting rivalry remains best defined by English football’s most notorious knee slide. It was performed by Emmanuel Adebayor after scoring Manchester City’s third goal in a 4-2 win over Arsenal and saw him sprint the length of the Etihad Stadium to goad those in the away end.

They had been insulting him about his parentage and ancestry, Adebayor explained, and he has always insisted there are no regrets when the moment is revisited, which tends to be at least twice a season.

Here we go again, almost 15 years on, because Arsenal are back at the Etihad having ended a run of 12 straight Premier League defeats to City with a 1-0 victory in October.

That was the campaign when Adebayor was still a hero at the Emirates Stadium and scored both goals for Arsenal in a 2-0 win against City in April 2009.

Emmanuel Adebayor's notorious knee slide came after he scored against former club Arsenal

Emmanuel Adebayor’s notorious knee slide came after he scored against former club Arsenal

Arsenal ended a run of 12 straight Premier League defeats to Manchester City with a 1-0 win

Arsenal ended a run of 12 straight Premier League defeats to Manchester City with a 1-0 win

Five months later, he was the arch villain of a tempestuous contest in which he also stamped on Cesc Fabregas and raked his studs across Robin van Persie’s face.

Van Persie called his action ‘mindless and malicious’ and the FA issued retrospective punishment, as they did more frequently in the days before VAR.

They hit Adebayor with a three-match ban for the Van Persie incident and fined him £25,000 for the provocative celebration.

‘I was running on pure emotion,’ the Togo international said later. ‘I was abused all match and scored a goal that I knew would win the game for us.’

Adebayor’s goal was a header in the 80th minute. It put the home side 3-1 up. Not only did it enrage Arsenal supporters, it signified lift-off for the new City, little more than a year after the Sheikh Mansour takeover.

Adebayor's goal, a header in the 80th minute, enraged Arsenal's travelling supporters

Adebayor’s goal, a header in the 80th minute, enraged Arsenal’s travelling supporters

The striker's effort also signalled lift-off for City in their new era under Sheikh Mansour

The striker’s effort also signalled lift-off for City in their new era under Sheikh Mansour

Ahead of the game, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger had been fuming about ‘financial doping’, the term he coined in frustration as billionaire Roman Abramovich transformed the landscape of English football with his takeover at Chelsea in 2003.

Wenger tore up his Invincibles team of 2003-04 in a hasty attempt to create a new, younger team before Arsenal – already hamstrung by loan repayments for their new stadium – were left behind by the new reality.

In his autobiography, My Life in Red and White, published in 2020, Wenger wrote: ‘With our colossal bank debts we were less able to buy players.

‘This is why we turned to young ones while other clubs, which had artificial resources and existed on external sponsorship, clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, had huge financial clout and could buy whomever they wanted, often even our players.’

The summer of 2009 was City’s first full summer window operating with oil money and was the height of their hubris. They burned through over £100million in the transfer market, a spree that included the ‘Welcome to Manchester’ swoop for Carlos Tevez from neighbours United.

Also incoming were Adebayor for £25m and Kolo Toure for £14m from Arsenal, who were unable to compete with the spending power of City’s new owners.

Arsene Wenger raged about 'financial doping' from rivals clubs during his Arsenal tenure

Arsene Wenger raged about ‘financial doping’ from rivals clubs during his Arsenal tenure

Both Adebayor and defender Kolo Toure (pictured) were lured to City from Arsenal

Both Adebayor and defender Kolo Toure (pictured) were lured to City from Arsenal

This was also the summer marking the beginning of a nine-year period covered by the Premier League’s 115 charges against City for allegedly breaking Financial Fair Play regulations.

‘Quite surprised,’ was Wenger’s response last year when the charges came.

He is now FIFA’s chief of football development. For him, the race is over. There might be a trace of satisfaction if City are found guilty, or even lose their titles as part of the punishment, but he cannot go back to change results.

City raided Arsenal for a second time, to lure away Samir Nasri for £25m and Gael Clichy for £11m in 2011. The loss of Nasri’s creative flair was damaging in a window when Fabregas also forced a move from the Emirates to Barcelona. In between, in 2010, City signed Patrick Vieira, Arsenal legend and captain of the Invincibles team, five years after he had departed for Italy.

Wenger did not have the look of a man who considered imitation the sincerest form of flattery.

Wealthier rivals decimated his team. He was under attack and City were the main aggressors.

City signed Arsenal's Invincibles captain Patrick Vieira five years on from his move to Italy

City signed Arsenal’s Invincibles captain Patrick Vieira five years on from his move to Italy

The rivalry simmered amid claim and counter claim. City boss Mark Hughes branded Wenger a ‘bad loser’ when he swerved a handshake after a League Cup tie, three months after the knee-slide.

There were six red cards in the next seven Premier League meetings. By the time of the hollow victories, when Van Persie and Alexis Sanchez both rejected moves to the Etihad for Old Trafford, City were champions for the first time since 1968 under Roberto Mancini.

They won it again under Manuel Pellegrini, whose team fired six past Arsenal in December 2013 on the way to another title, before returning at the end of the season to sign Bacary Sagna on a free.

City had clambered past on the ladder, sights firmly set on taking down bigger targets. Arsenal, meanwhile, were in the midst of an eight-year trophy drought and the Wenger Out brigade was gathering force.

Pep Guardiola arrived and reinforced the new order. In 15 Premier League games against Arsenal from May 2016 until October last year, City won 13 and drew twice, scoring 39 and taking 41 points from 45.

Arsenal’s commitment to Wenger’s open and attractive style of play made them easy prey for City, who were operating in a similar way but with better players and a ruthless edge.

City manager Mark Hughes branded Wenger a 'bad loser' when he swerved a handshake

City manager Mark Hughes branded Wenger a ‘bad loser’ when he swerved a handshake

Pep Guardiola arrived and reinforced the new order, with City dominating over Arsenal

Pep Guardiola arrived and reinforced the new order, with City dominating over Arsenal

Unai Emery replaced Wenger, but nothing changed. Freddie Ljungberg was in caretaker control when the Gunners were thumped 3-0 at home in December 2019, all the goals scored in the first 40 minutes as Kevin De Bruyne excelled.

Within a fortnight, Arsenal had prised their former captain Mikel Arteta away from Guardiola’s coaching staff to become Emery’s permanent successor. The Spaniard spent five years in Wenger’s dressing room. In April 2012, he scored the winner against City on a day when the volatile Mario Balotelli was sent off at the Emirates.

Back then, Mancini’s title bid was threatening to implode. That defeat left his team eight points behind United at the top, but a run of six wins – including in the Manchester derby – were enough to win it on goal difference.

Nobody knew the internal workings of this rivalry better than Arteta, whose in-tray included finding a way to rid Arsenal of their inferiority complex and instil some of the ruthlessness he had witnessed inside Guardiola’s winning machine.

It has taken time but progress is clear, summoning a title challenge last season after acquiring a little of City’s winning mentality in the form of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arteta has found a way to rid Arsenal of their inferiority complex and build a winning machine

Arteta has found a way to rid Arsenal of their inferiority complex and build a winning machine

Significantly, Arsenal beat City in the scramble to sign Declan Rice last summer and, in October, beat them in a league game for the first time since 2015, with a late goal by Gabriel Martinelli.

To beat the champions in the title race, they had to start taking points from them to tilt the balance in their favour.

This they have done and the Gunners appear rejuvenated by a training trip to Dubai in January.

Arteta’s team have won eight in a row since then, scoring 33 and conceding only four.

Just like Manchester City, they can thank the restorative powers of the Gulf.



Also Read More: World News | Entertainment News | Celeb News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Aston Villa 2-0 Wolves: Moussa Diaby and Ezri Konsa score in each-half as Unai Emery’s side move back into the top four in the Premier League… as visitors suffer setback to Euro hopes

Everything is going right for Ezri Konsa at the moment. Already buzzing…

Ex-Man United star David de Gea is trolled by former team-mate over sunburn as the free agent relaxes on Bahamas holiday with his pop star wife

David de Gea shared photos of an Easter getaway in the Bahamas…

England Goalkeeper Mary Earps Joins Puma in Multi-Year Deal, Leaving Adidas for New Brand Opportunity

England goalkeeper Mary Earps has signed a multi-year contract with kit manufacturer…

Rio Ferdinand urges Gareth Southgate to consider playing Phil Foden in midfield with Jude Bellingham at Euro 2024 after his outstanding performance with a hat-trick in Man City’s 4-1 victory.

Rio Ferdinand has urged Gareth Southgate to deploy Phil Foden as part of…