Adebayor on Arsenal's future ...

Last updated : 08 May 2007 By Artie Fufkin
In the lead-up to Sunday's match against Chelsea, Arsenal's Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor had suggested that nothing less than the future hierarchy of London football might be settled in the game.
If so, the negatives are stacking up against the Gunners on and off the pitch in the aftermath. Although they lacked Rosicky, the waning Henry and mercurial van Persie (their top scorer despite missing half a season),
Arsene Wenger's team were outclassed over the 90 minutes and overpowered for 47 minutes by a much-weakened Chelsea side reduced to 10 men after Khalid Bhoulahrouz's indolent challenge, red card and penalty.
Wenger must have been frustrated by the feebleness of his side's performance.
They were powder-puff upfront and disjointed in midfield, with their best player Fabregas playing wide and often dictated to by Wayne Bridge. Toure and Gallas look an uncomfortable central pairing, lacking leadership.
Clichy and Eboue have shown a promise that is still far from certain to develop. If their team is five or six players short of competing for the title, their stadium is 20,000 fans short of a cauldron.
The Emirates is a smart, spacious but underwhelming arena, the open, deeply undulating stands meaning there is no real home 'end'.
The influx of new season ticket holders has had a diluting effect on their support: against Chelsea some of their fans committed the 'sin' of chanting 'Liverpool' and 'Are you watching Manchester?' Such extraordinary displays of Arsenal's new small-club mentality must have galled older supporters.
Three years without a trophy and they've started living their dreams through former enemies. Big club? Not Arse. Whole swathes of the Henry-shirted Gooners in the west stand seem to no idea what football support is about. Half of them disappeared for 10 minutes either side of the break, and texting seems a terrace obsession there. Attention, Roman: This is what happens when you give free season tickets to people who buy flats from the club. Another indictment of a once-great club was the duplicitous public address announcement suggesting that combined attendance at the Emirates this season has exceeded 1m.
This has as much credibility as the old Soviet Union tank production reports in 'Pravda'. "With our 105 per cent stadium capacity we will crush the enemy! Rejoice!" A few weeks ago, following media exposure of the regular empty seats at the new ground, Arsenal were forced to admit that their declared gates are based on sales figures, including season tickets, rather than actual attendances on the day.
One Arsenal supporter conceded beforehand that his brother has four season tickets but hardly goes himself 'because of work'. His regular absences don't appear on Arsenal's 'finessed' statistics.
The irony is that the Gooners' away support is still stalwart and committed, often putting Chelsea's travelling numbers to shame (including the Carling Cup final). On Sunday's evidence the Emirates has dissipated and alienated that loyal bunch. It is hard to imagine it becoming an intimidating venue. Likewise, it's difficult to see Arsenal's on-pitch stagnation ending any time soon.
The stadium debt is not going away, and they desperately need substantial investment on experienced players in the squad.
This disruptive Dein/Krankies business will almost certainly rumble on like summer thunder too. Like Chelsea, they will lose half a team next January when the African Nations Cup comes around. The Blues, though, have the financial muscle to respond to adversity.
Worse for Wenger, his much-heralded youngsters have under-performed this season, the manager having no option but to throw them en masse into a first team lacking the necessary mentors and leaders.
In contrast, Chelsea's John Mikel Obi, Lassana Diarra and Salomon Kalou have been eased in alongside seasoned pros and look part of a well-managed transition.
If Adebayor did see the future shape of London football on Sunday, it will not have filled him with pride