CITY 3 ARSENAL 0
Barclays Premier League
22nd November 2008
Scorers Ireland(45), Robinho(56), Sturridge(90pen)
ROBINHO was a bus passenger earlier in the month — but he was very much the conductor of this game. And he made sure it was City’s spell-bound fans enjoying the ride in a three-goal cruise against under-fire Arsenal. The down-to-earth Brazilian superstar stunned fellow shoppers by paying £3 to board the shuttle to the Trafford Centre a few days ago. His journey home for international duty this week was much longer. But he was still determined to return and steer City’s spluttering season back on route.
And it will be just the ticket if he can repeat this kind of display against United in the Manchester derby on Sunday. Many doubted Robinho’s motives when he agreed a shock £32.5million move from Real Madrid to Eastlands on transfer deadline day. Nine goals already tell their own story, though. And the Samba ace’s outrageous chip for City’s second was probably his best so far. But what has pleased his boss Mark Hughes more than anything is his work ethic and willingness to put in the miles — both on and off the pitch. He jetted back to Brazil to help his country thrash Portugal 6-2 last Wednesday but was still determined to put a shift in for his club.
Sparky said: “Robbie needs to get credit for the amount of work he does for the team, given the week he’s had, the amount of travelling he’s done. “He could have put his hand up at half-time and said ‘Listen boss, I’m absolutely knackered’ but he’s not prepared to do that. He puts a stint in and that’s what you have to do in the Premier League. You have to dig in and work hard for your team-mates.”
Robinho arrived in the Premier League known mainly for his tricks and step-overs. But Hughes said: “There’s a lot more to his game than that. We look at his contribution to games and the successful passes. He never gives the ball away. “Very rarely in tight situations does he pick the wrong option and that’s a great thing for the rest of his team-mates.
“They know when they give him the ball they can trust him with it. In one-on-one situations, there are not many better. “He has the ability to understand the pace you have to run at keepers. He understands how to draw them out of position and then strikes when he needs to. “The chip was fantastic — he surprised everyone, including the keeper. “Everyone would have enjoyed it. He’s a great player — one of those few in world football who get people out of their seats.” Sparky claims there is a mutual respect between the pair — but he has had more than his share of ding-dongs with Arsene Wenger over the years. Gunners chief Wenger, a notoriously bad loser, often criticised Hughes’ Blackburn team for their over-physical approach and here he claimed the victory had ‘flattered’ City. That provoked a wry smile from Sparky, who said: “Oh he did, did he? I think he’s being a little bit ungracious in that. “I don’t think it flattered us at all. We created six or seven opportunities, they created one.” Below-strength Gunners fell behind on the stroke of half-time when Gael Clichy screwed a clearance to present Stephen Ireland with City’s opener. Robinho then took centre stage, running on to Shaun Wright-Phillips’ through ball before producing the most exquisite chip over Manuel Almunia. Then sub Daniel Sturridge was fouled by Johan Djourou near the end and picked himself up to score from the spot.
MARTIN BLACKBURN WRITING FOR THE SUN