Adams pays for an off-day

Southampton 0 Arsenal 0 Attendance: 15,238

REPORTS of Arsenal's elevation to the status of the great entertainers may have been exaggerated. The Gunners, more than any other team in England, remain aware that too much audacity in the wrong places can lead to shooting yourself in the foot. They decided yesterday that the Dell was one of those places, thus confirming that while their manager, Bruce Rioch, may have a greater sense of adventure than his predecessor, George Graham, he can be quite as pragmatic.

Not that after the 56th minute he or his side had much option, after the Arsenal captain, Tony Adams, was sent off for deliberately upending Neil Shipperley as the Southampton forward appeared to have a clear run on goal. It was a professional foul which seemed to embody much of what Arsenal came to stand for before Rioch's stewardship.

It could not be said that the dismissal was especially significant in changing Arsenal's miserly approach to the match. It was difficult to believe that only 10 weeks ago these two sides scored six times between them in the Premiership fixture at Highbury. Arsenal, without Dennis Bergkamp and Glenn Helder, appeared content to allow Southampton the bulk of possession and absorbed the pressure accordingly.

The midfield was crowded while the Arsenal defence packed it out some more by pushing up all in a row in their traditional way like the Tiller girls, the only other chorus line which seems to have been around as long.

As insurance they set Martin Keown to do a tight marking job on Matthew le Tissier, a task he performed with dedication and relish. There were few occasions when the erstwhile most exciting player in England broke free, but when he did he tended to dwell a little too long on the ball. Clear-cut chances were few despite Barry Venison's efforts to maintain something akin to momentum in Southampton's forward progress.

Ian Wright, subdued for Arsenal, was clear a time or two without taking advantage, while Shipperley had to bear much responsibility in the home side's attacks. In the last minute he somehow missed from just five yards, but by then the game had long since failed to deserve a goal.

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