Arsenal need Wright to return
Thursday 02 May 1996
Arsenal's final Premiership game at home to Bolton is beginning to take on an uncomfortable sweatiness.
After a performance long on effort and short on effectiveness, victory on Sunday now looks essential for them if they are to secure the last place in Europe next season.
Their prospects of improving a scoring record of just one goal in their last four games may depend upon the fitness of Ian Wright, absent last night with the groin injury he suffered in scoring from the penalty spot at Blackburn last weekend.
Asked whether Wright would be fit to face a side already doomed to an immediate return to the First Division, Arsenal's manager, Bruce Rioch, replied with just one word: "Possibly."
They need him desperately, as Rioch's counterpart, Roy Evans, acknowledged. "If Wright had played, I think they would probably have won," he said. "His pace is always a threat, and it was nice for us that he wasn't there."
The larger part of a 38,323 crowd - Arsenal's biggest of the season - grew frustrated as the home side created and missed a succession of chances, although David James, Liverpool's keeper, also needed to make several important saves.
In patches, Liverpool demonstrated the fluent passing game which has already booked their European passage next season and given them the imminent prospect of an FA Cup final appearance. But their confidence tipped over into complacency as Arsenal pressed the game, and Evans gave them a verbal savaging afterwards, no doubt intended to concentrate minds with their big Wembley occasion looming a week on Saturday.
"We have slipped from being a very good side to a bad side in each of our last few matches. It's happening too often. In the second half we couldn't put two passes together, and some of our defending was dreadful."
That dreadfulness was balanced on the night by Arsenal's haplessness.
Perhaps the clearest chance of the game fell to Wright's replacement, John Hartson, who was given time and space after Paul Merson's pass allowed him to advance unhindered from the right. But the big centre forward - whose progress is being closely monitored by Sheffield Wednesday at the moment - rolled the ball wide of the post after chipping over James.
It was Merson, too, who created another clear opportunity for the home side midway through the half, when his careful nod down at the far post presented a shooting chance for - unfortunately - Martin Keown, who responded like a true defender. It was symptomatic of Arsenal's frustrating evening.
A Tottenham victory at Leeds today will bring them level on points with their north London rivals. And while Spurs would appear to have the harder task in their final match, when they travel to Newcastle, the situation is still far from comfortable yet for Rioch and his men. They need the Wright result.
Arsenal (3-5-2): Seaman; Keown, Linighan, Marshall; Dixon, Parlour, Merson, Platt, Winterburn; Bergkamp, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Morrow, Shaw, Rose.
Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Scales, Ruddock, Babb; McAteer, Barnes, Redknapp, McManaman, Jones; Collymore (Rush, 68), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Thomas, Kennedy.
Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).
Latest in Sport
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea could leave for FREE; £38m for Marquinhos; £37m bid for Mats Hummels;
Transfer talk: Juan Cuadrado Chelsea move imminent; Manchester United eye Nathaniel Clyne; Andre Schurrle medical at Wolfsburg
Danny Ings to Liverpool: The Reds attempt to steal a march on rivals in race to sign Burnley striker
Kim Sears 'swearing' outburst threatens to overshadow Andy Murray's Australian Open semi-final win
Kim Sears: Andy Murray defends fiancée's for outburst after a bad-tempered march to final
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 3 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...