Arsenal stand united

Despite the turmoil at Highbury, the north London club put on an impressive display to defeat a struggling Wimbledon; Wimbledon 0 Arsenal 3 Winterburn 61, Platt 65, Bergkamp 83 Attendance: 18,335

WHATEVER the truth or conjecture concerning Arsenal's situation behind the scenes, Bruce Rioch received comfort and saw encouraging commitment at Selhurst Park yesterday, when two goals in four minutes committed Wimbledon to further struggles.

Rioch was effusive in his praise, perhaps compensating for those times earlier in the season when he regularly put all of his staff under threat. "We have a lot of inspirational players, it's all a matter of balance," he said afterwards.

Similarly, some of Arsenal's present and past inner circle say the rumours of discontent and warring factions at Highbury ought to be dismissed as nothing more than some creaks and groans, not a full-scale earthquake. Alan Smith, their former centre-forward, puts it all down to transition. "It takes at least a couple of years for a new manager to get everyone doing things his way," he suggested.

Although Rioch says the talk of discontent, inspired mainly by Ian Wright's transfer request, is all mischievous, but mutterings that the manager will not be around for two more months, let alone two years, are going to take some shifting, especially as his own contract remains unsigned.

A manager who is called in to meet his chairman and is told the club is right behind him generally knows his time is up. Similarly, a manager who feels the need to get all of his players together and tell them to ignore all the rumours and only believe what he tells them is obviously troubled. Rioch did that the week before last, after which Wright put in his request.

Significantly, when Wright later committed himself to the club until the end of the season but still insisted that sooner or later he intended to move, he thanked the board for their "continued support", even though they turned down his request. He did not thank Rioch until much later, which put some silent blame on the manager while guaranteeing that his own fans remain true. The fans seem permanently prepared to forgive Wright his poor disciplinary record and costly suspensions, but patience has worn thin among some members of the board and coaching staff.

Arsenal are an ageing team and Rioch's talk of large-scale changes, plus his moves away from the similar "steady as she goes" philosophy, must have made some of them feel uneasy and perhaps ready to look for last big paydays elsewhere. Yet there is considerable allegiance amongst a group that has fought together long, hard and often successfully. They are mostly settled in north London and Hertfordshire and would be happy to see out their playing days at Highbury. Obviously Rioch's threats of change also threaten their way of life.

Yesterday's threat was less complicated. Arsenal still needed points to secure a place in Europe, while Wimbledon needed to keep their Premiership status. Both had been unbeaten in seven games. Arsenal employed a five- man defence and John Hartson and Wright (returning after a three-match suspension) as twin strikers, and predictably attacked long or down either edge from the back, which allowed Wimbledon plenty of midfield possession.

Wright only slowly recovered match sharpness and it was Dennis Bergkamp who probably deserved to take Arsenal ahead shortly before half-time, when Kenny Cunningham up-ended him in the penalty area without any disciplinary action. Wimbledon briefly rode their luck, but a 57th-minute square pass across the penalty area by Wright saw Bergkamp brush a post - welcome activity that was followed up when Lee Dixon's close-in shot deflected to Nigel Winterburn, who scored from an unmissable distance.

When David Platt smashed in a deflected long-range drive that beat Neil Sullivan, a match that had been flatter than the pitch and evenly balanced was up-turned and won in the space of four minutes. Bergkamp hardly needed to have his shot fumbled into goal to secure victory.

For Wimbledon, the days of relegation get more intense, yet it was only a few days before that they went to Anfield and achieved a draw that could have a significant influence over the Premiership title race.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Twelve of the winning bidders will each host three group matches
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week