Bolton run down by Wright's record

Arsenal 4 Bolton Wanderers 1
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After hogging the headlines while on international duty during the week, you might have put your shirt on Ian Wright doing the same on his return to the club game. The man himself certainly did. The T-shirt in question had the figure "179" emblazoned across it, and was revealed three times to a worshipful public as Wright finally ensured his place in the Highbury record books with an assured hat-trick.

Given his Arsenal tally now stands at 180, the shirt may set another record as the first item to go in and out of fashion in 56 minutes. Wright, a dedicated follower of such things, will probably know.

It says everything about Wright's enduring charisma that his quest to become Arsenal's all-time leading scorer has attracted so much attention. Such feats normally interest only the clubs themselves, and it is not as if the Arsenal figure is especially high. What is far more significant, and may be a record, is Wright's achievement in becoming the top scorer of a club he joined as he approached his 28th birthday.

At the time George Graham signed him, a shade under six years ago, it was difficult to see the newcomer fitting into the Arsenal team, let alone setting records. The club had just won their second title in three years and with Alan Smith and Paul Merson established up front, plus Kevin Campbell and Andy Cole coming up through the ranks, the one thing Graham's side did not appear to need was another striker (something of a record itself).

Yet Wright scored at Leicester two days after the move, and has been doing so at a rate of just under two goals every three games ever since. He has also outlasted all four of his contemporaries from '91.

For most of that time, indeed perhaps until this summer, he has been widely regarded as an outstanding club player but not an established international, something that puzzled his current manager, Arsene Wenger, afterwards.

"He had the reputation in England - I don't know why - not to be good enough for international football, just to be a goalscorer," said Wenger, who felt that Wright's movement has always been of international quality.

"My biggest surprise when I arrived was to see that Ian Wright, who started at 23, is fantastic at the timing of his movement. He's an instinctive player, but his movements are so intelligent when he has not got the ball. Where did he learn that, because he was not even a central striker. He told me that he was a left winger. But he had this in him. His movements are perfect and that is why he scores the goals. "

The marriage of Wright's instincts and Wenger's thoughtful coaching has been a fascinating and, by and large, happy one. Wenger admitted that he has tried to change Wright a little - "to think a little more about the team" - and had seen a change, but was modest about claiming the credit.

Wright's game has been notably more all-round of late, but it was his runs which made the difference against Bolton. Arsenal had made a commanding start, only to find themselves behind to Alan Thompson's well-placed header. There was just a hint of Highbury panic when Wright set off an another sprint across the penalty area. Well found by Dennis Bergkamp, his cross shot equalled Cliff Bastin's tally of 178.

A few minutes later Bergkamp again made the opening and Wright was on hand to despatch the simplest of record-breakers. His third from David Platt's astute pass, nine minutes from time, was put into the net with a nonchalance that suggested that breaking the record had caused Wright to relax.

Bergkamp had a remarkable first half. Still troubled by an ankle injured playing for the Netherlands, he lacked his customary assurance yet still set up all three Arsenal goals, the third coming from Ray Parlour's deflected effort just before the break.

Goals: Thompson (13) 0-1; Wright (20) 1-1; Wright (25) 2-1; Parlour (44) 3-1; Wright (81) 4-1.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Grimandi, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour (Platt, 77), Vieira, Petit, Overmars (Boa Morte, 77); Bergkamp, Wright (Anelka, 82). Substitutes not used: Manninger (gk), Marshall.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Branagan; McAnespie (Todd, 48), Bergsson, Taggart, Phillips; Pollock, Frandsen, Sellars, Thompson; Beardsley (Gunnlaugsson, 66), Blake. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Johansen, Taylor.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe). Bookings: Arsenal: Vieira. Bolton: Taggart.

Attendance: 38,138. Man of the match: Wright.