Everton poachers expose Arsenal's soft centre

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The Independent Online
Arsenal 1 Everton 2

These two sides experienced contrasting fortunes in FA Cup replays last week, and by the end of this game you could see why. Arsenal played with a lot more heart than when losing at Bramall Lane but were unable to capitalise on their periods of ascendancy, while the visitors, as they had done at Stockport, stole a victory in a match they could have lost.

If Everton are making a habit of poaching results, Arsenal's season is in danger of becoming scrambled. They may be through to the semi-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup, but FA Cup defeat comes as their League form has become increasingly inconsistent. With just one win in the last six games at Highbury the natives are becoming restless, not least to discover the new blood Bruce Rioch admits he needs to bring to the club.

Rioch said in the programme that he had put three possible signings before the board, but afterwards hinted that this was a conservative estimate. He was naming no names, but following reports that Arsenal had renewed their interest in West Ham's John Moncur and Blackburn's Tim Sherwood, came the unlikely news that Rioch might try a taste of Lentini, Gianluigi of that ilk, who may be surplus to requirements at Milan. Rioch is thought to be after a winger, but the purchase of the world's most expensive flop is surely far-fetched, even in these fantastic times.

A better buy from Serie A would be Inter's Paul Ince. What Arsenal lack is an imposing presence in midfield. At the moment that role is taken by John Jensen, whose only resemblance to a colossus was his speed of movement.

Everton are just the sort of side to exploit this weakness. After a poor first half, in which they fell behind to a breathtaking piece of impetuous individualism from Ian Wright, they came out fighting in the second, hit the woodwork almost immediately and drew level within six minutes.

Graham Stuart's equaliser attracted much debate afterwards, with Rioch claiming that though Stuart was onside as he latched on to Dave Watson's header from David Seaman's kick, he was sufficiently close to the retreating Duncan Ferguson for Ferguson to be judged offside. Royle insisted it was a good decision under the new rules.

With Ferguson and Daniel Amokachi blending well with their unusual combination of strength and subtlety, the visitors briefly took control. However the home side rallied, and it needed the evergreen Neville Southall to pull off a string of fine saves, (and Wright to miss a chance much easier than his goal) to keep the scores level.

Then, with seven minutes left, the subdued Andrei Kanchelskis found a yard of space from a throw-in and fired in a dipping cross-shot that David Seaman will feel he should have parried. Kanchelskis, of course, is another Rioch would have liked to bring to Highbury. But a possible move fell through in the summer, and so it was Royle who was able to celebrate the winner with Andrei.

Goals: Wright (38) 1-0, Stuart (50) 1-1, Kanchelskis (84) 1-2.

Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Seaman; Dixon, Marshall, Linighan, Winterburn; Clarke, Merson, Jensen, Helder (Dickov, 86); Bergkamp; Wright. Substitutes not used: Morrow, Rose.

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Horne, Short, Watson, Ablett; Kanchelskis, Parkinson, Ebbrell, Stuart; Amokachi (Unsworth, 87), Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Limpar, Kearton (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Looe).

Bookings: Arsenal: Jensen. Everton: Ferguson, Horne.

Man of the match: Southall. Attendance: 38,275.

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