Football: Arsenal deliver a swift riposte

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The Independent Online
Drugs, alleged backhanders; Arsenal have sounded more like a Seventies rock group of late. But if any club can thrive in stricken circumstances it is the Gunners and last night they secured their third away victory in the Premiership this season.

But if any team can prosper in adversity it is Arsenal. Paul Merson may be locked away in a drug rehabilitation clinic and their manager, George Graham, may be the principal figure in a Premier League inquiry into alleged transfer irregularities but the players, well, they acted as if nothing had happened.

Instead of retreating into a collective sense of crisis, Arsenal managed what no other team have achieved this season, beating Manchester City at home. "We are professionals," Alan Smith said, as if we ever doubted it.

Smith and Stefan Schwarz scored the goals, both in the first half, to arrest a decline in the League brought about by six matches without a win. The relief around Highbury, given the testing times of the past three weeks, will be immense.

"In the first 45 minutes we played as well as have all season," Graham said. "We passed the ball superbly and created a lot of chances. The scoreline did not flatter us, we could have got four or five goals."

The two were good enough. After riding initial City pressure -most obvious when Paul Walsh was first to Nicky Summerbee's 10th-minute cross - Arsenal's dominance crept over the match like a rising tide. They overran the midfield and, with the full-backs Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn rampant on the flanks, they secured a victory with two goals in five minutes.

Kevin Campbell had a hand in both goals, providing passes that Arsenal detractors believe are beyond the Highbury academy. The first was a sweeping long ball to the right after 32 minutes that found Dixon beyond City's emergency left-back, Steve Lomas. Dixon's cross was beautifully weighted, finding Smith who was six yards out.

The second was less spectacular but equally effective, Campbell slipping a ball forward for Schwarz who chipped over Andy Dibble as the City goalkeeper advanced.

City threatened when Paul Walsh's shot from Niall Quinn's header was blocked on the line by Steve Bould just before half-time, but it was 11 minutes from time before there was a reply from the home team.

Martin Keown headed a corner away only for Uwe Rosler to chest the ball down and pass to Fitzroy Simpson to his left. The City midfield player scored with a thumping shot but by then it was too late to alter the outcome.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Dibble; Kerr (Kernaghan, h-t), Curle, Brightwell Lomas; Summerbee, Flitcroft, Rosler, Beagrie (Simpson, 23); Walsh, Quinn. Substitute not used: Margetson (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Bartram; Dixon, Keown, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour, Jensen, Morrow, Schwarz; Smith, Campbell. Substitutes not used: Linighan, Flatts, Harper (gk).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).