Football: Arsenal revival in full flight

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The Independent Online
Wimbledon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Campbell 18, Parlour 23, Wright 55

Attendance: 16,584

ARSENAL'S mid-season rejuvenation continues. Not even Wimbledon's penchant for hitting a team when they are up could interrupt Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell's stunning run of scoring form - form that had it developed earlier in the season could have kept Manchester United in sight.

Earlier in the week Arsenal had made Swindon's defence look like an open cheque. Now, having scored 10 goals in three games, their revival brings them realistic hope of the Premiership's silver medal and a good FA Cup run.

Nothing pretty was expected at Selhurst Park and tetchiness was guaranteed, especially as Wimbledon had achieved the double over Arsenal last season. Vinny Jones fired off volleys of abuse at David Hillier and John Jensen as the game spluttered into action. Tackles crackled like frosted grass; a few elbows were raised, and Wimbledon thrust forward in 15 minutes of dominance that confined Arsenal to breakaways.

Yet those counters were always sharp and troublesome. Campbell's ascending confidence now makes him an impressive partner for Wright and his finishing is fast becoming similar in execution.

The danger to Wimbledon from Arsenal's breakaways had been revealed after 12 minutes when Wright found yards of space away from the tormented Scott Fitzgerald and Dean Blackwell but sliced his shot beyond the far post. Six minutes later, though, Nigel Winterburn broke into the Wimbledon half and from his centre Ray Parlour headed across goal for Campbell to head in.

The frustration Arsenal had experienced before Christmas was forgotten. Wimbledon's physical early initiative faded and Arsenal's lack of midfield invention became largely irrelevant since Wimbledon had little of their own. The result was that Arsenal extended their lead after 22 minutes when Eddie McGoldrick's corner was unconvincingly cleared as far as Parlour, some 12 yards out, and he slammed a low shot straight back through the crowd of defenders for Arsenal's second.

The encouragement Arsenal must have felt came from the thought that no Wimbledon side ever capitulates yet here were Wright and Campbell threatening goals all of the time.

A promising five-minute spell of enterprising attacking by Wimbledon after the interval was again misleading and nullified by Arsenal's superior forward skill. However, Wimbledon were never favoured by the run of the ball, especially when it was in the possession of John Fashanu.

Arsenal punished Wimbledon severely. In the 55th minute a delightful flicked pass by Campbell on the fringe of the Wimbledon penalty area allowed Parlour to make some yards down the right before cracking a fierce shot that Hans Segers did well to parry. The ball came loose, and, inevitably, Wright was in front of goal to push it back across the line.

A fourth goal would certainly have been reaped late in the game but Segers reacted instantly as Wright approached him at the end of a 20-yard run following another ingenious pass by Campbell. Wright delayed his shot and Segers covered the angle to block it with his foot. But Wright had done enough to leave no-one in doubt that what he could not achieve with any great reliability for England, he can undoubtedly do for an Arsenal team who are surely kicking themselves that while Manchester United were storing up a buffer of points, they were picking them up in singles.