Coventry City. . .3
TWELVE months ago Arsenal played very well for an hour, went two goals up, and then saw a mixture of inept defending and remarkable opportunism allow Norwich to leave Highbury with a 4-2 victory. This year the first-day optimism lasted all of 10 minutes.
The Norwich defeat set the tone for what was a poor League season by Highbury standards - beginning as title favourites and finishing 10th - and Saturday's game suggests lessons have not been learnt. Once Coventry had weathered the early storm Arsenal became increasingly predictable, with only the sprightly Anders Limpar able to inject variation or originality.
For the fans it was all the more galling after the promise of the Charity Shield, when George Graham's team showed they can build from the back, and do have players able to hold and use the ball in midfield. The same side started against Coventry but long before the end David Seaman was effectively the playmaker, a succession of long punts providing little threat to the Coventry goal.
Nor is it at all certain that Andy Sinton would make a difference. In Paul Merson, Paul Davis and Limpar Arsenal already have creative players, but their skills can only be exploited if the ball is played to feet. Yet Graham, the man responsible for the team's style, felt it was more to do with attitude than artistry. 'Football is about more than ability. It is about application and it's about winners. Coventry seemed to have more desire than us,' he said, hinting that there might be changes for today's game at Spurs.
Perhaps more important than the acquisition of Sinton is the need for a new striking partner for Ian Wright. Graham has been insisting all pre-season that Kevin Campbell was back to his best, but the Campbell against Coventry looked suspiciously like the one who played all last season: whole-hearted but predictable and unthreatening.
Perhaps Arsenal should try to sign Mick Quinn. For most of the game the man they call 'Sumo' looked like an imposter, a Sunday League player on a Premier League pitch. Once inside the penalty area, though, he took on the guise of a world-class finisher, his strikes for the second and third goals deserving to settle any game. Quinn has put pounds 50 on himself at 50-1 to be the Premiership's top scorer, which suggests he has an eye for a good bet as well as a good goal.
With Quinn's finishing, Roy Wegerle's tricks and the pace of Peter Ndlovu and John Williams, Coventry have one of the division's more varied front lines. Whether they have the all-round talent to mount a challenge remains to be seen, but any side underestimating their ability to exploit an opening are likely to suffer. Arsenal certainly did.
Goals: Quinn (34 pen) 0-1; Quinn (62) 0-2; Quinn (65) 0-3.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Linighan, Adams, Winterburn; Limpar, Jensen (Keown, 73), Davis, Merson (McGoldrick, 68); Wright, Campbell. Substitute not used: Miller (gk).
Coventry City (4-3-3): Gould; Sheridan, Rennie, Atherton, Babb; Robson (Morgan, 10), Wegerle, Flynn; Williams, Quinn, Ndlovu. Substitutes not used: Harford, Dalton (gk).
Referee: A B Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).Reuse content