Football: Brondby eye Wright figures

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The Independent Online
THE Arsenal faithful have been telling him as much in recent weeks and yesterday, from a surprise corner, came more support for George Graham's efforts to strengthen his attacking resources.

Ebbe Skovdahl, the coach of tonight's European Cup-Winners' Cup opponents Brondby, thinks Arsenal are over-reliant on one man. 'It is very simple for us; if Wright does not score then Arsenal won't win the game,' he said. 'We have to find a way of stopping him and I think we can.'

His conclusion is compelling, given the Arsenal statistics which show that when Ian Wright has failed to score this season then so have his team. In his last eight appearances, he has been on target and his total for the season stands at 12. Alan Smith and Kevin Campbell have three goals each - a lopsided return which shows why Graham made a pounds 4m offer last week for Les Ferdinand.

He was rebuffed and neither do QPR offer hope that he will be more successful with a move for Trevor Sinclair, but at least the Arsenal manager has made clear his dissatisfaction with his front forces. The exception, of course, is Wright who flew to Copenhagen yesterday with extra incentive after another bout of criticism about his inability to score as frequently at international level.

For the second stage of their defence, and back in the Danish capital where last May they triumphed over the Italian side Parma. Graham will be looking for more from Smith and Campbell, especially since Paul Merson stayed behind for treatment on damaged ankle ligaments.

'Kevin has done well in the last two games, scoring twice, and he has to carry that on,' Graham said. 'He has more potential than Ian, but too often he gets into scoring positions only then to fail to finish them off.'

Tonight, Arsenal may well have to rely on their celebrated defence if Brondby are true to their word.

John Jensen, a pounds 1.1m signing from Brondby two years ago, has passed on his local knowledge of the club. 'John's been telling us that they secretly fancy their chances,' Graham said. 'They are very experienced in European competition, are well organised and won't be easy opposition.'

Indeed, in eight seasons, Brondby have lost only once at home in Europe and have lost only one tie when drawn at home in the first leg. They provide four members of the Danish national team, including Marc Rieper, the central defender, who is expected to join Everton after the game, and the lively striker, Mark Strudal.

If Strudal does his stuff, it is vital that Jensen and his Scandinavian ally, Stefan Schwarz, provide a shield in front of Tony Adams and Co. What a moment it would be, though, for Jensen to score his first goal for his club on his 90th appearance, particularly since he scored for Denmark in last week's win over Belgium.

Brondby (probable): Krogh; Colding, Rieper, Eggen, Risager, Bjur, Vilfort, H Jensen, Thorgesen, Hansen, Strudal.

Arsenal (probable): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn, Parlour, J Jensen, Schwarz, Campbell, Wright, Smith.

Ian Wright has escaped censure from the Football Association after he apologised to the Darlington referee Robbie Hart after calling him a 'Muppet' following his booking at Norwich last month.