Sheffield United. .0
IN BETTING terms, it was a sure thing as the favourites duly responded to the form book. Arsenal's thoroughbred strikers, Kevin Campbell and Ian Wright - 36 of their 51 goals so far this season - comfortably accounted for a shoddy Sheffield United defence.
At the other end, the Premiership's most curmudgeonly rearguard rarely looked like yielding to its currently least-productive attack, as United maintained their pretentions of being the League's worst team. They have now gone two minutes short of 10 hours, across seven matches, without scoring. 'Is it only that long? It feels like three years,' their manager, Dave Bassett, said.
Arsenal, in contrast, are looking ominously close to the consistency they traditionally seem to find at this time of year as a prelude to silverware, and might well have improved on the four they scored at Swindon on Monday.
Campbell, whom Bassett once sought to sign on loan, might too have surpassed his hat-trick that day, but had to settle for two. Wright's in between was caviar in a sandwich.
'He doesn't seem to score bad goals,' said the Arsenal manager, George Graham, who was also again pleased to be praising an additional striker. 'Kevin is powerful, fast with a good touch. He was a bit more greedy tonight, which I like to see. He has got to have a bit more self-belief, and hopefully the last two matches will help to give him that.'
The Sheffield United formation, featuring five defenders and three strikers, at first promised to bring a change of fortune but, after Jonas Wirmola had headed a good, early chance wide, their confidence ebbed.
Expected service was assumed after 10 minutes. David Hillier threaded the ball through the eye of the five- man defence to Campbell, who ran on to side-foot past Kelly.
The second came five minutes before half-time with Hillier again the provider, his long ball from inside his own half even better as Wright bemused both Wirmola and Paul Beesley before cutting inside to send a shot with his right foot across Kelly from a similar spot on the left to where Campbell had struck.
Wirmola paid with his place as Hodges came on to augment the midfield, but as an attempt to stem the tide it was Canute- like. The third goal arrived after 55 minutes, and the sound was of petard being hoist.
David Seaman's deep kick arrived straight at Campbell's feet, he danced through a United defence more comfortable delivering long balls than confronting them, and he tucked it under Kelly.
After that, he and Arsenal indulged in shooting practice, curiously fruitless, with the barren Jensen being urged to shoot at every opportunity. It was never curious that United were without fruit; even when Andy Scott did round Seaman, Steve Bould cleared from the line.
'We couldn't have hit a cow's arse with a banjo,' Bassett said, echoing an old phrase of his own from his Wimbledon days.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour (Merson, 79), Jensen, Hillier, McGoldrick; Campbell, Wright (Keown, 87). Substitutes not used: Miller (gk).
Sheffield United (5-2-3): Kelly; Bradshaw, Hoyland, Wirmola (Hodges, h/t), Beesley, Nilsen (Cork, 56); Rogers, Whitehouse; Flo, Davison, Scott. Substitutes not used: Muggleton (gk).
Referee: R Milford (Bristol).
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