Football: Double Dutch of class
Southampton 1 Maddison 25 Arsenal 3 Overmars 20, Bergkamp 57,79 Attendance: 15,246
Sunday 24 August 1997
Everything bar the feeling that possibly Wright would want to beat the record on his home patch at Highbury had pointed to his succeeding, including the fact that in 1991 he scored three goals against Southampton on his league debut for Arsenal and later added two more hat-tricks against them. Curiously, he will now have another opportunity for record-breaking on Wednesday at Leicester, the club against which he scored his first goal for Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, admitted: "It would be impossible for Ian not to have the record on his mind but he was not at his best today." Yet for natural scoring in the mould of Jimmy Greaves, Wright has few peers. His disciplinary record grates against standards Arsenal once insisted upon, but times and standards have changed while the distance between the goalposts remains the same. And scoring goals remains as difficult as it was in Bastin's day. Perhaps more so in view of today's more athletic defences. But Wright has that timeless, mystifying knack of making scoring look effortless - the craft of the artful striker and an art he shares with Bergkamp.
The responsibility for restraining Wright yesterday fell mainly to Ken Monkou whose problem was that with Bergkamp teasing him with ball-hugging runs and Marc Overmars virtually irresistible on the left side, danger came from all angles. Cutting in typically and quickly after 19 minutes, Overmars slipped two challenges before shooting inside the far post for the first of Arsenal's Dutch-crafted goals.
Overmars himself skied a much easier chance and as a result Southampton rallied and counter-attacked. Monkou sent an inviting pass down the right for Matthew Oakley whose centre was deflected high by Steve Bould. When the ball dropped, Neil Maddison headed in.
If Wright was going to be up-staged, Bergkamp was always the most likely colleague to do it. Sure enough, after 58 minutes he weaved on a 50-yard run, defenders backed away and finally he curled the ball in almost casually. Wright simply stood aside and applauded.
Amid such high standards, it was unfortunate that Arsenal's increasing reputation for ill-temper was increased when Wright was booked for standing too close to a free-kick and Bergkamp himself was yellow-carded for elbowing. The Dutchman was far from subdued. Francis Benali attempted to block him some 30 yards out. The referee, David Elleray, turned a blind eye to some shirt pulling and Bergkamp drew away to blast in a shot that was as powerful as anyone in Arsenal colours can have conjured in this era or Bastin's.
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