Football / FA Cup Final Replay: Waddle's wing skills the key for Wednesday: Arsenal may promote Smith to exploit Wednesday's aerial weakness

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The Independent Online
IT IS a numbing thought that sequels are rarely as good as the original, and a reprise of the non-event that was Saturday's FA Cup final holds all the dramatic appeal of Escape to Victory II.

Victory for either Arsenal or Sheffield Wednesday at the first time of asking would have been an escape, indeed, if tonight's replay is to be another ordeal by tedium, but hope springs eternal, and Wembley will be well-nigh full again in the belief that it can only get better.

The assumption is a reasonable one. The same two sides seem to have been locked in combat so long that you half-expect them to settle it between Putney and Mortlake, but the law of averages dictates that they must deliver eventually.

Another unwritten law, that of Sod, suggests that Chris Waddle will at last illuminate the occasion with the shining talent that was blacked out all too easily, both on Saturday and in the Coca-Cola final.

Billed twice as a matchwinner, the Footballer of the Year failed to perform. Now, at a time when even his most ardent admirers are keeping quiet, it would be entirely typical if he turned it on.

From the neutral standpoint, it is to be hoped that Waddle, and Wednesday, do, for the onus is on them to make the running.

Arsenal will again play a dog- in-the-manger, spoiling game, compressing the play into a small area around the half-way line and cluttering it with bodies to deny their more polished opponents time and space in which to get a passing rhythm going.

Saturday must have taught Wednesday that deploying Waddle in such a congested midfield is a terrible waste. Whatever the side benefits, in terms of sucking in dangerous opponents, the cleverest winger in the country should be used where he can do most damage. On the wing. When Waddle was switched to the outside channel, he and John Harkes, on the opposite flank, made promising inroads.

For their part, Arsenal need to come up with something more enterprising than set-piece routines - profitable though these may be against a defence vulnerable in the air.

Paul Merson's driving runs on the left were instrumental in winning the Coca-Cola final, and he, like Waddle, is misused as a midfield decoy, or marker.

Changes will be kept to a minimum on both sides, but Arsenal may seek to exploit Wednesday's aerial shortcomings by promoting Alan Smith to strike alongside Ian Wright.

Wednesday will be tempted to use Paul Warhurst's pace in attack, where David Hirst and Mark Bright can seem static by comparison, and Danny Wilson is an option in midfield.

Selection will be finalised after late checks on the fitness of Viv Anderson, Peter Shirtliff and Roland Nilsson, who was flown back by private jet after playing in Sweden's World Cup tie at home to Austria last night.

George Graham foresees a change only in performance. 'Some of my players can do a lot better,' he says. 'I think we can move up a couple of gears, but it's going to be close again. You're not going to beat Wednesday by three or four.'

Francis found Saturday 'interesting from a tactical point of view', and says it should be 'interesting' again tonight.

We have been warned. Better take a book.

Arsenal (probable): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Linighan, Winterburn, Jensen, Parlour, Davis, Merson, Wright, Smith.

Sheffield Wednesday (probable): Woods; Nilsson, Anderson, Warhurst, Worthington, Waddle, Palmer, Sheridan, Harkes, Bright, Hirst.

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