Football / FA Premiership: Arsenal dim the City lights

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . . . . . .0

Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . .0

Attendance: 25,642

WHY is it Arsenal never seem to enter into the spirit of things? Manchester City had almost resolved their boardroom warfare and Maine Road yesterday was humming with optimism; then came Arsenal, drearily grinding out a draw.

Nevertheless, for City the day ended with the debut-making David Rocastle taking the loudest cheers in the standing ovation his new team earned from the home fans who are just beginning to see some peace coming to the boardroom.

The Francis Lee-Colin Barlow and assorted 'Swales Out' bidders are within a few days of taking over and hope is restored to the inhabitants of the Kippax. What difference will it make? For the players, perhaps some sense of continuity. For the supporters, a feeling that their voices have at last been heard. And for the manager, Brian Horton, the transfer fund of about pounds 5m is badly needed.

Against the odds, Horton has managed to avoid presiding over the complete capitulation of City, who in spite of their absentees now have a semblance of promise. Although Arsenal's broad attack, founded at first on the ever-improving Ray Parlour and Eddie McGoldrick - soon to be replaced by Paul Merson - might have caused City to doubt their own defensive capabilities. Enterprising midfield work, especially from the former Gunner Rocastle, pulled them through the first 15 minutes of danger and from then their confidence grew apace.

Rocastle contributed an important influence over the game, both in his willingness to check back as Arsenal counteracted and, more importantly, moving forward with a weather eye on space and openings. Whether the clanking knees will last much longer is another matter.

Much as Richard Edghill did a sterling job of work against Wright, the likelihood of the Arsenal striker escaping just once always lurked in City's mind. His opportunities here were infrequent but when he knocked the ball against Steve Lomas on the left edge of the penalty area, he pounced on the rebound with that familiar snake-tongue speed and racked the foot of the far post with his instant shot.

The return of Garry Flitcroft after injury, albeit here only for part of the second half, brought about the potential for an interesting midfield partnership with Rocastle. Both players retained possession confidently, leaving Arsenal to spend the last quarter of an hour doggedly closing doors and turning off the lights of a match that had begun brightly and, for City fans, was supposed to have been the first celebration of an incoming regime. Franny Lee had chosen to resume his Caribbean holiday - no bad judge.

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