Football: Houston's joie de vivre remains

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 0 Arsenal 2

"C'est la vie." Three words from Stewart Houston summed up his unpredictable position while confirming football's worst-kept secret. A groan for the bad joke concluded an otherwise spotless post-match press conference from Highbury's perennial stand-in.

Houston is no ordinary deputy. Amid the smouldering two-year controversy at Arsenal he has risen relatively unscathed. And the nonchalance in Houston's devil-may-care attitude suggests the Gunners could do a lot worse than stick with a devil they know and can rely on.

Arsene Wenger's arrival may be imminent - within six weeks according to Houston - but on the evidence of Saturday their playing staff seem undeterred by the job at hand.

"What has happened at the club has not affected us really because once you are on the field there is nothing else to think about," said Dennis Bergkamp, whose cultured display inspired the best from Paul Merson and Ray Parlour while underlining a willingness to fully adopt the team's collective needs. "I believe Stewart did a great job before I arrived and he will do the same while we wait for the new man."

The Dutchman's contribution was exceptional. He scored from the penalty spot after being pulled down by Steve Walsh in the first half, and shone in every area of the field.

Numerous accurate passes accompanied the model temperament displayed in shrugging off terrier-like challenges from Scott Taylor and Walsh - and a late yellow card was rather harsh in an otherwise exemplary performance.

Wright, Bergkamp's rather more exuberant striking partner, made it 2- 0 in the last minute, but Leicester were not overawed. The teenage striker Emile Heskey found Arsenal's rearguard hard to handle after a brace against Southampton in midweek but forced a fingertip save from Seaman on one of the few occasions he wriggled away from Steve Bould. Taylor, sporting Gazza-blond hair, might be flattered in comparison but was tireless none the less, and Steve Claridge provided persistence against a brick-wall defence.

"We were terrific again today," commented the Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, after the amicable draw/win/loss sequence in his first week of Premiership management. "Anybody would have thought it was a comfortable win for Arsenal, but we kept fighting, and they showed us what the Premiership is all about."

Goals: Bergkamp pen (27) 0-1; Wright (90) 0-2.

Arsenal (5-3-2): Seaman; Dixon, Bould, Linighan, Keown, Winterburn; Parlour, Merson, Morrow; Bergkamp (Hillier, 82), Hartson (Wright, 69). Substitutes not used: Helder, Rpse, Lukic (gk).

Leicester City (5-3-2): Keller; Grayson, Watts, Walsh, Prior, Whitlow (Parker, 75); Taylor, Lennon, Izzet; Claridge, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Poole, Rolling, Robins, Lawrence.

Referee: G Barber (Warwick). Attendance: 20,429.

Bookings: Leicester: Lennon, Prior. Arsenal: Linighan, Hartson, Bergkamp.

Man of the match: Bergkamp.

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