Football: Potent Arsenal blow City to smithereens

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The Independent Online
Arsenal . . . . . .3

Campbell 2, Smith 36, Wright 76

Manchester City . .0

Attendance: 38,368

ARSENAL just looked marvellous. In the moments around that first goal, they were so arrestingly confident and powerful they would have plunged better-stocked sides than City into paralysis. It might have been Schwarz the Swede's big day - his Premiership debut and all that - but the real shining lights were the ones who had been around all along.

Ian Wright turned lithe circles in the penalty area, Paul Merson was never anywhere but there, Kevin Campbell, Lee Dixon, John Jensen, Tony Adams - they all did everything right. All City could come up with was some shell-shocked scurrying and by the time they had calmed down it was too late. Two more goals conceded, Gary Flitcroft limping off injured, Uwe Rosler propelled off in disgrace - their whole afternoon was a wreck.

But in the meantime let's hear it for Arsenal's Alan Smith, who followed up a frustrating 13th-minute miss (his shot went just over the bar) with the genuine article just after the half-hour. Merson took a corner on the left, goalkeeper Tony Coton came out with a flailing punch, and Smith saw the opening and went for it. Two-nil and the cue for Smith to stride around looking very pleased with life.

City must have been thinking of going home then and there. They had already lost Flitcroft (he was replaced by Ian Brightwell with just over 20 minutes gone) and Rosler had begun to sow the seeds of his undoing, flinging himself to the floor just outside the goal area after a tackle by Jensen. Rosler writhed pleadingly, Jensen gestured 'dive' and the referee agreed with him.

It wasn't all bad news for City. Their own debutant, Nicky Summerbee, son of Mike, looked a useful signing from Swindon in the summer. It would be nice to think he might bring back fond memories of those old days at Maine Road, Franny Lee and Colin Bell, and Summerbee pere nipping down the right hanging on to the hem of his opponent's shirt. What's more, this game saw the return of Niall Quinn, who has been out for 10 months with a cruciate ligament problem. Let's hope his knee stays the course - City are going to need him. They looked desperately short of firepower. The nearest any of them got was Peter Beagrie who, in the 58th minute, shot on the run from way out; David Seaman had to turn it wide for a corner.

Quinn had been on the pitch a mere three minutes when Rosler departed. An accomplished dive after Schwarz's tackle brought the referee to him; Rosler went a protest too far and City were left to meet the best Arsenal had to offer with 10 men.

Arsenal weren't about to go lenient on them. Thirteen minutes from the end, Campbell and Wright between them produced the moves of the match, moving down the right flank, swapping possession of the ball. Campbell ended up rolling it across to Wright, who trapped Coton in his headlights and made it 3-0.

There was one more, nearly supreme moment, when Campbell's wonderful shot ricocheted off the bar near the end; but perhaps the fates had decided City had suffered enough.

'They don't give much away,' said Brian Horton, City's manager, gloomily afterwards. 'They are disciplined and organised and professional. We have to try to be the same.' He started to brighten. 'There's a long way to go. Oh I dunno. How did United get on?'

George Graham said: 'It's great to start with a win.' Well, he would, wouldn't he?

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