Football: Royle rules moaning 'offside'

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The Independent Online
Joe Royle avoided the temptation to blame an errant offside flag for his team's fifth defeat in a row, admitting "dozy defending" was more culpable. However, he could not resist a passing reference to Nick Barmby's disallowed goal.

"Goals change games. Had ours been allowed, who knows what might have happened. But I'm not making a big thing of it, it was not given and it's gone and done. We were comatose for 15 minutes and it coincided with Arsenal's purple patch. They are a good side and they don't need any help from defenders. Bergkamp's goal was a great finish but it was dozy defending by us. We were watching the ball.

"We are in a wretched run but there is no need for immediate panic. We have to end it before we slide any further. It was the strongest we have looked for a month and I was quite confident at half-time as there were signs in the first half that we were back to ourselves and looked like scoring. Now we have to regroup."

Arsene Wenger was in more effusive mood: "The quality of the passing in the second half was as good as we have played this season. We showed patience and waited for the right solution.

"The players enjoyed playing together. There is a collective energy in the team which is shared with the fans. Nobody knows what would have happened if Everton's goal had counted but it would have made it more difficult for us. Sometimes offsides go against you, sometimes for you."

Wenger confirmed he was still looking to bring in a striker on loan to cover the period when Dennis Bergkamp and John Hartson are suspended and said he had come close to completing a deal with a foreign striker last week. But he denied it was Hristo Stoichkov or Davor Suker, with whom the club has been linked in recent days.

"We have been able to bring in players instead from inside the club. Stephen Hughes has done well, and now Lee Dixon is back Ray Parlour is able to move back into midfield."