Football: Strachan's victims of the class divide

Arsenal 2 Coventry City 0

TOLD OF Arsene Wenger's compliment - "Coventry worked extremely hard and passed well," Arsenal's manager had said - Gordon Strachan's eyes went upwards. "Not that old one about being too good to go down," he groaned.

Back in the old Pearl White routine, struggling to break free before the relegation express gets to them, Coventry can take heart from their efforts at Highbury. How, in the circumstances, do you cope when up against a team at short odds to win the Premiership and the FA Cup in successive seasons, when the difference in class is so obvious?

At first sight, Coventry's system - five midfielders strung across a back four and Darren Huckerby as the lone attacker - may have looked negative to the extreme but it was not without initiative. "They made things very difficult for us," Wenger said, "and I was impressed with their movement."

While praise is heaped upon the most successful managers in English football, men such as Strachan, Jim Smith of Derby and Joe Kinnear at Wimbledon are the real heroes, working to do the best they can with comparatively modest resources.

If Wenger saw a great deal of merit in Coventry's effort, Strachan was philosophical. "Maybe if it had been able to put our best team (Noel Whelan and George Boateng were particularly missed) we might have given Arsenal more of a problem," Strachan added, "but I have to accept that they are in a different league. Better players than we have, a sight richer. So it was about being brave, standing up to them." Even the denial of an obvious penalty in the first half when David Seaman impeded Stephen Froggatt did not anger Strachan as much as his reputation suggested. "It's happened to us so often that I no longer get worked up, but I just wish that there had been people out there as brave as my players," he said pointedly.

Because of injuries and suspensions Arsenal have seldom been able this season to put out their strongest team, so a rare sight of it was immediately encouraging for their supporters.

It did not last long. Lee Dixon was only on the field for 29 minutes and Ray Parlour's redeployment as an emergency right back had a damaging effect on Arsenal's enterprise.

Parlour's technical progress should result in selection for England against Poland next Saturday and was further evident when he put Arsenal ahead in the 16th minute with a low shot struck with the outside of his right foot. "I don't think he would have managed that a year ago," Wenger added.

Wenger added the point that Parlour had proved his versatility as Dixon's deputy but curtailment emphasised the importance of his urgent and thoughtful forays along Arsenal's right flank.

Without it Arsenal fell short of their highest standards until sharpness returned after the interval. Even then there was little to cause excitement in an audience that now conveys the impression of being spoiled by recent achievements.

The introduction of Nwankwo Kanu for Nicolas Anelka, who played as though he were still unsure that his future is in north London, lifted things. Already something of a cult figure at Highbury, the Nigerian immediately put his mark on the game with a confident dribble that made a goal for Marc Overmars in the 80th minute.

When Wenger was asked for Kanu's most impressive qualities, he said: "Class and intelligence." Kanu, we were told, is putting in a great deal of effort to improve his fitness.

For now he gives Arsenal a stronger bench. Soon he may give them a problem in selection. It is one that Strachan would be more than happy to accommodate.

Goals: Parlour (16) 1-0; Overmars (80) 2-0.

Arsenal (4-4-2); Seaman; Dixon (Ljungberg, 29), Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars (Diawara, 84); Bergkamp, Anelka (Kanu, 77). Substitutes not used: Bould, Manninger (gk).

Coventry City (4-5-1); Hedman; Nilsson (Edworthy, 69), Shaw, Konjic, Burrows; Telfer, McAllister, Quinn, Soltvedt (Gioacchini, 77), Froggatt; Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Clement, Delorge, Ogrizovic (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Halstead). Bookings: Arsenal: Winterburn. Coventry: Konjic, Telfer.

Man of the match: Konjic.

Attendance: 38,073.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Life and Style
Gap announced its same-store sales were down 6 per cent in August, and 3 per cent in September
fashionAlexander Fury explains where Gap is going wrong
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
News
Rainbow List
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Cronenberg: 'Ageing is part of life. There is a beauty to it; you just have to find a way to grasp that beauty'
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Legal 500 Firm

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solic...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?