Football: Sutton keeps Arsenal at bay

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The Independent Online
Arsenal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

ARSENAL were far from amused last night when Chris Sutton, the goalscorer who showed not the slightest interest in their own pounds 5m advances in the summer, became the country's most expensive defender and helped keep them goalless for the third successive game.

Pressed into emergency duties after a red card for Jason Wilcox and a gruesome head wound sustained by Colin Hendry, Sutton revealed true box-to-box qualities and pointed out to George Graham the urgent need for the Arsenal manager to return to the transfer market.

That Sutton was more effective as a stopper than he had been as a striker said everything about Arsenal's domination, while the scoreline reveals all about where their failings lie.

When crosses found their target the chances were put tamely over the top by Alan Smith and Ian Wright. Later, the crosses found inviting space but not a single red shirt. No wonder Highbury's disgruntled filed out sighing 'Jurgen Klinsmann . . . if only'.

After two successive defeats, Arsenal were clearly determined to have their crisis and be done with it early on.

Kevin Campbell provided Tim Flowers with an immediate warmer for his hands. As it turned out, it was about the only opportunity Flowers had to prove that he, and not David Seaman, should keep goal for England next week while Steve Bould definitely will not be his country's centre- half. A groin injury has forced his withdrawal.

After Campbell had fisted the ball into the net tempers rose as, initially, Blackburn thought the referee had missed the offence. Five minutes later, Wright was booked for the third game in succession while Wilcox went the same way for fouling John Jensen. When, eight minutes into the second half, Wilcox clattered into Lee Dixon he was sent off, enforcing Sutton's retreat.

Tony Adams, a more permanent fixture in that role, left the field near the end suffering from double vision. On this evidence it is not the League and Cup.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Adams (Linighan, 89), Winterburn; Campbell, Jensen, Schwarz, Merson (Dickov, 83); Smith, Wright. Substitute not used: Bartram (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Gale, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley (Warhurst, 60), Slater, Sherwood, Wilcox; Sutton, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Marker, Mimms (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).