Football / The Premier Kick-Off: Seaman unable to steady the ship

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Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

GOALKEEPERS are supposed to be a bit different, to be one stud short of the full set. Help is not at hand, either. The new rule on back- passes has confused their role: one minute they are allowed to use their hands, the next they are forbidden. Arsenal's David Seaman, who foresees a 'minefield', says he has been an enthusiastic outfield member of five-a-side kick-abouts in pre-season training.

Another change in the laws allows managers to have a reserve keeper as well as two outfield players on the bench. The No 2 No 1 may well be needed. Already Andy Dibble, of Manchester City, has broken his leg in a feet-only challenge and at Highbury Alan Smith and Bryan Gunn, the Norwich goalkeeper, had to be separated after the Arsenal striker had followed through on Gunn.

Seaman could do without the extra pressure. His team are so geared to all-out attack that he can be left exposed. George Graham's side have steamrollered so many sides this year that any defensive frailty has been unimportant.

But the flaw can become fatal. In Bould, Adams, Winterburn and Dixon, Arsenal have four defenders approaching international class. The problem lies behind them with the England goalkeeper. The affable Yorkshireman appears to be suffering a slight loss of confidence.

The first sign of weakness came just after the break with Arsenal, inspired by John Jensen, leading through two well-taken goals from Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell. Ruel Fox crossed into a crowded goalmouth and Seaman came to punch clear but completely missed. The error went unpunished but his next did not.

Three minutes after Norwich had halved the deficit through Mark Robins's 69th-minute header, Seaman dropped a clanger. 'There didn't look any danger,' Graham said when Ian Culverhouse crossed from the right - until Seaman misjudged the ball's flight and presented David Phillips with the equaliser. The display parachutist who missed the centre- circle and ended up in the North Bank rubble was not the only one flapping in the air at Highbury.

Arsenal suddenly became as lifeless as the mock fans on the North Bank mural. Fox sprinted past Bould to slip the ball under Seaman and Robins compounded the keeper's misery by lofting the ball over him from 25 yards after Adams's impersonation of Franco Baresi had backfired comically.

Having a keeper of Alan Miller's quality waiting on the touchlines cannot help Seaman's frame of mind. Miller, the first Lilleshall graduate to attain England Under- 21 honours, is highly regarded at Highbury. His time will come.

How soon is a different matter. 'Drop Seaman?' Graham said. 'You don't expect me to do that, do you? If I do that, I might as well drop everybody who made a mistake against Norwich.' Which could leave him without a defence. Seaman just needs one uplifting performance to restore his nerves. It may not come tomorrow - Alan Shearer is making his home debut for Blackburn against Arsenal.

Goals: Bould (28) 1-0; Campbell (39) 2-0; Robins (69) 2-1; Phillips (72) 2-2; Fox (82) 2-3; Robins (84) 2-4.

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Hillier, Bould, Adams, Jensen, Smith, Campbell, Merson (Wright, 72), Limpar. Substitutes not used: Pates, Miller.

Norwich City: Gunn; Culverhouse, Bowen, Butterworth, Polston, Megson (Crook, 86), Fox, Newman, Sutton (Robins, 58), Goss, Phillips. Substitute not used: Walton.

Referee: A Gunn (South Chailey, Sussex).

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