Football: Wenger warns of more to come from Bergkamp

Ken Jones On Monday: Arsenal 5 Barnsley 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Dennis Bergkamp should be careful. A flap of the arms and the Dutchman could find himself in phobic orbit over Highbury. Some player, some artist and yet with the perfectionist's zeal Arsene Wenger thinks there is room for improvement.

Finding fault with Berkgamp in his present form is rather like nitpicking appraisal of a Picasso painting, but what if he was more effective in the air and arrived in the penalty area more often? "It's remarkable in a striker that Dennis scores so many of his goals from outside the box," Wenger said. And then there is Bergkamp's heading, not so much a weakness but reluctance to take advantage of what Wenger believes to be latent ability.

Maybe it is asking too much of a player who is supreme in the Premier League and in Wenger's view among the five or six best in world football. A model professional, too. "Dennis is a big celebrity but he prefers a low profile," Arsenal's manager added. "All his energy is put into what he achieves on the field. He gets plenty of rest."

If still given to spells of indolence that are characteristic of Dutch footballers generally (Marco van Basten's mood swings were always a worry for his coaches) Bergkamp is in the full flow of maturity and England should feel relieved that he is not an Italian. "Because I work in this country I want England to win next week," Wenger added, "but I think they would find it extremely difficult if Dennis was coming up against them."

Poor Barnsley. Out of their depth in the Premier League, 28 goals already conceded, sensing that it will probably amount to a brief and embarrassing experience, they did not have a prayer once Bergkamp restored the confidence Arsenal lost last week when put out of the Uefa Cup.

For 20 minutes the shock lingered. "I didn't know how my team would react and during that time I didn't recognise them," Wenger said. "To have lost today would have been a terrible blow to our ambitions."

When it needed an excellent David Seaman save to keep out Arjan de Zeeuw's header at a Barnsley corner, Wenger's apprehension was justified. Then Bergkamp struck, jinking inside to curl a shot into the top far corner. Like so many of Bergkamp's it qualified for beauteous description. "I thought we should have made a better attempt at closing him down," Barnsley's manager, Danny Wilson, said, "but it was a marvellous strike."

Barnsley were soon deeper in trouble. Flawed application by three centre- backs left them without cover, enabling Arsenal to split the defence with one pass. One from Patrick Vieira took two men out of the game and Bergkamp was in for his second, touching the ball deftly beyond David Watson with the outside of his right foot. "Whenever Dennis gets on the ball now I feel that something positive is going to happen," Wenger would say.

Then it was Bergkamp again, taking a pass from Ian Wright that got a fortunate deflection to put in Ray Parlour for Arsenal's third right on half-time.

All over bar the counting. David Platt made a mess of Barnsley's near- post marking at a corner to head Arsenal further ahead after replacing Parlour and Ian Wright got his ninth of the season before going off as a precautionary measure. "Ian has a slight ankle knock, but nothing for Glenn Hoddle to worry about," Wenger said.

Although things are looking ominous, Wilson is reluctant to compromise the attacking ethic that brought Barnsley promotion. "We tried it against Leicester City and still lost," he said. "The players didn't enjoy the way we tried to play so I think it's better to concentrate on improving the method that suits us best."

Wilson deserves a better return than he's getting but how long can he afford to provide his players with a comfort zone? Happiness is all well and good but many more beatings like this and principles will begin to look like a cop out.

Goals: Bergkamp (25) 1-0; Bergkamp (32) 2-0; Parlour (45) 3-0; Platt (63) 4-0; Wright (76) 5-0.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Parlour (Platt, 58), Vieira, Petit, Overmars (Anelka, 58); Wright (Boa Morte, 79), Bergkamp. Substitutes not used: Grimandi, Manninger (gk).

Barnsley (3-5-2): Watson; De Zeeuw, Krizan, Tinkler; Moses (Eaden, 64), Redfearn, Sheridan (Bullock, 58), Barnard, Thompson; Ward, Liddell (Hristov, 67). Substitutes not used: Marcelle, Leese (gk).

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Bookings: Barnsley: De Zeeuw, Thompson.

Man of the match: Bergkamp.

Attendance: 38,049.