Football: Wright in trouble again

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Arsenal. . .2

Chelsea. . .1

IT SEEMED that George Graham's request for Arsenal to be less aggressive and Graham Taylor's confidence that Ian Wright could control his 'short wire' had been taken on board at Highbury yesterday, then it transpired that Wright was again in trouble and had perhaps jeopardised an international place that was almost certain.

A police spokesman said he had seen Wright make one gesture to the visiting supporters after scoring the winner and had been told of another. He intended referring the complaint to Lancaster Gate.

Wright needed only to behave himself yesterday to be sure of a place in England's team for the World Cup qualifier against Norway on Wednesday week as Taylor was intent on playing him with Blackburn's Alan Shearer. Now he may have to reconsider.

Having Paul Merson in a central attacking role greatly helps Wright, as it does Kevin Campbell and Alan Smith. Merson finds them accurately and at the right times. So it was that after eight minutes a perceptive cross-field ball from Merson started Wright on a long run that culminated with Smith scooping over.

Arsenal's new attacking formation troubled Chelsea, and in the 10th minute Campbell's pressure on Gareth Hall led to Merson finding yards of open space on the left. Kevin Hitchcock rashly left his line and Merson, astutely, raised the ball over his reach and nicely under the crossbar.

Having lost Mal Donaghy in the first half, Chelsea took a while to settle into some promising, though largely unfulfilled, midfield football - Arsenal were always the more creative. Smith contrived to miss all his openings, yet he frequently and expertly shielded the ball from David Lee without anyone else taking advantage.

For a natural striker, Wright can be almost inept when he has too long to think. Given a clear second-half run to goal, he failed with his shot. Arsenal might have paid more dearly when, after 69 minutes, Campbell, 10 yards out, was brought down only for Lee Dixon to hit the legs of Hitchcock with his penalty. Chelsea were sufficiently involved to merit some reward: when Harford appeared on the wing and Dennis Wise cropped up in the middle the transposition was completed as the little winger headed in the big centre-forward's cross.

With six minutes to go Anders Limpar was brought on. He nipped past Hall with his first touch and saw his centre somehow pass the whole of the Chelsea defence.

The Swede, whose absence Arsenal fans find inexplicable, had done enough in that inspired introduction to let Wright merely stab out his foot to score. That goal should have confirmed Wright's England place. Taylor may now have second thoughts, but he is thought to believe that Wright has shown sufficient self-control in his internationals to be offered the opportunity to help compensate for Gary Lineker's absence.

Arsenal: D Seaman; L Dixon, N Winterburn, D Hillier, S Bould, T Adams, J Jensen, I Wright, A Smith, P Merson (A Limpar, 84 min), K Campbell. Subs not used: C Pates, A Miller (gk). Manager: G Graham.

Chelsea: K Hitchcock; G Hall, F Sinclair, A Townsend, D Lee, M Donaghy (G Stuart, 19 min) E Newton, R Fleck, M Harford, N Spackman, D Wise. Subs not used: J Spencer, A Chamberlain (gk). Manager: I Porterfield.

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).

Goals: Merson (1-0, 10 min); Wise (1-1, 77 min); Wright (2-1, 85 min).

(Photograph omitted)

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