Football: Wright paints a prettier picture

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The Independent Online
Arsenal . . . . .1

Manchester City .0

IT WAS almost becoming a case of 'sack the board'; in their five previous attempts Arsenal had failed to give the cardboard painted faces on the mural at what used to be Highbury's North Bank a home goal to celebrate.

There was talk of a jinx, suspicions of a silent protest against that hated bond scheme. But even jinxes are threatened when Ian Wright is around and in the kind of mood to put on a dazzling show for TV and GT, the watching England manager Graham Taylor.

Wright's scoring header in the 19th minute brought to six his response to last season's haul of 29 goals which made him the First Division's leading marksman. No other Arsenal player has scored in the Premier League in what had become a grey, if not quite black September for the pre-season title favourites. They had gone five games without a win, even Millwall promising to storm the Highbury fortress in the Coca-Cola Cup.

That lack of certainty in what normally comes automatically to the red and white shirts revealed itself as several promising moves came to nothing, yet there was still much to please the manager, George Graham, as his side climbed five places in the table and showed glimpses of their former all-powerful selves.

Manchester City, meanwhile, returned home wondering what they have to do to lighten the gloom around Maine Road. No goals from four outings is a poor return for an outfit that can boast attacking strength in the shape of David White and Niall Quinn, with Rick Holden primed to deliver the crosses.

From the start Wright was sparky but thankfully not spiky as he all too often tends to be. The City player-manager, Peter Reid, tested his mettle with two fouls bringing his first surges to a halt. The Arsenal man reacted without complaint and Taylor, whose doubts about him can only surround his temperament, was among the crowd taking interested note.

He will name him on Thursday in his squad for the launch of England's World Cup adventure and, having been ignored for the European Championship finals and absent through injury for last month's disappointing friendly in Spain, Wright is ready to answer his country's call.

'He's fit and if he's named in the squad he will go,' his manager, George Graham, said. 'He's dangerous and will always be in my team but I can't speak for England.'

Graham restored Kevin Campbell but kept Alan Smith and left out Anders Limpar in defiance of the wishes of his supporters who see in the dynamic but inconsistent Swede a maverick talent to be encouraged.

Campbell and Wright had already brought Tony Coton into action when they combined effectively to leave City 71 minutes chasing the game and a lost cause.

Reid gave Coton an awkward back-pass from which the goalkeeper could do no better than to hurry the ball into touch. The throw gave Campbell room for a cross which Coton only got fingertips to, leaving Wright to take maximum advantage, even though Keith Curle made a despairing attempt to clear his lines.

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Hillier, Bould, Adams, Jensen, Wright, Smith (Limpar, 75), Merson, Campbell. Substitutes not used: Pates, Miller (gk).

Manchester City: Coton; I Brightwell, Phelan, Reid, Curle, Hill, White, Flitcroft, Quinn, Simpson, Holden (McMahon, 63). Substitutes not used: D Brightwell, Margetson (gk).

Referee: J Martin (Hampshire).

(Photograph omitted)