Merson returns to chaos

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday 3 Arsenal 1

Arsenal chose this match to reacquaint their rehabilitated rebel with life in the League and in some respects it proved a shrewd decision. Such were the circumstances of this chaotic encounter that it was almost as if Paul Merson had sneaked back under cover of darkness.

And the darker moments of the match were as murky as they come, Tony Adams's dismissal for "unintentionally" elbowing Mark Bright being the culmination of a continuing struggle for supremacy between a forceful forward and a determined defender. Adams, appearing in the Premiership for the first time in two months, had spent much of the first half complaining to the referee, Keith Burge, that Bright was using his elbows when challenging for the ball.

Shortly after the interval the frustrated England defender, having failed to make his point verbally, opted for a game of charades and swung his arm back by way of demonstration. Bright, who was behind him, caught the force of the blow, bit the dust as impressively as an extra in a Sam Peckinpah film, and stayed down for treatment until Adams had been directed to the dressing-room. All of which sat awkwardly alongside the Wednesday forward's later support for claims by Adams and his manager, George Graham, that it was all a horrible mistake. Perhaps his late goal changed his view of life.

There did not appear to be much accidental, however, about the way the over-exuberant John Hartson swept Dan Petrescu's legs from under him 12 minutes from time. The tackle had red card written all over it.

Residual resentments from recent cup encounters had resurfaced to sully a match of immense promise. Arsenal had arrived set on securing only their fourth win in 16 matches by trying to compensate for the absence of the suspended Bould, Schwarz and Wrightwith a virtual 4-2-4 formation in which Merson and Kevin Campbell supported the strikers. Trevor Francis, Wednesday's manager, said it reminded him of "when Tottenham came here on the first day of the season''.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, after Linighan had headed a soft opening goal, it was their defence which demonstrated the early season Tottenham tendency by being pulled out of position. Their problems were caused almost exclusively by the one-time wizard ofWhite Hart Lane, Chris Waddle, who had a sensational opening half-hour in a new floating role. He almost scored in the first minute, and set up Wednesday's first two goals.

Goals: Linighan (3) 0-1; Petrescu (8) 1-1; Ingesson (24) 2-1; Bright (90) 3-1.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Atherton, Walker (Sheridan, 64), Pearce, Nolan; Petrescu, Hyde, Bart-Williams (Whittingham, 85), Ingesson; Waddle, Bright. Substitute not used: Woods (gk).

Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Linighan, Adams, Winterburn; Campbell, Selley (Parlour, 85), Jensen (Keown, h/t), Merson; Hartson, Kiwomya. Substitute not used: Bartram (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).