Platt has raised the suspicion that the best of him is history return to England could expose a decline in his powers

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The Independent Online
On top of everything else, David Platt couldn't shoot for toffee; one volley so high that it almost left the premises, another winging closer to a corner flag than the target.

Every footballer is entitled to a bad day, but Platt's general ineffectiveness in Arsenal's colours at Coventry raised inevitably the suspicion that the best of him is history.

Once identified, special qualities transformed Platt's career, but nobody has ever confused him with one of the game's great artists. Mostly average in technique, a moderate passer and unexceptional on the ball, England's captain has prospered through intelligent application of lung power, especially when breaking through as an auxiliary attacker.

This raises a doubt about Platt that stood out amid the difficulties Arsenal experienced when drawing 0-0 at Coventry, relying heavily on their goalkeeper, David Seaman. At 29, and conditioned to the slower tempo of Italian football, does Platt still have the legs for Premiership activity?

When this was put to Bruce Rioch, the Arsenal manager, he asked if attention had been paid to the goal Platt scored last week against Everton as the result of a perfectly timed run into the penalty area. "I think that answered the question," Rioch said.

But does it? Platt almost repeated the trick at Coventry but thereafter he was more or less anonymous. Rioch put this down to a lack of match fitness. "Because David missed a lot of pre-season work and played in only a couple of games, he's still a bit behind," he said.

With the passage of time, all footballers find themselves making adjustments to compensate for a decline in physical powers. In Platt's case, the big question is whether he has enough technical ability to fall back on.

A collective adjustment will be necessary if Arsenal are to get the best out of Dennis Bergkamp. In dropping off to find space, the Dutchman demands more thought in provision. It is also essential that Ian Wright grows to appreciate a method in contrast to that favoured by George Graham. If he finds good attacking positions then it is a reasonable bet that Bergkamp will find him.

Following from disappointments in Italy, a problem for Bergkamp is that his reputation is that of a goalscorer rather than a maker of chances. Nobody could fail to appreciate the delightful touch that provided Wright with the opportunity for a header that went close, but Bergkamp has yet to get on the scoresheet. "It will come," Rioch said confidently.

The truth is that only Seaman stood between Arsenal and their first defeat of the season. "I think Arsenal will look back on this as a hell of a good point," Coventry's manager, Ron Atkinson, said when holding court in his office. "Seaman was brilliant, the best goalkeeper in the country, and they had to defend well against us."

Coventry's spirited performance was received enthusiastically by their supporters, who were given no reason to suppose inferiority. Lacking in quality it may be, but in the Premiership all teams start off equal.

With a touch more steadiness, and against a lesser goalkeeper, Peter Ndlovu might have scored three times, and it took a blatant push by Tony Adams to deny him in a furious conclusion.

Atkinson's touch was clearly evident at Highfield Road, from his Rolls- Royce in the car park to the way his players set about Arsenal. Rioch, meanwhile, must wait for his expensive purchases to prove themselves fully.

Coventry City: (4-4-2) Filan; Pickering, Burrows, Borrows, Williams; Telfer, Richardson, Isaias, Salako; Ndlovu, Dublin. Substitutes not used: Hall, Christie, Gould (gk).

Arsenal (4-2-4); Seaman; Dixon (Jensen, 50) Winterburn, Bould, Adams; Platt, Wright; Merson, Bergkamp, Keown, Parlour, (Helder, 66). Substitute not used: Bartram (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

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