Rioch admits he must buy new players

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The Independent Online

Bruce Rioch tried to stop Kevin Campbell leaving Arsenal for Nottingham Forest in the summer. But he did leave and the Arsenal manager had to suffer the consequences on Tuesday night when his former striker scored the goal which confirmed that a new era of success-with-style at Highbury is still a long way off.

Campbell, Forest manager Frank Clark's pounds 2.5m replacement for Stan Collymore, returned to ram the jeers of his critics back down their throats with the equaliser in a 1-1 draw - his first League goal since scoring for Arsenal at Ipswich on 28 December.

Rioch said: "I sat down with Kevin in an hotel for two or three hours soon after I joined the club and told him the door was still open for him at Arsenal. But he was out of contract and his move to Forest was fairly well down the road by then. It seemed he had made up his mind to go."

The 25-year-old Londoner, nicknamed the Rottweiler when he scored 24 goals in his first 50 games for the Gunners, became the regular butt of the Highbury crowd after missing a string of excellent chances when Arsenal tumbled out of the FA Cup to Rioch's Bolton side two seasons ago.

He also suffered in comparison with the North Bank's idol, Ian Wright, and then the former manager, George Graham, gave him a new role that he did not like, playing out wide.

Campbell raised those familiar jeers again when missing an early sitter against Arsenal but after his expertly taken equaliser, said: "It was a very sweet moment coming back to Highbury and scoring a goal that was well overdue.

"I was an Arsenal fan and I still have a lot of friends at the club, but I lost confidence after three years playing out wide or being in and out of the team.

"Ian Wright and I scored a lot of goals between us when we finished third in the League in 1992 but after that we were very seldom played together in the middle.

"I'm a centre-forward and that's how Frank Clark sees me at Forest. With Bryan Roy I'm trying to build the kind of partnership I had with Wrighty and when the boss says he wants me to inject a bit more nastiness back in my game I know what he means. I was a rough-and-tumble player but the edge went off my game. Now, hopefully, it is back."

Campbell insists he can see signs of Arsenal's new, progressive style emerging under Rioch. He said: "They are trying to knock the ball about and it is certainly a bit different to my time at Highbury."

But Rioch is a long way from being satisfied by the early signs even though Arsenal, like Forest, are still unbeaten despite only one win in their first four games. "What disappoints me most is that our passing is just not up to standard," Rioch said. "We have a lot of work to do, not only on the training pitch but in the transfer market as well if possible."

He has an pounds 8m package-deal on the table to buy Bolton's Jason McAteer and Alan Stubbs but his former club have so far blocked all bids.

Rioch has also been linked with West Ham's John Moncur, and the brilliant young Brazilian midfielder, Juninho, at Palmeiras, while the French international, Corentin Martins, is another likely target at Auxerre.

Rioch, with pounds 4.75m David Platt out for up to a month after a cartilage operation today, now has to decide whether to compromise his style in the short term in order to secure more points.

He could bring in the big 20-year-old Wales striker, John Hartson, to partner Wright up front and give his other expensive newcomer, Dennis Bergkamp, alarmingly unproductive in terms of goals so far, the space he needs to operate behind a front two.

More likely, though, he will switch either Paul Merson or Ray Parlour to Platt's central midfield role and promote Bergkamp's fellow Dutchman, Glenn Helder, to a starting role wide on the left.

n David Ginola, the Newcastle United player, is in the French squad to play Azerbaijan in the European Championship Group One qualifying game at Auxerre next Wednesday. Jean-Pierre Papin, now playing again for Bayern Munich after almost a year out through injury, is still considered not to be match fit.