Wenger begins on Wright lines
Blackburn Rovers 0 Arsenal 2 Wright 3, 51 Attendance: 24,30 3
Sunday 13 October 1996
But for Alan Shearer's goal at Derby, the Frenchman would have been surveying his new environment from the loftiest possible perch. Even so, yesterday's victory is enough to lift Arsenal above Liverpool into second place. It was not the most fluent of performances, but it allows Wenger time to consider where change might be needed.
He is in a rare position of comfort for a new manager, one of stark contrast to that which confronts Ray Harford as Blackburn become entrenched at the foot of the table. Harford admitted afterwards that thoughts of resignation had crossed his mind. "I had said I had no intention of quitting but when you hear people in the crowd having a go at you it is natural for you to start to think again," he said.
Wenger pronounced himself pleased with a performance of "solidarity, good organisation and professionalism", to paraphrase, adding that Wright had produced the finishing of "a world-class striker", and confirming his promise of a bloodless revolution at Highbury.
As if to emphasise this, he fielded the same team as Pat Rice had chosen for the last game of his reign. And as if to emphasise how they intend to take Wenger's arrival in their stride, the teamneeded less than three minutes to maintain their recent momentum by taking the lead.
Wright began the move, deep inside his own half with a lay-off to Nigel Winterburn, and then ran 70 yards to finish it superbly. Winterburn's searching cross was headed down by John Hartson to be picked up by Wright, who wrong-footed Nicky Marker brilliantly before curling the ball past Tim Flowers from 12 yards.
Arsenal did not then impose themselves as they might. Indeed, the initiative passed to Blackburn, who created three clear chances, two of them to Tim Sherwood, but could not find finishing of Wright's quality.
Nonetheless, they began the second half appearing confident that their efforts would be rewarded. However, within six minutes of the restart came the second goal.
Patrick Vieira engineered a break from defence, exchanging passes with Hartson before driving the ball forward to meet Wright's run. The striker's first touch seemed to have let him down but he was as determined as ever. Flowers rushed out to claim the ball, but Wright stretched to reach it first, lofting it into the now unguarded net.
"Ian Wright is not a normal 32-year old," Wenger had said of his most volatile new property even before this match. "He is so fit and strong and wants so much to succeed." As Arsenal set about making the three points secure, Wenger could reflect with contentment on an assessment handsomely confirmed.
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