Wenger's rude introduction to English game

Arsenal 0 Coventry City 0
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The Independent Online
Fighters have gone some hard rounds and looked better than Steve Ogrizovic did on the stretcher that bore him to the dressing rooms at Highbury; claret oozing from what turned out to be a broken nose, features contorted with the pain of it.

And dark thoughts about the man whose reckless challenge had inflicted the damage? Plenty. "Ian Wright knows what he did," Coventry's 39-year old goalkeeper said. "After I went down to block the ball he swung his knee into my face. I've broken my nose before, so that's no problem, but it's the intent I find upsetting."

Ogrizovic will be even more put out if Arsenal's new manager, the cultured Arsene Wenger, does not speak sternly to Wright about the incident. "Somebody at Arsenal should," he said.

Conveniently, wherever they hail from, football coaches are often stricken by attacks of temporary blindness. Wenger proved to be no exception. "From where I sat, it was impossible to see the incident clearly," the Frenchman said. The Coventry manager, Ron Atkinson, who has been in a fair bit of bother himself this season, settled for a typically jokey comment. "We've brought Wimpey in to put a scaffold around Ogrizovic's nose," he smiled.

And where was the referee, Peter Jones of Loughborough, in all this? At Tottenham last week his attention had to be drawn to the offending Nazi salute that requires the Aston Villa goalkeeper, Mark Bosnich to appear before the Football Association. On Saturday he missed, or chose not to act upon, a number of quite nasty incidents. An opinion held generally was that Jones is from the white stick school of refereeing.

One incident passed unseen by the audience because it took place at half- time in the dressing room tunnel. Childish bouts of fisticuffs have occurred there before, and this time officers of the law dived in to help Arsenal's captain, Tony Adams, separate the contestants.

Some introduction for Wenger on his first public appearance at Highbury. "I can understand it when players are booked in fighting for the ball but it is foolish to risk trouble when they are away from it," he said. Allowing for small difficulties in translation, what did Wenger mean by this? Off-the ball incidents that went unpunished or the half-time scuffling? Either way, events did not sit easily with his reputation.

Wright, for example, is sure to tax the principles on which Wenger has built his reputation. Wright's goals, along with a resolute defence, are the main reasons why Arsenal have bounced back in the Premiership. But there is a side to him that Wenger may find exasperating.

Announced as "England's leading striker", Wright did not react at all well when discovering that Coventry had sent out Richard Shaw to mark him. He got himself free here and there but after missing a simple chance you could sense his frustration growing. Being a good competitor is all well and good but at times Wright allows a spikey temperament to get the better of him. It was impossible to read intent into the challenge on Ogrizovic but reckless is a fair enough description.

Wenger can have no complaints about Arsenal's attitude, however, you cannot fail to sense that he would like them to be more stylish in application. "Football, all over the world, has become very fast and hard," he said, "so it is often difficult to get movements going. Coventry gave us a problem and we lost our way a bit in the second half."

To the point where Arsenal were simply aiming high balls into Coventry's penalty area. An understandable tactic late in a game that is still there to be won, or in some cases saved, but, it has to be said, the worst of British football.

Coventry, of course, were well pleased with the outcome. Dion Dublin did an excellent job when dropping back to deputise at centre back for the injured Paul Williams, and they rode their luck with a great deal of resolution. What, one wonders, would the outcome have been if Atkinson had sent on Gordon Strachan to run at a labouring David Platt?

Arsenal (3-5-2): Seaman; Keown, Adams, Bould; Dixon, Vieira, Platt, Merson, Winterburn; Wright, Hartson (Bergkamp, 68). Substitutes not used: Parlour, Morrow, Garde, Lukic (gk).

Coventry City (3-5-2): Ogrizovic (Filan, 84); Shaw, Daish, Williams (Ndlovu, 47); Salako, Richardson, Jess (Borrows, 80), McAllister, Telfer; Whelan, Dublin. Substitutes not used: Hall, Strachan.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Bookings: Arsenal: Hartson, Wright, Keown. Coventry: Telfer.

Man of the match: Ogrizovic.

Attendance: 38,140.

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