Wright keeps mind on job

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The Independent Online

Wimbledon 0 Arsenal 3

No goals for Ian Wright, but an impressive performance by Arsenal that will have done much to ease the pressure on their beleaguered manager, Bruce Rioch.

Wright, back after an absence of four games, suffered an ultimately frustrating afternoon: one or two half chances, but nothing to stop him gesticulating animatedly at team-mates, who by the end were plainly anxious to tee him up and make him happy.

It is a matter of conjecture as to whether his manager is getting him down, or whether it is the gradual realisation that at 32, the pace, acceleration and lightning reflexes that have set him apart from other strikers of his generation are bound to be on the wane.

But whatever the Wrights and wrongs of the situation, the Arsenal board, having turned down the players' transfer request on the manager's recommendation, would be foolish not to continue to back Rioch for the time being.

When he was appointed last year he was clearly the most eligible candidate and, although he has won nothing yet for Arsenal, they are still fifth in the Premiership, Europe is a distinct possibility, and at times earlier in the season, before injuries to key players, they were playing as well as anyone.

On Saturday they set about the Wimbledon problem intelligently, deploying David Platt and Paul Merson in midfield behind Dennis Bergkamp, who was given license to roam. The full-backs, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn, looked as comfortable as any pair playing with a three centre-back system, and for once the atrocious Selhurst Park surface did not stifle the superior talent of Wimbledon's opponents.

Without the suspended Oyvind Leonhardsen, Wimbledon seemed tired and bereft of their usual determination, although Dean Holdsworth looked unlucky to have been ruled offside when heading home just 30 seconds after Winterburn's opener for Arsenal.

Minutes later, Platt put the issue beyond doubt with a sumptuous strike from 25 yards, and Bergkamp finished things off with a shot that wriggled out of Neil Sullivan's grasp.

Joe Kinnear's side may have had their minds on Wednesday night's FA Cup quarter final replay with Chelsea, but after that they will have to start picking up points quickly.

A predominantly female crowd gathered outside to cheer Wright on to the team coach. Taking his seat opposite Merson they sat silently, exchanging no more than a chocolate bar as they waited to depart. Perhaps Wright was reflecting more on a 3-0 victory to Bruce Rioch than a 3-0 victory to Arsenal.

Goals: Winterburn (61) 0-1; Platt (65) 0-2; Bergkamp (83) 0-3.

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Sullivan; Cunningham, Blackwell, Perry, Kimble; Jones, Harford (Goodman, 59), Earle; Ekoku, Holdsworth (Thorn, 80), Gayle. Substitute not used: Euell.

Arsenal (3-4-1-2): Seaman; Keown, Linighan, Marshall; Dixon, Platt, Merson, Winterburn; Bergkamp; Wright, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Helder, Hillier, Rose.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Man of the match: Merson. Attendance: 18,335.