Wright's finishing finally appeases team-mates

Arsenal 2 Leeds United 1
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The Independent Online
Ian Wright claimed a degree of reconciliation with his manager, Bruce Rioch, after this game even though the lack of harmony on the pitch seemed to tell a different story. But then with Arsenal that is never much of a guide to success, even less so when the enigmatic Wright is playing.

How typical that the discordant one, whose erratic, posturing performance had been such an irritation to his team-mates, should emerge as everyone's hero, dramatically hitting the winner deep into injury time, having already given Arsenal the lead at the end of the first half. Without the winner, however, Rioch might have been less inclined to speak afterwards in praise of the art of goalscoring and almost by association the contribution in that area of Wright.

Seated side by side at the press conference afterwards, it looked an uneasy truce in spite of what Wright had to say later when his manager had gone. One can sympathise with Rioch's dilemma. With Wright in the team, whatever the system, fluency is less easily established; without him Arsenal lose one extraordinary goalscorer.

It was even more hands-on-hips than normal from Wright on Saturday and it clearly gnawed at one or two of his team-mates. Even the normally equable Bergkamp lost his rag with Wright when once too often he made what the Dutchman deemed to be the wrong run. While the captain's armband also gave Martin Keown the right, he felt, to chastise Arsenal's star man.

Even against a Leeds team playing, in their case, with uncharacteristic Yorkshire grit, Arsenal really ought not to have laboured so, that is if they aspire to greater things like Europe. Indeed, if David Wetherall had not finished like the central defender he is, and young Andy Gray not gone for glory all on his own, instead of a slice of it, even Wright would not have been able to rescue the Gunners.

As it was, his predatory instincts was enough to give them the lead and reclaim it after Brian Deane had got a fortuitous deflection to a Gary Speed shot to bring Leeds deservedly level. That made it 22 goals this season for Wright who is well on course for Cliff Bastin's all-time club record - if he stays. "I've always wanted to achieve," he said. "It's always been my goal to make up for the time I wasn't in the game. If I could become the greatest goalscorer Arsenal's ever had it would be fantastic, but I'm not going to stay just because of it."

Scoring goals again, as he said, helped ease the tension between himself and the manager ("he's been as good as gold to me," Wright said), all the better when they come without the chance of reply three minutes into injury time. "I can imagine how Nayim felt," Wright said. A Freudian slip? For Arsenal fans, the idea of Wright scoring against them does not bear thinking about.

Goals: Wright (44) 1-0; Deane (53) 1-1; Wright (90) 2-1.

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

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Palmer, Wetherall, Harte; Gray, McAllister, Radebe Speed; Brolin, Deane. Substitutes not used: Tinkler, Pemberton, Wallace.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Bookings: Arsenal: Wright, Marshall, Hartson. Leeds: Harte, Palmer.

Man of the Match: Wright. Attendance: 37,619.

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