Wright's mission of discovery

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The Independent Online
Ian Wright is learning French to help him stay on the same wavelength as Patrick Vieira, the new hero of Highbury.

Vieira, the pounds 3.5m French Under-21 international who has already become a big favourite with the Arsenal supporters after just eight matches, aims to supply more ammunition for Wright in the third-round Coca-Cola Cup replay at home to Stoke tonight.

Wright, who has scored 13 goals already this season, said: "Patrick has been a brilliant addition to the team for me. He has set up some great chances for me with his passing, especially the goals I got against Middlesbrough and Blackburn recently."

Vieira, who was actually born in Senegal, has been given the nickname "What" by the Arsenal players. It is his usual reply to their questions as he struggles to learn the English language.

"He's trying, but I thought I would have a go at picking up a few French phrases from him at the same time. It can only help our understanding," said Wright.

The 33-year-old striker is aware that his side face another tough task to knock out the First Division Potteries team, who were good value for a battling 1-1 draw in the original game at the Victoria Ground three weeks ago. "They will be even more up for this one at Highbury, especially as it is live on television," said Wright, who scored Arsenal's late equaliser to earn the replay.

Mike Sheron, whose goal put Stoke ahead, is ready for another solo mission. He is likely to be their lone striker in front of a five-man midfield which manager Lou Macari is again expected to employ.

"We faced a tall order at our place and it will be even taller tomorrow night. But if we can keep things tight early on we will have a fighting chance. The longer we keep them out, the more their supporters will get anxious, and with someone like Mike Sheron around we will always have a chance of pinching a goal," Macari said.

Stoke's Northern Ireland full-back Nigel Worthington is doubtful with an injury collected on World Cup duty against Germany and the Italian Mirko Taccola, who is on loan, could make a surprise debut.

The Gunners are virtually certain to be unchanged tonight, with Dennis Bergkamp, the Netherlands's hat-trick hero against Wales, John Hartson, Tony Adams, David Seaman, David Platt and Wright all unscathed by World Cup duty.

Paul Merson, who was a late withdrawal from England's trip to Georgia through a groin injury, is back in training again, while Hartson, although still serving a three-match suspension in the Premiership, is eligible for Coca-Cola Cup action but not Saturday's League trip to Manchester United.

Ally McCoist goes into one of the most crucial Old Firm derbies of the past decade tomorrow ready to claim yet another scoring record. The Rangers striker is just one short of equalling Gordon Wallace's post-war Scottish League record of 264 goals. An added incentive is the fact that the meeting with Celtic at Parkhead is being broadcast live on satellite television.

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