Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gunners in Need of Another Mr Wright; Predator Michael Reminds Us of Past Master

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gunners in Need of Another Mr Wright; Predator Michael Reminds Us of Past Master

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

C'EST LA VIE, shrugged Arsene Wenger when a clutch of French journalists asked him to express his disappointment after Arsenal handed the FA Cup to Liverpool. The philosopher in Wenger will take this latest defeat on the chin, at least for public consumption, but deep down Arsenal's coach realises that all is far from well in his Highbury kingdom.

Arsenal are not far short of being a team good enough to sustain a Premiership challenge to Manchester United, but that is short enough at this level to make a significant difference.

Thierry Henry is a wonderful attacking player, perhaps the most technically accomplished on view in the warm sunshine at Cardiff on Saturday. But for all his pace and proficiency he couldn't score the goals that would have given Arsenal the success they clearly deserved.

Michael Owen on the other hand emerged from an hour of anonymity to score the late, priceless goals that gave Liverpool a 2-1 win and condemned Arsenal's thousands of bitter, bewildered fans to a long and sombre drive back along the M4 to London.

"The big players deliver in the big games," beamed Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier. For him, relishing his second Cup triumph of the season, no philosophy was required as he contemplated a third, unique success in the UEFA Cup Final against Alaves in Dortmund on Wednesday.

Arsenal's traditional good fortune has clearly deserted them and settled upon Anfield because even a one-eyed Scouser would have recognised that Liverpool were inferior in every department bar the one that mattered most -- goalscoring.

Arsenal, with the predatory Owen in their ranks, would have won comfortably.

That thought will be a motivating factor for Wenger this summer when he attempts to strengthen a squad of players that has now failed to win a trophy in any of the last three seasons.

How he must long for another Ian Wright, a master goalscorer already deep into the autumn of his career when Wenger introduced his French chic to the Premiership in September 1996. Wright, a 30-goal a season striker, was Arsenal's top marksman for six years.

Such consistency in front of goal is hard to find and for all their other talents, Dennis Bergkamp, Kanu, Sylvain Wiltord and Henry are not goalscorers of that class.

The fact that Wenger used his four great attacking players at various times on Saturday illustrates just how difficult the job can be. This was nothing to do with rotation, rather an attempt to rescue a cause that wasn't helped by a cautious game-plan.

Wenger's fear of Liverpool's counter attacking game meant that Gilles Grimandi's selection in the centre of midfield added to Arsenal's defensive security but denied them the attacking thrusts of Ray Parlour. This reluctance to play too high up the field often meant that Arsenal had no presence in the Liverpool area at critical attacking moments. …

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