Highbury. Saturday 13th September 1997
FA Carling Premiership
Arsenal: Seaman Dixon Bould Grimandi Winterburn Parlour (Platt 75) Vieira Petit Overmars (Boa Morte 75) Bergkamp Wright (Anelka 83) goals: Wright 3 (20, 25, 81) Thompson (13) Parlour (44)An excellent team performance overall, a good win, and a Wrighty hattrick to break the goal-scoring record. Quite a good day.
It didn't seem like that when Bolton went ahead with their first serious attack. A cross from their left bounced in the penalty area and was met, on the rise, by a bullet header from Thompson. From the Clock End it looked like a fantastic fingertip save from Seaman had sent it looping over the bar but it became apparent that it had dropped just under the bar.
Arsenal had been totally dominant up till then. Parlour was doing really well down the right (and continued to do so). One run and shot looked like it might fall to Wright after the keeper failed to hold it, but keeper plus defender just managed to stop him getting a clean chance.
Arsenal kept up the pressure after their goal and had practically all of the first half football. Wright's first came after Bergkamp put him through on the right hand side of the penalty area. It looked like he'd taken it too far but he drilled it through the keeper and inside the far post from a narrow angle. A classic Wright goal. Wright's celebration involved Ravanelli-style t-shirt shenanigans, with a Wrighty message: a big "179" and a Nike swoosh, together with a variation on the Nike slogan, "Just done it". Oops, he'd got a bit carried away and revealed the shirt too early (he'd only equalled Bastin's record of 178 at that stage). Fortunately it proved to be more of an omen than a horrible gaffe....
Just 5 minutes later he did establish a new record with one that was more like a classic Lineker goal! A Bergkamp shot was saved but fell in the penalty area and Vieira stretched out one of those unfeasibly long legs to poke it through into the 6-yard box. Wright was on hand to slip the ball into the empty net from point-blank range. It would probably have gone in anyway, but a defender was closing in on it and may have managed to clear.
Parlour was rewarded for his hard work and good runs with the third, a shot from the edge of the area which deflected off a defender and looped into the top left hand corner. Bergkamp had fought for the ball and set him up nicely. Bergkamp didn't have a great game by recent standards, but still supplied the crucial ball for all three of these goals. The man is on a different planet, and was rewarded last week with the Carling Premiership Player of the Month award.
The second half was a little more even, with Bolton getting a lot more chances in the first half of it. But all the shots on target went straight at Seaman, and Blake missed a couple of very good opportunities. Platt and Boa Morte came on for Parlour and Overmars. Platt played well (after wasting his first touch of the ball), and it was his calmness which created the third for Wright. Platt picked up the ball 35 yards out on the right hand side and came in a bit, looking for the right ball. Then he chipped it towards Wright who had lost his man in the box, and the keeper could only help Ian's side-footed volley into the net.
Good performances all round. Parlour was beating people with the ball and using it productively. Petit and Vieira bossed the midfield and both got forward well. On the left Winterburn and Overmars were less effective than Parlour/Dixon on the other side. Overmars has yet to really show his stuff for us but I hope that Bergkamp's slow start for us (compared to now, at least) has taught us to be patient. When Boa Morte came on he had a couple of good runs. He seemed happier taking people on than Overmars but maybe he was being marked less tightly.
After the match Wrighty appeared at the window of the dressing room in Avenell Road, and proceeded to do a bit of a strip-tease. First his t-shirt, then his shirt, socks, shin-pads and shorts were thrown out to the crowd, followed by the golden boots themselves, and finally his pants.
There will be a tribute to Wright 15 minutes before the next home match - so that's 7.45 on Wednesday week. He's back to being flavour-of-the-month again, which we can only hope will help him when it comes to the personal hearing he's requested over the Leicester post-match handbags affair. Apparently the Old Trafford crowd gave him a round of applause when the record-breaking feat was announced at half-time there, and even Spurs fans, ringing radio shows to bemoan their side's confidence-building 3-0 defeat at Filbert St, took time to congratulate Wrighty.
Wins for ManUtd and Chelsea keep them ahead of us but we go above West Ham (ManU's victims 2-1, Hartson scoring the Hammers goal). Blackburn didn't play (update: lost on Sunday at home to Leeds). Leicester once again scored 3 at home against a North London side. But this time the North London side failed to hit the net once. Shock of the day must be Wimbledon's 3-1 at St James's Park.
report by Rupe.
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