Arsenal have time on their side

Arsenal have time on their side

by Clive White of "The Times"


In sports journalism the latest, of course, is always the greatest. Consequently after this impressive Arsenal victory the managers were being asked questions like 'How favourably does the Woodcock-Mariner partnership compare with that of Radford and Kennedy?' and 'Is this the best Arsenal side since the days of Brady and Stapleton?'


Typically, it was only three hours of football earlier that Arsenal were being chastised for their defeat at Nottingham Forest. In truth, Arsenal are a solid, confident, well balanced side who lead the table after just five games. And before it can be assumed that they are Canon League champions-elect, it should be remembered that a lot of the best football on Saturday came from the current holders of that title Liverpool.


But Arsenal did catch the eye. Anderson has settled in and provided a simple answer to their right back problem. He is striding forward on those long, spidery legs as boldly as he ever did at Forest. Don Howe, the Arsenal manager, said Anderson disproved the theory that it was Howe himself who picked England teams. "If I did, he'd be the first person I'd choose."


Talbot, too, given a more forward role, is reaping a personal reward for his prodigious work rate. He is the leading scorer with four goals, two of them free kick benders. Goalscoring midfield workers are a priceless commodity, nowhere more so than in the international market. More importantly, for the future, in the defensive midfield position, the 19-year-old No 7 is slowly adding to the fame of the name of Robson. If the improvement over the next two years is as great as the last two, then Stewart Robson may complete an unusual England trio. His suppression of the awkward Wark was crucial to Arsenal's success on Saturday.


For the first 30 minutes Liverpool were nicely in tune, the ball singing sweetly from one to another and it was all Arsenal could do to hum along. Woodcock, though, was buzzing menacingly around Neal and it usually required the dependable Lawrenson to swat the threat. At a time when both sides should have been tucking in to their oranges, the limping Lawrenson failed to make his tackle on Woodcock and then Molby, struggling for pace, clumsily drove into Nicholas as though he were a dodgem.


Talbot bent the free-kick the same way as he did another in midweek and the half, in which there had been two short stoppages, ended after 49 minutes 19 seconds. If victory had hinged on that, the affable Joe Fagan, the Liverpool manager, might have cloaked his criticisms less heavily. But I doubt it.


His harshest words concerned the "farcical goals" that followed. From a forward's point of view, they were well earned, though Howe admitted they had the luck. Woodcock drove with accuracy for his goal after an Anderson cross and Talbot's move towards a powered header of another Anderson cross began a long way off. Liverpool's reply was a simple one by the persistent Kennedy.


From such a position, Arsenal began to play with fluency and arrogance for which Howe, the supposed regimentarian, yearns. Now it has to be sustained. Liverpool's three bookings (Lee, Molby and Dalglish) may have been an indication of their frustration but it did not reflect their determination which Fagan must stiffen, not to mention the defence.

Copyright - The Times

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