The Sky Blues were
sucked down closer to the relegation zone as a result of this defeat and perhaps more
importantly their Swedish right back Roland Nilsson will play no further part in their
experienced Nilsson, capped 100 times by Sweden, had announced he would retire from
English football at the end of his current contract in June. But his season now appears to
have ended earlier than expected.
He suffered two cracked ribs in an accidental collision with Arsenals French
midfielder Emmanuel Petit and was rushed to hospital with a suspected punctured lung. It
looks as though Marc Edworthy, a long suffering substitute, will play the remaining games
as City fight tooth and nail for Premiership survival.
Coventry, hit badly by suspensions and injuries, carried none of the firepower capable
of upsetting Arsenals assault on Manchester Uniteds leadership at the top of
They were without Noel Whelan and John Aloisi through suspensions and George Boateng
and Paul Williams through injuries, while their influential skipper Gary McAllister was
able to play only after a last minute fitness test.
The Scot had been under extensive medical treatment throughout the week after spraining
his ankle against Blackburn Rovers seven days earlier. But he badly wanted to play because
he has every chance of being recalled to Scotlands team for the international match
against Bosnia on Saturday.
McAllister cruelly missed the World Cup Finals in France because of a torn cruciate
knee ligament, an injury which would have been career threatening only a few years ago.
But the former Leicester City and Leeds United midfielder fought back from surgery and
has shown such good form that Scotlands manager Craig Brown recalled him to the
squad and he has every chance of winning his 51st cap.
But Coventry found they had too many players missing at Highbury. Barry Quinn, a
youngster whom Gordon Strachan forecasts will have a big future in the sport, found
himself alongside McAllister but both are playmakers when maybe a ball winner would have
been more advantageous.
In the middle of the defence Coventry are missing the abrasive qualities of Paul
Williams. He has missed three matches through a problem with his sciatic nerve and Mo
Konjic, who will play for Bosnia against Scotland at the weekend, understandably does not
have the same rapport with Richard Shaw.
It has all conspired to off balance Coventrys working unit. Strachan attempted to
combat the lack of bodies by stringing five players across midfield with Darren Huckerby
ploughing a lonely and exhausting furrow on his own up front.
The plan was exposed in the 16th minute when Ray Parlour celebrated his
England recall by striking the first goal.
Anelkas decoy run to the right of the penalty area drew the defence and Parlour
coolly checked inside David Burrows before shooting low past Magnus Hedman.
The champions were now in dominant mood and Sky Blues were on the receiving end of a
barrage of shots most of which Hedman dealt with in fine style.
But he had no chance ten minutes from the end when Arsenal scored their second goal.
Kanu, on as a late substitute, won the ball from Shaw and slid it sideways to Marc
Overmars. His angled shot made it 2-0.
Coventry had their usual cause for complaint about the refereeing. Steve Froggatt was
clearly impeded by Arsenals goalkeeper David Seaman in the 39th minute,
but referee Paul Alcock waved aside the appeals.
Even Arsenals manager Arsene Wenger thought otherwise. He said:
"At the time I did not think it was a penalty but having seen the replay it does
look like a penalty."
Seaman; Dixon (Ljunberg, 29 mins), Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Parlour, Viera, Petit,
Overmars (Diawara, 84 mins); Bergkamp, Anelka (Kanu, 77 mins)
Subs not used: Bould, Manninger
Hedman; Nilsson (Edworthy, 69 mins), Shaw, Konjic, Burrows; Telfer, Soltvedt (Gioacchini,
77 mins), McAllister, Quinn, Froggatt; Huckerby
Subs not used: Clement, Delorge, Ogrizovic
GOALS: Parlour (16 mins), Overmars (80 mins)
Arsenal - Winterburn (foul, 43 mins)
Coventry Telfer (foul, 26 mins), Konjic (foul, 53 mins)
REFEREE: Paul Alcock (Halstead)