RICHARD TO PROVE WENGER WRIGHT?
By Tim Wheal
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Arsene Wenger believes that Wright will prove an excellent replacement for veteran David Seaman and will be able to put his slip that allowed Gustavo Poyet's shot to beat him for the equaliser at the weekend behind him:
"He has strength of character and talent. He has a calm character and is in the right frame of mind for the La Coruna match."
With the young 'keeper facing Deportivo in the Riazor stadium, now would be an opportune time for the former Ipswich stopper to make good on his manager's boast - especially with their Dutch hitman Roy Makaay grabbing a hat-trick at the weekend.
A delve into the Opta database, however, doesn't make great reading for the £6 million custodian. Both he and Seaman have played the same number of matches this season in the Premiership and in Europe, but so far it is the master rather than his apprentice who comes out on top in key categories.
In all competitions this season Seaman has kept out 71% of opposition strikes at his goal, which is a respectable ratio in comparison to his peers. Wright, on the other hand has managed to beat away just 56% of shots that have come his way, giving him one of the worst records both domestically and on the continent.
More worryingly though, Wright has only stopped a meagre 44% of efforts on his goal in the 2001-02 Champions League, which makes him the worst shot-stopper in the tournament. In fact he has pulled off just four saves compared to Seaman's 10 in the competition, although to Wright's credit one of those was the crucial penalty save from Angelos Bassinas at home to Panathinaikos that helped the Gunners on their way to a vital 2-1 victory.
Wright's handling may have been slightly better in Europe compared to Seaman's but overall it has left a little to be desired. The 24-year-old has caught just 78% of the crosses and corners he has attempted to pluck from the air and he will need to keep his concentration in the intimidating surroundings of a packed Riazor.
Given Arsenal's woeful record on the road in the Champions League in the last couple of seasons, Wright and his colleagues are sure to feel under pressure going into Wednesday night's clash. The ex-Ipswich star will need to stand firm against a potential onslaught which, considering only two teams have had more shots on target than Deportivo in the competition, seems inevitable.
If he can, Wenger's words will have been fully justified.