Barnsley 0 Arsenal 2
Dennis Bergkamp produced another majestic strike from his inventive
goal-scoring repertoire to nudge Arsenal one more step nearer a quite fantastic
Fellow Dutchman Marc Overmars added a second and now only a miracle, it seems,
can stop domestic soccer's most glittering prize going to London.
This convincing victory puts Arsenal four points clear of Manchester United at
the top of the Premiership with a game in hand.
And surely no-one, other than those who still claim the Earth is flat, could
possibly believe the Premiership title is not on its way to Highbury.
Sadly, there would be few people also prepared to wager on brave Barnsley not
returning to the First Division after one roller-coaster season.
This was Arsenal's ninth successive victory, they have scored 14 goals in
their last four games and bizarrely this win secured their first league points
at Oakwell since 1902.
But mere statistics do not do justice to the manner of Arsenal's charge.
They have surged through the Premiership these past few months in much the
same fashion that the April floods have devastated parts of the south-east.
At times they have resembled less a football team, more a force of nature.
And on the way they are collecting a whole army of new fans. At the end even
the Oakwell fans stood and generously applauded the champions-elect. How times
Where Arsenal were once boring they are now frequently breathtaking, where
once they were branded 'lucky', now they perform with a lustre which is a credit
to their intelligent manager Arsene Wenger and the astute men who brought him to
In the face of such a force few teams can survive - little Barnsley, brave and
valiant to the last, never really stood a chance.
And though the Yorkshiremen held out until the 24th minute when the first
rapier thrust came it was fast and efficient.
A Bergkamp jink left Barnsley central defender Adie Moses floundering inthe
wilderness. His fellow defender Arjan de Zeeuw was lost somewhere in the
direction of the nearby Pennines and then with a wonderful swagger Bergkamp sent
his exquisite curling shot sailing beyond David Watson into the Barnsley net.
It was a goal of quite bewildering brilliance, Bergkamp's 22nd of the season
and entirely appropriate that it should come from the PFA Player of the Year.
It was also the spark which ignited the Arsenal fire after a tentative start.
Perhaps the midweek international exertions of so many of Arsenal's squad had
dulled their legs and maybe the edge of their appetite.
The Bergkamp wake-up call, however, had its effect and a sweeping 34th-minute
move carved through the Barnsley rearguard with Bergkamp, Nicolas Anelka and
Patrick Vieira finally setting up Overmars for the easiest chance of the match
which he inexplicably put wide from 10 yards.
From then on watching Barnsley was rather like waiting for a dam to burst.
They creaked, they groaned - but how they battled.
Barnsley's first season in the Premiership may have been turbulent, but if
they fall, as surely now they must, then each and every player can go out with
heads held high.
Their grit and determination was admirable and while Arsenal's superior
quality was undeniable, at times just like England in midweek they were indebted
to David Seaman.
The big goalkeeper, who comes from just up the road in Rotherham, made two
fabulous first-half saves - one low down to his left from Jan Aage Fjortoft and
the other a thundering 25-yard rocket from Welsh international wing-back Darren
And while Barnsley boss Danny Wilson sent on Ashley Ward for Clint Marcelle in
the second-half his one contribution was to try to punch the ball into the net
Maradona-style - an action which quickly saw him enter referee Mike Riley's
From then it was largely one-way traffic. Anelka's 65th-minute shot was
blocked and from the rebound the French striker's header hit the crossbar.
A typically surging 60-yard run from Vieira saw him blaze a powerful drive
just over the bar.
And then, with the immaculate Emmanuel Petit and Vieira running midfield,
David Platt - in for the suspended Ray Parlour - conjured up a delightful
through ball for the speedy Overmars to take on and despatch a clinical shot
below the advancing Watson.
It was rather like the killing blow which sees a cat put a mouse out of its
It is a touch premature to talk of this being one of the great Arsenal sides.
Certainly, there is much silverware to rake in to match the great title-winning
Gunners sides of the Thirties.
However, they play with a style and panache to rival the Double winning side
of 1971 and in the last three months their challenge has sustained an excellence
and exuberance which could easily eclipse the pragmatic George Graham years.
That is why the Barnsley faithful stood and applauded at the end. It
wasexciting, entertaining and at times compelling in its quality.
In short, the stuff of champions.
Barnsley: Watson, Eaden, Moses, De Zeeuw, Redfearn,
Marcelle (Ward 51), Bullock, Jones, Tinkler (Bosancic 65),
Barnard, Fjortoft (Hendrie 75).
Subs Not Used: Liddell, Leese.
Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Vieira, Adams, Platt,
Anelka (Wreh 75), Bergkamp, Overmars, Keown, Petit.
Subs Not Used: Bould, Grimandi, Hughes, Lukic.
Booked: Petit, Winterburn.
Goals: Bergkamp 23, Overmars 76.
Ref: M A Riley (Leeds).