THE WRIGHT TO BE ARSENAL'S NUMBER 1?
By Benji Romaner
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The 23-year-old goalkeeper proved to be more than an adequate replacement for David Seaman, as Arsenal secured a priceless win over Group C leaders Panathinaikos.
While Thierry Henry may have been the Gunners' match-winner with two goals, Wright was not far behind with a superb penalty stop from Greek midfielder Angelo Basinas and an all-round commanding performance that had the Highbury faithful signing his praises.
Seaman, currently sidelined with a shoulder injury may find it difficult to dislodge his younger rival when he recovers and player performance analysts Opta Index decided to compare and contrast the duos form in the Premiership this season.
Wright, who left Ipswich for £6 million in July to have an opportunity of playing in more high-profile tournaments like the Champions League, has been very impressive since coming into the side last month.
He has yet to be beaten in the league this season, keeping clean sheets in consecutive away wins at Derby and Southampton. Although Seaman may have kept two shutouts, his saves to shots ratio of 71% is inferior to Wright's.
One aspect of Wright's game that Arsenal fans were impressed with against Panathinaikos was his decisiveness in anticipating the situation. Often lone striker Emanuel Olisadebe broke down the left-hand side but the goalkeeper was quick to see the danger signs and came rushing out of his goal to snuff out the threat with a timely interception or even at a confident header.
A criticism of Seaman has been that he can often stay rooted to his goal line and he is not the commanding figure he once was. And Opta can back this statement up with the fact that Wright has a perfect catch success rate, while his older counterpart has only caught 82% of high balls into his box.
However in Seaman's defence in his six Premiership appearances he has made nine catches - five more than Wright. In addition the more experienced keeper has been more accurate with his distribution. Seaman has picked out a colleague with just under two-thirds of his throws and kicks - while the former Ipswich man has only found his new teammates with 59% of his distribution.
Although this can be attributed to the fact that the Wright favours the longer punt while the 38-year-old keeper relies on a short pass to one of his central defenders.
While Wright is obviously the long-term successor to Seaman who has served the Gunners with distinction for over 11 years, it presents a nice problem at present for Arsene Wenger to have two high-quality goalkeepers battling it out for the number one spot.