By David Alexander
If Dennis Bergkamp harboured any disappointment about his penalty miss in last week's FA Cup final, the reaction of the Highbury crowd should have made him realise defeat was collective, not individual.
Before the game and in its opening stages, chants of "There's only one Dennis Bergkamp" and of course, "We've got Dennis Bergkamp." No better vote of confidence could have been given to one of the world's truly great footballing talents.
And the Dutchman played his part in a comfortable Arsenal victory which keeps the
pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table.
While United sauntered to victory last weekend against Sheffield Wednesday, Arsenal
needed a good win to raise morale and get back into winning form.
Arsene Wenger said afterwards: "That was one of our best performances of the season
and we dominated the game, creating plenty of chances.
"I expected a reaction and the question mark was how deeply we were psychologically
hurt and how well we could react.
"I would have settled for 1-0 and three points but I was delighted with the score."
But tension is Arsenal's second biggest problem after Manchester United in their bid to remain the title. Although this display hardly began shakily, the longer it went without a goal, the more Wimbledon gained in confidence, with Marcus Gayle in particular posing some questions of the defence.
And there was not quite the fluidity of passing the team have been capable of under
Arsene Wenger. Too many shots were forced, too few bodies getting in the Wimbledon
box and passes often off-target, unbefitting of this Gunners side.
And Bergkamp started the game determined to give the fans a goal, forcing Wimbledon
keeper Neil Sullivan to tip the ball over the bar from his 20 yard shot.
From the subsequent corner, Tony Adams headed Ray Parlour's corner back across goal
and Patrick Vieira volleyed way over from inside the six yard box.
Parlour twice had chances to give Arsenal the lead midway through the first half. He played a deft one-two with Kanu, who backheeled into the England man's path and
Sullivan saved well. Then Parlour picked up a pass from Nelson Vivas, and blasted just over the bar with Sullivan beaten from 10 yards.
And it was Super Ray who finally broke the Dons down. Marc Overmars burst down the
left, pulled the ball back from the byline and Parlour slid the ball home.
You could feel the relief around Highbury.
Vieira made amends for his earlier miss and virtually sealed the game five minutes into
the second half, blasting the ball low past Sullivan after a fine interception and run by
The Gunners were cruising. "Boring Boring Arsenal" came the chant as three goals in five minutes lifted the anxiety and crushed sorry Wimbledon.
Bergkamp played a part in the first two, curling a cross to the back post which a
combination of Kanu and Wimbledon defender Ben Thatcher bundled it over the line.
Two minutes later Manu Petit missed an Overmars pass and Bergkamp rounded Alan
Kimble before blasting home.
Straight from the re-start Kanu payed the ball to Vieira and the Nigerian picked up his own pass, knocking the ball into the net at the back post. It was too easy.
But we took our foot off the pedal, the result not in doubt and energy sensibly saved. Carl Cort got one back 20 minutes from time when the Gunners defence
uncharacteristically went to sleep, which hopefully won't be too vital in the title race, if it come down to goal difference.
Wenger added: "The result keeps us away from Leeds and we will just try to keep the
pressure on United. We showed we can win again and we don't give up."
But twice Arsenal have put five past the stubborn Dons - and both seasons they have gone on to win the title. United watch out...