Why couldn’t we win all our matches?
Invincible? It was considered unachievable in the modern game, because English football was so competitive. Every year low teams beat top teams, not to mention that you had to beat the top teams as well. Of course you could draw, but if you drew every match you are flirting with relegation. Once 3 points for a win came in in 1981, they became they only real currency to trade in. George Graham never made any bold prediction like Arsene Wenger did, but if you examine what Wenger actually said was that no top manager ever plans to draw and no manager ever plans to lose. He said he aims to win every match. I am sure Ferguson, Dalglish, Clough and others felt the same. I have no doubt George Graham was the same. So I left you last time with us unbeaten in October with a fairly lucky win at Old Trafford. 6 wins and 3 draws and behind Liverpool.
At that stage Liverpool had one of their best spells ever, winning match after match. It was hard to see us being champions. Last season we were 4th, a distant 17 points away from Liverpool. It is hard to imagine nowadays what you had to do to beat them. These days so many fans are dreaming of billionaire owners coming in to the clubs and buying them success. Chelsea were the first such, in England. Man City popped up later, Leicester now as well. The traditional big clubs, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, who had hoovered up in their existence a huge chunk of all trophies ever won in England, also succumbed to the allure of the billionaires. Everton and Spurs also, who were the next layer of top level clubs, are now part of the rich clubs and can believe they can compete.
It was better for the smaller teams
Tradition at that time meant you could attract the top players, yes, but unlike nowadays, once the first 11 was set, it was hard to get a game. So top players went elsewhere meaning that late developers, or players who found a nice groove at a new club, or those who kept improving with age and experience, could strengthen lower clubs and they could challenge. Aston Villa, Notts Forest, Derby and others were proof of this. But it is undeniable that Liverpool, Man U and Arsenal had an advantage in terms of attracting players, revenue and expectations. Liverpool the more so as succeeding there guaranteed trophies. But still they could only put 11 on the pitch and all supporters could rattle off the starting 11’s of most teams. Try doing that now?
George Graham only thought of winning
George Graham, I believe, wanted to win all matches and that is pretty much what we did after beating Man Utd on Oct 20th. 6 wins and a draw ending with a win 3-0 over Liverpool at Highbury to end their unbeaten run on Dec 2nd. Merson, Dixon and Smith rattled in the 3 goals to announce that we are Arsenal, we send even the greatest home to Liverpool crying all the way. Kenny Dalglish was feeling the pressure and wasn’t looking very happy but they were still the target and ahead. It took us until well into January to go top with a win over Everton on Jan 19th. We were still unbeaten.
A Car Crash to crash our Season?
But there was a huge dark cloud hanging over us. Our talisman, our leader, Tony Adams, was a man who loved to drink. He got banged up in jail on December 19th not long after beating Liverpool. Excessive drink driving and a car crash left him behind bars for 2 months. He was disgraced and our club was thrown into shock. We still had top centrebacks in O’Leary and Bould, and Andy Linighan had been signed. But we were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea on 2nd February to end our invincible run. Of course we didn’t know it then but we were not to be beaten again in the league that season.
Oh My God, Tony! What have you done?
We would go on to be out of sight, the 2 points deducted at Man Utd sunk into irrelevance as we showed the world that we could do it again. Twice champions in 3 seasons. Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish seemed mesmerized by us. We beat them again 1-0 at Anfield on 3rd March to emphasise our superiority. Dalglish had just quit a few days before that match and it really did feel like Liverpool were no longer the team of old.
The end of a Red Empire signals the start of a different Red era?
We didn’t know it then, but the Ancien Régime had crumbled. The empire was led into darkness by Graeme Souness and it was a long time before they troubled the top of the table again. But as I say, we didn’t know that then. They had tradition, finances, expectations, and the ability to attract the top players. Certainly in those days, that did not mean guaranteed success. You needed that extra spark and we had it in George Graham. Now we were ready, now we were Arsenal. We were the boys to beat.
Even the great Kenny Dalglish walked away from the fight.
Looking at the table, Palace were 3rd and Leeds were 4th but a long way back from our 83 points. I really felt now we could dominate. I looked at the rest and said, we can beat them. I had never felt that before. None frightened me. Not like when we had won the double and I definitely felt Liverpool and Leeds were better. Now, there was no one better. We were the champs. We just needed to bite down on the others and show them who was boss.
Graham showed Wenger the way
One defeat by Chelsea. One time our concentration had slipped. Arsene Wenger would have been saying I want to emulate George Graham instead of being laughed at. It was a great season, though, and maybe the only time as an Arsenal fan that I truly felt we were better than the rest, because even in the superb Wenger days, Ferguson kept coming back off the floor to knock us out. We never quite managed to dominate them. But back then we had Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, O’Leary, Bould, Linighan, Rocastle, Thomas, Davis, Merson, Smith and Limpar and others who could walk into most teams. I couldn’t see anyone to frighten us. We were the best and almost the invincibles. Win all our matches? Surely that was the aim of George Graham?
Oh, and by the way, we knocked 6 past Man U in the League Cup, 6 against Coventry in the League, 5 against Villa, and 4 against Palace and Chelsea alongside several 3 goal matches. Boring, boring Arsenal, I don’t think so. And only six 1-0 to the Arsenal all season in all competitions. Next season was to be looked forward to. Back in the European Cup, could we win that as well? We were good, very good.
The Invincible`49 !!! Our 1990-91 team were almost Invincible before this great team !!!
And maybe this team was better !?
61 Max points total
Well, Everton did it to us. Our last real hope of qualifying for Europe via the league is most likely gone. It is all or nothing in the Europa league. Can we do it? Yes, we can. C’mon Arsenal.