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They stopped Arsenal from scoring 1992/93 part 2 As I said last time, this was the first time that football had ever been played. All the previous years of my life was a mirage, a dusty cloth-capped vision in which I imagined all the trips to the grounds, peering at black and white screens, and horsing down the drink as I cheered on the Arsenal. But Sky had given us the new improved version with greed at its core and we lapped it up, eventually. But that was the story of last week, this week I will delve into Arsenal’s first year in the glittering Sky invention. It was not good. We finished 10th with 56 points and couldn’t score goals. 40! That’s all we could manage! In 42 games. Ian Wright scored 15 of them despite the addition of John Jensen. Maybe he was missing his good buddy David Rocastle who was sold on to Leeds for reasons that I was never sure about. The backpass rule had its impact for sure. What to do when your tried and trusted method lets you down? When the football authorities decide you are boring boring Arsenal and stop the way you play? John Jensen linked well with Mr Wright But they couldn't stop Ian Wright Well, what we did was play well in the cups. Wrighty did better there as well. He also got 15 in far less matches to bring him up to a respectable 30. Wrighty was never our problem. And so to the League Cup. First up was Millwall and we struggled both legs at 1-1 with the underrated Kevin Campbell scoring both times. It meant penalties after extra time and Lee Dixon stood up for the first. He was our penalty taker and very reliable so he should have frightened them. Maybe the fact that he had scored an own goal earlier gave them heart and meant that he didn’t! Kasey Keller produced a great save and my heart sank. I find penalty shootouts hard to watch but missing the first is even worse. But David Seaman was unstoppable almost that day. He saved the first to level things up and Ian Dawes knocked one past him for the second but that was it. We won 3-1 and it ended up one of our easiest shootouts. My heart could beat again. Until Derby in the next round. They seemed to be all over us with our defence kicking them all the time and Seaman producing save after save but we fashioned a replay 1-1. We beat them 2-1 at Highbury this time and we were 2-0 up very quickly. They got one back with a penalty but we had done enough. Did it end at Scarborough? 1-0 to the Arsenal at Scarborough next time with the pitch a quagmire and Scarborough’s jersey is very like Arsenal’s so it was a bit confusing to watch particularly with the heavy fog. But Nigel Winterburn scored and we were through. Forest next with a young Roy Keane playing under Brian Clough. But he couldn’t stop Ian Wright scoring 2 magnificent goals and we won 2-0. Then Palace in the 2 legged semi-final. We had a good season against Palace beating them twice in the league and twice here. 3-1 in the first leg at Palace with Ian Wright and Alan Smith (2). Then 2-0 in the second with Ian Wright again and Andy Linighan. On to Sheffield Wednesday in the final. They were good then with plenty of top players like Mark Bright, David Hirst and Chris Waddle. But the match is synonymous with Steve Morrow. We won 2-1 and he scored but Tony Adams lifted him up at the end and he fell, broke his arm and that was the end of his season. It sparked umpteen newspaper hardlines but was truly dreadful for Steve Morrow. He never really seemed to get his place back after that. But a difficult season so far had given us a cup. Getting into cup finals has always been a strong suit for the Arsenal. Our Trophy? Of course it's ours And the FA Cup? Our trophy? We had Yeovil to start, the famed giantkillers. But they didn’t kill us giants. Ian Wright whacked in a hattrick including a delightful lobbed goal that sticks in my memory as we won 3-1. Ian Wright could score a goal by himself, similar to Henry and Bergkamp, he didn’t always need assists like a lot of strikers. As I have said in a previous blog, Lineker and Shearer blocked his path to many more England caps but I truly believe he was better than either of those. They needed providers. I liked him long before he became an Arsenal player and a compilation of his best goals will always include that one. Next up was Leeds at Highbury, the champions but struggling this season. We were without Ian Wright who was enjoying the cups but was suspended for this one. Gary Speed did a cheeky dink past Seaman to score the first for Leeds and then Lee Chapman scrambled another in. It looked bleak but it’s only Ray Parlour slotted one home and then Paul Merson hit a screamer to give us the draw. On to Elland Road for the replay but Ian Wright returned to score 2 and set up the other for Alan Smith. John Lukic for Leeds probably should have done better but we weren’t complaining. Why did we sell David Rocastle? On to Ipswich and Ian Wright was bang in form again creating and scoring a penalty, then scoring another that was credited as an own goal but he really made it happen. Tony Adams and Kevin Campbell got the others for 4-2. A Sweet 1-0 Hello, the Spuds next and it was time to show them who was boss. Paul Merson chipped in a free kick, Tony Adams stole in and headed it in to send the Spuds home crying and we once again proved we were the Arsenal. 1-0 to the Arsenal is always sweet on the Seven Sisters road. Sheffield Wednesday again in the final. I doubt if that has happened before or since but as I have said, they were good then. They were probably the better team on the day as David Seaman produced some great saves but Ian Wright our talisman scored first before David Hirst, their talisman, finally managed to beat Dave Seaman and a replay was next. They shouldn't have given us a second chance This was much better with both sides creating chances until Ian Wright scored. Then Chris Waddle got one in from a deflection by Lee Dixon. It went to extra time and was just about to go to penalties when Paul Merson whacked in a corner. Andy Linighan, who was carrying an injury from earlier in the match rose high to knock it in and we were the winners again, a rare double of both cups and even rarer against the same team with the same score 2-1. Honestly, I felt a bit sorry for Wednesday, they had a good side and they don’t get many chances at such things. But we had done it again. Poor Mark Bright. His good friend Ian Wright broke his heart twice The league was poor though as I have said. Highlights were few. We beat Palace and Coventry 3-0 and Southampton 4-3. I guess we could argue that we were kings of London despite finishing below QPR and the Spuds. David O’Leary finished up that season with a record number of appearances, 722, which will probably never be beaten. He scarcely featured and moved on to Leeds. Why is there no statue? And Ian Wright notched up 50 goals in 68 appearances this season as well. A testimonial but no statue A strange season, all the same. The 2 cup wins were fantastic and showed great resilience but the league form was poor. I put it down to the backpass rule as the team looked discommoded in the league whereas, as you have to win a cup match, they played with more freedom. The cups wins gave me hope, that eternal emotion of a football fan. Next season we would be back to winning the league. I was sure of it. A freak accident for Steve Morrow epitomised our season!
The aftermath of greatness The mystical double had been achieved. Arsenal and Spurs were the only teams to date to have done it. Arsenal, though, at the time, did not have any players who were regarded as first choice internationals, and many who never got a cap. This was a time when the international team mattered more than club sides to most fans. Arsenal fans, who, to this day, can still sing out the names of Charlie George, George Graham, George Armstrong, and even players without George in their name such as Bob Wilson, Ray Kennedy, John Radford, Frank McLintock and Peter Simpson, may not realise that they were eclipsed by famous players from other teams. Other teams, Manchester United with Best, Law and Charlton, Leeds with Giles, Bremner, Clarke, Hunter, Liverpool with Toshack, Callaghan, and Heighway, Manchester City with Bell, Lee and Summerbee and Everton with Labone, Royle and Alan Ball had players at the top of their game. We had none. Not one. The Arsenal double winners of 1971 We made a big statement But then we bought Alan Ball, crucial to England, World Cup winner and one of the best midfielders in the world. We broke the British transfer record at 220,000 pounds sterling. Now we had a top player. And we were the double kings. We had young players coming through like Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson, and Peter Marinello had been signed as the next George Best. We were surely ready to take our place as the top team in England. But as can happen with the Arsenal, something like what happened with the Invincibles years later, happened. Just as we were ready to kick the ass off all other teams, we went backwards. We didn’t do much in the League cup being dumped out by Sheffield United in November after a replay. We were doing pretty good in the league, though, and retaining our title was certainly possible. A lot of teams were bunched together and maybe we could do it again, sneak ahead at the end. The extraordinary Johan Cruyff Playing against total football and the Ides of March We were in the European Cup, of course. As with today, it was the glamour trophy to win. You had to be the champions. In those days, Europe had far fewer countries. Much less matches were played. We hammered Strømsgodset from Norway in round 2, our first round. Then destroyed Grasshoppers from Switzerland in the next. Unluckily we came up against Ajax in the quarterfinals in March. They were the champions of Europe and one of the best teams of all time. Johan Cruyff, Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens and Arie Haan were some of the standouts. Total football had arrived but we played well, though beaten by one goal both home and away. We gave them tough games and they went on to win it again that year against Inter. What Ajax were doing with football was amazing. March was a bad month for us just as it was for Julius Caesar. We were beaten easily enough three games in a row in the league by Manchester City, Leeds United and Newcastle. The European impact. In what was one of the tightest leagues of the time, that destroyed our hopes. Derby, under the miraculous Brian Clough, won with 58 points. Man City, Leeds and Liverpool had 57. We ended fifth with 52 so you can see the effect those 3 losses had. March finished our season. Or did it? Or were we still Arsenal? We were still fighting We did have the FA cup. But, as always with the Arsenal, we had to fight the hard way. Swindon, our nemesis from 1969, were dispatched 2-0 in round 3. Reading 2-1 in round 4. Then 3 tough matches against Derby, who would win the league. But after the second replay, we won 1-0. Those 3 matches were played in March as well, if we can consider the 29th February as really the 1st of March. Then we had Orient in the quarterfinals, also in March, and we won 1-0. March just seemed to be match after match, against top teams, and except the win against Derby, only beating minor ones. But we battled. We were Arsenal and we got through to April and the semifinal against Stoke. They made us play another match but we did it in the replay, 2-1 with Charlie George and John Radford stretching the net for us. The final was against Leeds. We had stolen the title from them the year before. This was their best ever team even up to now. And they had never won the cup before. They were full of superb players at the top of their game, being mostly first choice internationals. They had a world cup winner in Jack Charlton, but hey, so had we, in Alan Ball. (Both sadly passed on) Maybe, though, it was the hard season, all the replays, or maybe it was hard to keep our players playing above themselves as they had been doing so often. The final wasn’t great. Leeds were better and scored through Clarke early enough in the second half. We couldn’t really threaten them and a poor final petered out. They were a tough physical side, known for their intimidatory tactics. Charlie George, John Radford and Ray Kennedy, were easily held by them. Leeds won with that goal and won the cup for the first time. Alan Clarke of Leeds who destroyed our final hope of glory The last promise of glory was gone. But that team was going to make way for a new one with plenty of Arsenal youngsters waiting in the wings to grab their chance. The Irish were coming. And a different chapter was about to be written.