Were the Last Four Years the Worst in Arsenal’s History? by “LRV”
Arsenal joined the old Football League Division 1 (the top flight in English football) in the 1919/20 season. Since then, Arsenal Fans have witnessed the good, not-so-good, poor, not-so-poor, Very good, not-so-bad, bad seasons.
In all of these, one thing remains a source of constant pride to the fans: – The Arsenal is only club in England never to have experienced the pain of relegation since then. This fact fills me with tremendous pride. Even the ‘great’ Man U has seen relegation. This will be our 91st year in the top league. Manchester U are entering year 36.
Another fact that fills me with a sense of pride is that Arsenal is one of the Elite English clubs. We have qualified for the Champions League every year for ten years in succession. We have even won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup on the odd occasions. Currently, we are amongst the elite, top-ten, European clubs. That is not a bad position to be in.
However, there are ‘fans’ who believe that the club is in “crisis”, mainly because the press says so, or because of what the fans of other clubs say. There are even some who believe that the club no longer merits its position in the EPL’s top four. They point to the fact that the club has not won anything in four years as proof that the club is going backwards.
While I am not here to deride these fans, and as interesting as their point of view may be, I feel compelled to ask: – Is this the worst period in Arsenal’s history? Have none of these fans witnessed far worst periods of emptiness in our club’s trophy cabinet?
Sadly, I am forced to answer NO to both questions. Either that or some fans have developed a curious case of amnesia. From the time we joined the top flight in 1919 up to 1930, the club’s performances have ranged from indifferent to ignominious. Yet, we did not lose our status, and the fans at the time endured with the club. They neither turned on the club with derision, nor did they ever stop supporting the team.
Their dedication paid off from 1930 to 1938/39; a nine season period when the club enjoyed vast successes, even in Europe. The club won the league five times. They came second and third once each. These account for seven out of the nine seasons; the remaining two, they came fifth and sixth. The war halted the good fortune in the 1939/40 season when the season was abandoned, with Arsenal likely to have won again.
After the war, things were up and down. For seven seasons from 1946, when the league resumed post war, the club won the league twice and came third once. They even won the league in one of the closest title races ever in 1952/53, beating Preston North End to the title on goal average after finishing level on points. Arsenal took the title on 0.099 of a goal. Incredible! Then the really worst period began.
For 17 seasons, from 1953/54 to 1969/70, the great Arsenal could not even win a cup of water. They changed managers as some have suggested we do now; even took chances and gambled on new blood, as is common these days. Billy Wright, former England and Wolves captain, was appointed as manager in 1962, in spite of his lack of prior association with the club and his lack of managerial experience (a bold, but ultimately unsuccessful step).
To make matters worse for the club, the fierce rivals up the road, the Spuds, won the Double in 1960/61. But the true fans were wonderful. They endured and persisted with the club. Suddenly, out of this nothing, Arsenal won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969/70 but still only managed 12th in the league. That’s the power of true support; people achieve beyond capability. The Fairs Cup win galvanized the team to win the league again in 1970/71.
Agreed many fans of today may not have been born at that time, or may be too young to remember, but it is still the same club that you support today isn’t it? If the fans at that time had “killed off” the club as you want to do now (whether you accept that is what you are doing or not), would you have been able to become its supporter? Think!
The barren period returned from 1971/72 to 1977/78; an eight season period when we couldn’t win even a teabag. The true fans endured again. Even though they had diverse opinion, they united in cheering the team back to glory in the 1978/79 season.
Alas, another barren period of seven seasons from 1979/80 to 1985/86 was to follow, when our dear club could not win itself a cup to even make tea. Yet again, the true fans endured the tag “Boring…, boring… Arsenal”, and still refused to be defeated. We were rewarded with the “1 – 0 to the Arsenal”, George Graham era, when some successes began to come our way again.
Arsenal was a founding member of the FA Premier League, aka EPL, 1992/93. That year, we came 10th but improved to 4th the following year, 1993/94. Come 1994/95, we only managed a magnificent 12th. A dimmer seem to have been put on our shine. But then, Bruce Rioch brought Dennis Bergkamp, the best thing he ever did for the club. Along with Ian Wright & co, they helped move us back to a near respectable 5th in 1995/96 and qualification for Europe on the last day of the season.
Then David Dein brought “Arsene Who?” in 1996. Thus, our present era began. Arsenal began to master the “Wengerball”. Our club gave this country, not just the Arsenal fans, the type of football that some could only dream of, and others could only watch from afar. The worst we have ever done since then is 4th.
So, is the last four years really the worst in Arsenal history?
If you would like to contribute an article for Untold Arsenal please do email me (Tony@hamilton-house.com) I’d particularly like to read memories of one particularly bad season!
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