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This is the worst Arsenal season in 25 years. But can we do what we did back then?

By Tony Attwood

And so the noisy fans with their little banners and rather small protest marches have had their way.  Two managers out and millions upon millions upon millions spent on players – just as they demanded.  And for what?

Well, in order to get us seven points above relegation

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 21 20 1 0 50 14 36 61
2 Manchester City 23 15 3 5 64 27 37 48
3 Leicester City 22 14 3 5 47 21 26 45
4 Chelsea 23 12 3 8 39 30 9 39
5 Manchester United 22 9 7 6 36 25 11 34
6 Wolverhampton Wanderers 23 8 10 5 34 30 4 34
7 Sheffield United 23 8 9 6 25 22 3 33
8 Tottenham Hotspur 23 8 7 8 36 31 5 31
9 Crystal Palace 23 7 9 7 22 26 -4 30
10 Arsenal 23 6 11 6 30 32 -2 29
11 Everton 23 8 5 10 26 33 -7 29
12 Newcastle United 23 8 5 10 22 34 -12 29
13 Southampton 23 8 4 11 29 42 -13 28
14 Brighton and Hove Albion 23 6 7 10 26 31 -5 25
15 Burnley 22 7 3 12 24 37 -13 24
16 West Ham United 22 6 5 11 26 34 -8 23
17 Watford 23 5 8 10 20 34 -14 23
18 Aston Villa 23 6 4 13 29 44 -15 22
19 AFC Bournemouth 23 5 5 13 20 36 -16 20
20 Norwich City 23 4 5 14 23 45 -22 17

One point above the position regularly cited as our worst in modern times: 1994/5.

That season we came 12th but got to the Cup Winners Cup final.  So on that basis maybe we’ll get to the Europa final again!

The point is that the oft-quoted 1994/5 (as in “this is the worst season since 1994/5”) really was the definitive turning point after the disaster of the end of George Graham, for after that we came 5th (the Rioch year), 3rd (the first Wenger year) and 1st (the second double season, with Wenger’s first trophies).

And yes there is the further comparison because at that time we got rid of two managers – Graham, then Rioch, and then brought in Mr Wenger – just as we have been doing of late in getting rid of Wenger and Emery.

So maybe it can work… maybe we are following a tried and tested pattern.   After all Mr Wenger brought in loads of players, although not quite so many at such high fees.

Let’s take a look at our comparison point: 13 January 1995…  Here’s the league table at the time with Arsenal having played 23 games…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Blackburn Rovers 22 16 4 2 49 18 31 52
2 Manchester United 23 15 4 4 44 19 25 49
3 Liverpool 23 13 6 4 44 19 25 45
4 Nottingham Forest 23 12 6 5 36 23 13 42
5 Newcastle United 22 11 7 4 40 24 16 40
6 Tottenham Hotspur 23 10 6 7 39 34 5 36
7 Leeds United 22 9 6 7 29 27 2 33
8 Norwich City 23 9 6 8 21 23 -2 33
9 Wimbledon 23 9 5 9 28 37 -9 32
10 Sheffield Wednesday 23 8 7 8 30 31 -1 31
11 Manchester City 23 8 6 9 33 38 -5 30
12 Chelsea 22 8 5 9 29 30 -1 29
13 Arsenal 23 7 7 9 26 26 0 28
14 Queens Park Rangers 22 7 6 9 34 38 -4 27

23 games played and 28 points gained with a goal difference of zero, as compared to now with 29 points and a goal difference of minus 2.

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We carried on in a similar vein that season and were never in danger of going down, largely because of the ineptitude of other clubs, in particular Leicester and Ipswich who were dead and gone long before the end of the season.

To understand that season however we have to go back to 21 January 1995 when George Graham was relieved of his duties having been found guilty of taking an illegal payment (which he immediately repaid).  He left the club in 11th position, 23 points behind the league leaders of the day and already out of the FA Cup.

That was, exactly like now, an era of escalating transfer fees in which the English transfer record was broken three times in a year.  The last of the three was Liverpool’s £8.4 million for Stan Collymore of Nottingham Forest.

This figure puts in context Arsenal’s own mega-transfer: £7.5 million for Dennis Bergkamp from InterMilan.   Newcastle paid QPR £6m for Les Ferdinand.  Bergkamp went on to play 315 times for Arsenal, and won the league three times and the cup four times.  The more expensive Collymore played 64 times for Liverpool before being sold to Aston Villa.

On 8 June 1995 Bruce Rioch was appointed manager of Arsenal, moving from Bolton.  In 1994/5 Bolton were losing League Cup finalists, and beat Reading in the Division One play off. They are now in League One, and it is said Bolton supporters think of Rioch as one of their best managers.

As Bruce Rioch arrived at Arsenal and became manager Stewart Houston resigned from his post as temporary manager.  Rioch lasted just one season and managed to get Arsenal into a European slot on the final day of the season, before being sacked.

Then on 21 June 1995 Dennis Bergkamp arrived from Inter where he had played just 52 league games.  Through 1994/5 he had been attacked by the press in Italy where a column highlighting the worst mistake of the weekend’s games was named Bergkamp della settimana.  The transfer is widely believed to have been the work of David Dein.

On 30 June 1995 Kevin Campbell transferred from Arsenal to Nottingham Forest who were European Champions while on 6 July 1995 Jimmy Carter left on a free transfer for Portsmouth.  Having come from an unsuccessful spell at Liverpool he played just 25 times in four years for Arsenal and had had two loan spells at Oxford. We were having a clearout.

10 July 1995, David Platt arrived from Sampdoria for £4.75m.  Platt said that he met Rioch who had been on holiday in Portugal and they “hit it off straight away” which is perhaps not the most scientific way of recruiting new players

On 12 July 1995 George Graham was found guilty of receiving a £425,000 payment from agent Rune Hauge following the purchase of John Jensen and Pål Lydersen.  He was banned for one year by the FA.

The clearout then continued as on 12 July 1995 Stefan Schwarz transferred to Fiorentina.  He had played 34 league games for Arsenal and later played for Valencia and Sunderland.  It is said that Sunderland inserted a clause in his contract that said that he could not travel into space but that may just have been newspaper talk.

After that on 19 July 1995 Alan Smith announced his retirement.  Between 1987 and 1995 he played 264 league games for Arsenal, scoring 86 goals.  He went on to have a career as a commentator and reporter making a habit of being very critical of Arsenal players.  After he wrote one highly critical piece he was sacked from his position working as a player interviewer for Arsenal’s own publications.  It was his imminent departure that caused the move for Bergkamp.

So we we survived, had a clearing out, had a manager who lasted a year and then the glories began.   Maybe we can do it again, but if so the question is, is Arteta the new Wenger, or is the new Wenger yet to arrive?   Or much more worrying, is there no new Wenger to be had?

10 comments to This is the worst Arsenal season in 25 years. But can we do what we did back then?

  • Les Martin ( LeMmy )

    Perhaps Forest were European Champions – just not in 1995 …
    Just saying…

  • Brickfields Gunners

    We are in transition admitedly , of our own
    making.
    While it is going to take some time to properly right the good ship SS Arsenal , I like to think that we are on our way to even keel.
    I thought that we did play well last night and should have wrapped up the game long before they hit back.
    Our youngsters give me much hope that they will move up the gears with more game time.
    Most of us senior supporters have been through this , as Tony highlighted here , as well in the mid seventies, during Mee’s tenure.
    Am not sure about the mental health of those that came in during the Wenger years.
    Those who had received instant gratification and joy in watching the beautiful game played with such panache and freedom.
    Our fortunes will again change for the better , just keep the faith , and cheer this team on .
    Up the Gunners !

  • Steve Vallins

    As the season progressed under Emery’s guidance ( or lack of ) I couldn’t see where our next win would come from .
    Arteta is doing a fantastic job considering what he’s having to change , I’m sure we will start to get what we deserve in the form of results soon , work in progress .

  • Arteta, has already immeasurably improved us. He’s spent the last couple of years shadowing the best manager in the world. We’ll come good next year.

  • Mandy Dodd

    I suspect Arteta will do very well for us given time, to the point where we will struggle to keep him unless the owner really backs him. Wengers loyalty is unusual in this game
    Arteta is destined for big things, I really hope some will be with us

  • blacksheep

    another way to look at this Tony might be to say that continually supporting the team and the manager, not crayoning banners or flying them from planes, or broadcasting on amateur YouTube channels, or creating hashtag campaigns has resulted in Arsenal sacking one legendary manager from which the shine had long rubbed off, and one incompetent manager who was never up to the job. The millions spent would have been spent regardless, as they tend to be every year (if not always in such huge amounts) and a string of good/bad/indifferent players recruited.

    You know I was loath to see Wenger go but recognised that, if only for him, his time was probably up. I was happy to give Emery a chance and I never publicly called for his head, but he wasn’t able to take the necessary steps to improve a failing side. He should have gone ages ago. I wanted an established manager with vision but am very happy with what I see from Arteta so far.

    Will we finish in the top 4 this season? Of course not. Can we finish in the top 4 next season? I see no reason why not. Will the board back Arteta in the summer window, and can we have the sort of clear out that we clearly need? I hope so.

    We had to make a change and I don’t give the credit (or the blame) for that to a bunch of so-called fans who shout the loudest.

  • Nitram

    Blacksheep

    I agree with every word you say….almost.

    I’m not sure I agree with the following though:

    “…..and can we have the sort of clear out that we clearly need?”

    Depends what do you mean by ‘clear-out’?

    I’m only asking because the term ‘clear-out’ infers the removal of a lot of what’s in place and if that’s what you mean I don’t agree.

    I feel, and did when Emery was in place, that this squad is easily top 4 quality and doesn’t need a ‘clear-out’ at all.

    Yes tweaking, but what squad doesn’t?

    Just a fair shake from VAR would have us in the race for a top 4 place on lost points alone, and who knows how much better we’d be playing with the extra confidence those points would of given us?

    Now I’m not saying we’re in Liverpools or City’s class but don’t tell me this squad isn’t as good as Chelsea Spurs Utd or Leicster.

    I’m absolutey certain Arteta will have us challenging for top 4 with or without spending fortunes, PGMOL and VAR accepted of course.

  • John L

    Let’s not overlook the malign referee / VAR effect. Last week ESPN (not Arsenal sympathisers) stated that we had been most badly done to, with an unfair loss of 9 points. After Sheffield United that figure is now 11.

    Those points would put us currently in third place. Also, 3 of those points would be deducted from Chelsea.

    We actually were third earlier in the season, just before we were subjected to a series of successive bad PGMOL decisions.

    Was this just an accidental coincidence? I do not believe so.

  • Menace

    @John L – PGMOL are totally corrupt beyond the pale and are arrogant with it. The FA are just as corrupt by allowing them the leeway to officiate outside the norms and in delivery of a game that is not Association Football.