The papers love nothing more than an ‘Arsenal in Crisis’ story. Here’s one from January 1992, just days after the Gunners were knocked out of the FA Cup by Fourth Dvision Wrexham. The blame for the poor season is laid squarely at the feet of manager George Graham.
A “Highbury insider” is quoted as saying, “They [the players] feel they can do nothing right. Even when they win 4-1 they get a rollocking in the dressing room. Morale among many of the players has all but disappeared. It’s almost as if they are putting two fingers up to the manager by the way they are playing. The only solution is to have a clear out and bring in new ones who will play for the manager.”
All sounds like typical newspaper rubbish to me, but apparently Arsenal’s ‘collection of international stars’ were ‘afraid to speak out because they fear the wrath of Graham’. Paul Davis had been fined £3,000 a month earlier for ‘criticising his boss in public’.
According to this piece, Arsenal’s top stars were at the time on about £3,000 a week, compared to £9,000 a week for John Barnes at Liverpool and £6,500 for Gary Lineker at Spurs. Spurs are described, along with Liverpool and Man Utd, as a ‘rival superclub’. I think that may be more of an exaggeration than the ‘crisis’.
Note the use of the old Arsenal crest at the top of the page. Disappointing that it’s not cracked in half, but nice to see it all the same.
A sidebar tells the story of Arsenal’s crisis season so far:
- Steve Bould injured pre-season and out for three months
- Two defeats in the first three games
- Home defeat for the first time in more than a season, against Coventry
- Knocked out of the Rumbelow’s Cup by Coventry
- Out of the European Cup in the second round to Benfica, before the lucrative new ‘mini-league’ part of the competition
- Tony Adams out for a hernia operation
- Defeat to bottom club Luton and Anders Limpar out with a broken jaw
- Various disciplinary problems, including Ian Wright spitting at fans and Nigel Winterburn in a separate altercation with supporters
- The Wrexham FA Cup defeat
A look at the league table from the same day shows Arsenal, defending champions of course, in seventh place and well off the pace. They’re ahead of rival ‘superclub’ Tottenham only on goal difference, but of course there was no similar ‘Spurs Crisis’ headline because no one realistically expects Spurs to actually challenge for the title. Leeds and Man Utd were slugging it out at the top, while Blackburn were in Division Two, having only just started spending Jack Walker’s millions. This of course was the last season of the old league structure before the Premier League began and the lower divisions got renamed to their current daft format.
In Scotland, Hearts were top ahead of Rangers, with Celtic fourth. By the end of the season Rangers were top, but Celtic were still behind Hearts. It was almost a competition.
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