1998: The Pre-season games. Back to sausages after the caviar.

By Tony Attwood

The pre-season gathering of the players together was disrupted by world cup call ups so many of the preliminary games of the summer of 1998 gave the lesser known players a chance to shine.  David Grondin and Nelson Vivas were the players to join us before the pre-season games began.   (Fredrik Ljungberg did not join until September).

Ian Wright, Vince Bartram, David Platt, Kris Kiwomya and Kaba Diawara were among those saying farewell.

The games were

  • 10 July 1998: Boreham Wood 2 Arsenal 5
  • 18 July 1998: Enfield 0 Arsenal 0
  • 25 July 1998: Luton 1 Arsenal 1
  • 31 July 1998 Sportfreunde Eisbachtal 0 Arsenal 4
  • 4 August 1998: Kickers Offenbach 0 Arsenal 4
  • 9 August 1998: Arsenal 3 Man U 0 (charity shield).

To see just how disruptive the world cup had become for Arsenal by this time we can take a look at the line up for the Luton match.  Among those NOT playing were David Seaman, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars and Dennis Bergkamp.

Here is the team…


Dixon, Bould, Grimandi, Winterburn,

Hughes, Parlour, Boa Morte, Mendez,

Wreh, Anelka.

By the time of the final game of the list above Adams, Keown and Seaman were back in the line up, but Vieira, Petit, Overmars and Bergkamp were still not back – and didn’t return until the charity shield.

Luis Boa Morte was looking good and got a hattrick in the first of the two German games while Parlour, Anelka (2) and Vernazza scored in the second of the 0-4 wins.

Wembley was far from full for the Charity Shield in which the double winners took on the runner’s up in the league.  Overmars gave Arsenal the lead 10 minutes before half time, and in then in the second half Overmars, Anelka and Wreh ran rings around the United disjointed defence with Wreh tapping the ball home. On 72 minutes Anelka passed the ball around Stam and scored with a low shot.

This was the first time that a club from the south of England had won the Shield outright since Tottenham in 1962.

What happened next

If ever there was proof that the Charity Shield gives no indication of what happens afterwards, this was it: Arsenal managed just three wins in the first nine.  The first game was a 2-1 over Nottingham Forest, but then came three 0-0 draws in a row against Liverpool, Charlton and Chelsea, and a 1-1 with Leicester.

20 September 1998 saw a welcome relief – another 3-0 saunter past Man U, and there was a repeat of the score against Newcastle two weeks later, but a 1-0 away defeat to Sheffield Wednesday and a 1-1 draw with Southampton showed things were not right.

The Sheffield W game was the won where Paolo Di Canio was sent off for pushing the referee over.  He was banned for 11 matches.

This was also the season in which, on 29 November 1998 Arsène Wenger, memorably said, “”Perhaps we gave our fans too much by winning the Double. Once you’ve eaten caviar, it is difficult to go back to sausages.”

The Arsenal History Society

The books

Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years

Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910

The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *