My initial thought with the series on pre-season games and transfers was to work through the Wenger era. But there have been some nice comments made about the series, and I’ve found it fascinating so I thought I’d look to see how far back I could push this. I’m also changing the style slightly just to see how it goes.
Tony Attwood 21 July 2015
So here is 1995: 20 years ago, the pre-season in which Bruce Rioch was appointed.
As a prelude we have to go back to 21 January 1995 when George Graham 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. Arsenal ended the season in 12th.
This was 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 £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.
8 June 1995: Bruce Rioch appointed manager of Arsenal from Bolton. In 1994/5 Bolton were losing League Cup finalists, and beat Reading in the Division One play off. It is said Bolton supporters think of him as one of their best managers.
15 June 1995: Bruce Rioch arrived at Arsenal and became manager and simultaneously Stewart Houston resigned from his post as temporary manager. Rioch lasted just one season and managed a European slot on the final day of the season, before being sacked.
21 June 1995: Dennis Bergkamp arrived from Inter where he had played just 52 league games. 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.
30 June 1995: Kevin Campbell transferred to Nottingham Forest who were European Champions. However the side were relegated and then promoted during his time here.
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.
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”.
12 July 1995: George Graham found guilty of receiving £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.
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!
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. It was his imminent departure that caused the move for Bergkamp.
Also in the summer Kevin Campbell left and went to play for Nottingham Forest.
At the end of July Arsenal had a three game tour of Sweden.
- 26 July 1995: Kristianstads 1 Arsenal 8 (Wright, Merson 2, Hartson 2, Bergkamp 3,)
- 29 July 1995: Gaelstads 1 Arsenal 6 (Merson 3, Jenson, Bergkamp, Wright)
- 1 August 1995: GAIS Gothenburg 0 Arsenal 2 (Wright, Bergkamp)
Then, a flight back to England and into the domestic pre-season…
- 4 August 1995: Southend Utd 1 Arsenal 3 (Platt, Parlour, Helder)
This game included a booking of Ian Wright, who was also booked once on the Swedish tour. Apparently he had an altercation with Southend full-back Mark Hone.
- 7 August 1995: Wolverhampton 0 Arsenal 2 (Platt, Wright)
- 10 August 1995: Arsenal 0 Internazionale 0
By the time of the Inter game, arranged as part of the deal with the club for the Bergkamp transfer there was talk of Arsenal being a title winning side. But it was of course just a newspaper ruse to prepare to knock Arsenal down, and the Independent came out with the inevitable, “Arsenal looked at least two players short of the finished article, especially in midfield where the old failing, a lack of creativity, was again apparent.”
Although this time it was a fairly realistic notion and it was the talking up which had been nonsense.
Inter appeared with new signing Paul Ince, although not with Roberto Carlos, Ian Wright hit the bar twice, and Arsenal’s defence was at its pompous best and let no one pass. It was 0-0 all the way, although to be fair injuries to Jensen, Platt and Merson, which saw all of them go off as a precaution, didn’t help Arsenal.
After the game Rioch said, “There is a lot of work to do in adjusting the style of the team, a lot of team-building. I hoped we learned from tonight but I can take heart from the first three minutes when we had our best spell.”
Dixon, Bould, Adams, Winterburn;
Parlour, Platt (Hillier, 31), Jensen (Keown, 7), Merson (Helder, 62);
That left one final domestic warm up…
- 15 August 1995: St Albans City 0 Arsenal 5 (Bergkamp 3, Wright, Helder).
And then the season began
20 August 1995: Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough 1. Bruce Rioch’s first league game. In his one season in charge Arsenal won 17 of their 38 league games and scored 49 league goals. However things looked promising at the start as Arsenal went seven games undefeated at the start of the season winning four, drawing three.
In October Arsenal hit third position in the league but a run of just five wins in 14 between October and January scuppered any hope of getting higher, and as it was Arsenal just qualified for the Uefa cup on the last day of the season finishing 5th, 19 points behind the champions.
The pre-season series thus far
- 1996: The pre-season games as Rioch was sacked
- 1997: Before the second double – (updated)
- 1998: Back to sausages after the caviar.
- 1999: Games against Monaco and Saint-Étienne
- 2000: The big transfers but a poor pre-season
- 2001: Campbell arrives, and the prelims to the third double
- 2002: Gilberto’s first game in the tri-team tournament
- 2003: Before being unbeaten (revised & expanded)
- 2004: The Preseason in the midst of the 49
- 2005: The end of Highbury and the Arsenal-Chelsea bust up
- 2006: Pre-season and the opening of the Emirates
- 2007: A hectic round of transfers and a full schedule
- 2008: Beating Real Madrid
- 2009: The media and Uefa against Eduardo
- 2010: Koscielny joins the crazy gang in Warsaw
- 2011: Chaos and disaster, but amazingly Arsenal pull through
- 2012: Nigeria abandoned, Akpom & Bellerin make their mark
- 2013: The clearout, beating Man C and preparing for a trophy
- 2014: Alexis, Bellerin, and thrashing Man C at Wembley