The summer of 1990: the gateway to Arsenal heaven

by Tony Attwood

Arsenal had won the league in 1989 most famously in the last seconds of the season, but only managed 4th in 1989/90 with fourth round exits in both cups.

I think most of us were hoping that the 1989 triumph had not just been a one-off blip and that we could come back for more in 1990/1 but I am not sure that we really thought we could do it in such wonderful style.

There were severe worries about quite how well Graham was managing and controlling his team when on 6 May 1990 news came in that Tony Adams had crashed his car and was found to have four times the legal alcohol limit within his blood.  These concerns resurfaced when Arsenal were docked two points later in the season after a spot of argy bargy at Man U.

Yet there were positive signs that George Graham was rebuilding the team which started on 15 May 1990 when David Seaman was purchased from QPR for a record fee. A few days later John Lukic was sold back to Leeds from whence he came.  Incidentally in his second spell with Leeds he played 265 games, won a second championship and a runners’ up medal in the League Cup with them.

However there was some nervousness too.  On 29 May 1990 Martin Hayes was transferred to Celtic for £625,000.  He had had only one season as a regular in the side but in that season scored 19 goals in league 31 starts and it seemed like a valuable squad player was being cast aside perhaps because of his unpopularity with the crowd.

A second departure came on 1 July 1990 as Kevin Richardson was transferred to Real Sociedad.  He had played 96 league games for Arsenal and was a part of the 1989 league winning team – the old team was indeed being broken up.

The next arrival was not until 4 July 1990 when Andy Linighan was purchased from Norwich for £1.2m.  He had previously
played for Hartlepool, Leeds and Oldham.  And then the crowd pleaser came in on 8 July 1990 when nders Limpar was signed from Cremonese.  He went on to play 94 league games in a four year spell at Arsenal.

Also arriving in 1990, but for the moment I can’t find the date, was Stewart Houston, a player for Chelsea, Brentford, Man U, Sheffield Utd and Colchester Utd who became assistant manager to George Graham.

With none of the Arsenal squad selected to play in the 1990 World Cup everyone was together through the pre-season training fresh for the new season.

The Swedish Tour…

  • 22 July: Varbergs BoIS 0 Arsenal 2 (Merson, Rocastle)

Andy Linighan and David Seaman made their debuts in this game.

  • 24 July: Västra Frölunda 0 Arsenal 4 (Linighan, Smith, Merson 2)
  • 26 July: IFK Värnamo 2 Arsenal 2 (Merson, Limpar)
  • 3 August: Wolverhampton W 0 Arsenal 1 (Smith)

The Makita Tournament (Wembley)

  • 10 August: Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 2 (Limpar, Campbell)
  • 11 August: Sampdoria 2 Arsenal 0

Steve Gatting’s Testimonial

  • 17 August: Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 2 (Rocastle, Smith)

What happened next…

25 August 1990: Arsenal started the season with a 3-0 away win at Wimbledon in front of 13,733, Merson, Smith and Groves scored.  The Arsenal line up was…

Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Thomas, Bould, Adams, Rocastle, P Davis, AM Smith, Merson, Limpar (P Groves)

The winning run went on and on, and the goals were there, but what we mostly noticed was that no one could score against us – Arsenal let in just seven goals in the first 16 league games – an extraordinary achievement.   Indeed no one scored more than two against Arsenal in the league all the season, and it was only the cups that it was managed at all.

The old guard was most certainly moved on – Brian Marwood and Gus Gaesar adding to the exodus as the season progressed, and by the time of the first and only defeat in the league of the entire season (game 23 against Chelsea) we had a record showing won 15, drawn 8.

The story of the early part of the season running up to the docking of the points is told here.

Here’s the series to date

Current series: Pre-season games 

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