The season in question was 1995-6, and the man in charge was Bruce Rioch.
As the previous article showed, Arsenal had been hunting in the lower leagues to try and find a man to take over from George Graham. They found a man who had had a few run ins with those in the clubs he worked for, and who had achieved a limited amount of lower league success.
It is worth considering the team that Mr Rioch could put out. It was, for the opening game at home to Middlesbrough…
Dixon Keown Adams Winterburn
Merson Wright Bregkamp Parlour
My view is that this is one hell of a team, the result was a 1-1 draw. As the season developed the line up remained much the same apart from occasional forays by Jensen and Helder.
There were some injury problems as time went by – Platt, Parlour, Bould, Adams all had time out. Some unloved or unremembered players came in – Andy Linighan and Scott Marshall for example, but by and large the youth system wasn’t making an impact with new players. Apart from Marshall there was Paul Dickov, Adrian Clarke, Paul Shaw, Matthew Rose, Stephen Hughes, Gavin McGowan – all members of the 1994 youth cup winning squad – but none made much of an impact – as far as I can remember (although of course that might just be me not remembering correctly.)
The side were ultimately undone by a dreadful spell of just two wins in 11 league games running from November to January and the FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United which came at the end of the run seemed to sum up all the problems. There was a recovery, but just one win in the last five league games (when every point mattered in the attempt to get into Europe) meant there was not too much hope going into the next season.
As for the games that we all remember, Tottenham beat us 2-1 at their little place, and we drew 0-0 at home in April.
Our biggest problem seemed to be in scoring goals – just 49 from 38 league games – which is extraordinary when you consider the team had Wright and Bergkamp playing up front. Dennis got 11 and Ian 15, and the next highest scorer was Merson with 5.
So what was Rioch doing falling out with Wright to the extent that he put in a transfer request? It is impossible to know, although if you are driving around Cornwall and you see Mr Rioch you might like to ask him.
Untold Arsenal on Facebook here
History of Arsenal with a new series on the Rioch year, comparing that with the current team.
Making the Arsenal – the book of Arsenal death and rebirth