6 December 1997: the day when no one even contemplated a second double.

by Tony Attwood

On this day Arsenal beat Newcastle U away 1-0.  Nothing much in that you might say, but it was part of a sequence in which the club won only two out of eight.

Must have been a pretty shocking season you might now be saying.   We yes, it was, up to a point.  And after that point we went on to win the Double for the second time.  Yes, this was Game 17 of the second double.  Here are the results up to this day in 1997, and then the one after.

  • 18 Oct, Crystal Palace, Away.  Drew, 0-0
  • 26 Oct, Aston Villa, Home.  Drew, 0-0
  • 1 Nov, Derby County, Away.  Lost, 0-3
  • 9 Nov, Manchester U, Home.  Won 3-2
  • 22 Nov, Sheffield W, Away.  Lost 0-2
  • 30 Nov, Liverpool, Home.  Lost 0-1
  • 6 Dec, Newcastle U, Away.  Won 1-0
  • 13 Dec.  Blackburn R, Home.  Lost 1-3

Just in case that stretch of results is a bit numbing here’s the summary.  We won 2, drew 2, lost four.

You might remember what happened thereafter.   But in case not, here’s another hint.  In the third round of the FA Cup we got Port Vale.  Our full first team was playing, and we drew 0-0.  In the replay we went through on penalties after extra time.  There was talk of getting rid of Wenger.

Until we went on to win the double.

That season we played 38, won 23, lost six and drew nine.  We won the league by five points.  An in case you don’t believe me about the Port Vale thing, our team in the 0-0 draw was Seaman, Grimandi, Keown, Bould, Winterburn, Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Anelka, Bergkamp.

Shall I just do a bit of that again?  Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Anelka, Bergkamp.

I have to admit that team took me by surprise.  I idolised those players, their genius, their ability, the joys they gave me, their everything.  And they drew 0-0 with Port Vale, and just managed to win the replay on penalties.

Now there is a point in this.  Bad times and good times are mixed.  But we tend to remember one without the other.

In fact if we go back to 2000-1 Man United won the league losing 8 games.  Go back to the 1950s and 1960s (significant as the last era in which Tottenham won the league), losing up to 11 games a season was not unusual for the winning team.

My point here is twofold.  First is that just because George Graham’s 1990/1 team won the league losing just one game in a season, and Mr Wenger’s final championship came with no defeats at all, it doesn’t mean that it is always like this.  Indeed after the one-defeat season (“you’ll never see that again” said the media “that was a fluke”), we went back to the norm.

For a while.

The other is that to claim that one is a long term supporter, and that this is the worst team ever (as some have done of late), is either to suffer from terminal amnesia or to be a complete moron.

Consider if you will, 1994/5 in which we played 42, won 13, drew 12 and lost 17, letting in 49 goals en route to coming 12th.  A fairly awful defence you might say.  Yup – a team that regularly lined up at the back as Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Bould, Keown.

Now I will be fair and say that Adams was injured for some of the season although still managed 20+ games – and those fellows Bould and Keown could play a bit too.

And we came 12th.

The following season we came fifth, under Rioch, and that was another dreadful year – not because we clawed our way up the league but rather because of the style of play and the fact that players like Ian Wright were demanding a transfer.

Oh and in case you were thinking that I am being unreasonable in my analysis I will do the FA Cup for those two years too.

1994/5 Millwall, 3rd round, lost 0-2 at home

1995/6 Sheffield United, 3rd round, lost 0-1 away after a draw at home.

My point therefore is simple – we readily forget the past, and make up all sorts of excuses and reasons to explain something we don’t like in the present.   But t can be helpful to check the facts from the past, rather than just see it through our imaginations.

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100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.3 December 1949

One Reply to “6 December 1997: the day when no one even contemplated a second double.”

  1. I think you need to look at the context of that season tbh. Arsenal had just brought in the first wave of French players into the team, and that run of games things were not gelling between the English and French players to such an extent a player meeting was called after the Blackburn loss. It went down in folklore history that meeting, Tony Adams stood up and told the French lads, when are you lot going to start playing? It was frank, honest and blunt. That would never happen today, footballers feelings can never be hurt. Could you imagine someone like Kieron Tierney having a go at Auba when he is the most likely person in our current squad to speak his mind. This article had so much potential but didn’t really achieve what it meant to because today, there are soo many variable that didn’t exist then. Like three world class teams above us that are light years ahead of our squad.

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