19 January 1991: another unbeaten run takes its final bow

by Tony Attwood

For more on the Arsenal History Society and our free video collection, please see the notes at the foot of this article.

It is sometimes forgotten that before the Unbeaten Season, there was the Almost Unbeaten Season of 1990/91.  We have also had the 108 game unbeaten run.  And on 19 January 1991 we had league match 23, the last match of the run before the one defeat of the league season in the next game.  This match ended Arsenal 1 Everton 0.  Merson scored.

Of course with talk of “unbeaten” generally referring to league matches, we don’t take into account the one defeat Arsenal had suffered before this match, on 28 November the game ended Arsenal 2 Manchester United 6 in the League Cup.

After the match on 19 January, Arsenal played Leeds United home and away in the FA Cup, both games ending in draws, 0-0 at Highbury, 1-1 at Elland Road, but after those two battles, the game three days later at Stamford Bridge was a step too far, and Arsenal lost away 2-1 to Chelsea.  A mere 29,024 turned up to see the game.

Arsenal were however still top of the league, one point above Liverpool, and three points ahead of third-placed Crystal Palace.  The media’s view was that Arsenal’s bubble would now burst.

In fact the four games between 27 January and 13 February 1991 were the low point of the season – the defeat to Chelsea and three FA Cup draws all told with Leeds, before Arsenal finally beat Leeds 2-1 to continue on to the relentless league match and FA Cup games against Shrewsbury Town (we won 0-1) and the mighty Cambridge United (2-1 to the Arsenal)

In fact, the final defeat was in the FA Cup to, of all people, Tottenham Hostpur 3-1. But by then there were just five games to go to see out the title.  We won three and drew the other two.

But there was one other twist.  The game at which Arsenal were certain of the title (following a failure to win by Liverpool earlier in the evening) was at home against Manchester United, who graciously clapped Arsenal onto the pitch in the traditional manner.  No argy-bargy this time.

Which was ironic, because Arsenal had been deducted two points and Manchester United one point for unruly behaviour in a match between the two on 11 December 1990.  It was seen as a deliberate attempt to stop Arsenal from winning the title, and so the entire return match against Manchester United, with Arsenal already having won the title, was accompanied by seemingly the vast majority of fans singing a song which reflected upon where the Football League could place the two points that it had stolen from Arsenal.

Even more amusingly, the game was filmed live on ITV, and watching a recording of it later, wherein it is quite clear what the crowd is singing, the commentator was reduced to saying, “And the Arsenal crowd are singing “We are the champions”.”   As if we ever would.


For details of the videos sorted by club, and videos in the order we published them, plus our 21 golden great videos please see here.


Just as the videos have been put in date order so we are now doing a day-by-day series of Arsenal events, looking to find one good story a day throughout the year.   This project started on 1 December, and we are adding to it each day.   The index is here.

The Arsenal History Society is part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association – a body which gives positive support to the club, and has regular meetings with directors and senior officials of the club to represent the views of its members to the club.  You can read more about AISA on its website.

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.

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