20 October: Man U 0 Arsenal 1 – Arsenal deducted two points.



By Tony Attwood

20 October 1990: Man U 0 Arsenal 1 – Arsenal deducted two points.

Arsenal started the 1990/1 season well, and indeed this turned out to be the trial run for the unbeaten season – we only lost one league match throughout the entire season.

The first nine games of the season resulted in six wins and three draws – the ninth game on this day being a 1-0 away win against Manchester United.

That last game was the one where most of the players got involved in a fair bit of pushing and shoving and the ref totally and utterly lost control.  I seem to recall him running around quite a lot, blowing the whistle quite a lot, and trying to pull players apart quite a lot.  He would have been better off just stepping to one side, blowing twice, and then walking off, if he really thought it was the “mass brawl” that the press subsequently described it as.

There was an enquiry afterwards, and the FA decided to remove two points from Arsenal and one for Manchester United.   Quite why there was this difference, quite why this suddenly happened having never happened before, and quite why other teams that engaged in much the same sort of behaviour were not punished in this way…. none of this was never explained.

Players could have been suspended, Highbury could have been closed for a match or two… anything.  But for the first, and I think the only time, the clubs had points deducted for not controlling their players.

And yet that sort of fracas was not uncommon.  Odd that, that they should pick on Arsenal.

The deduction of points appeared in the league table on 17 November for the first time.  Of course straight after the Man U game, no one quite knew what if anything would happen.  We had, after all, seen it so many times before.

So the table after the Man U game but before the points deduction had Liverpool top by four points from Arsenal in second, with Tottenham in third.

After the deduction on 17 November the gap between the top two was even bigger and it seemed that the two points removal was the final straw.  True both Liverpool and Arsenal were unbeaten but Liverpool now had 37 points and Arsenal 29 with Tottenham still in third on 25 points.

Liverpool’s start that season of 12 wins and a draw was indeed extraordinary and the press were writing the season off after just 13 games – Liverpool had won it, might as well stop now, was the line most commonly taken.

But this was the season in which Arsenal won the league with games to spare, with Liverpool playing an afternoon televised match, failing to get the win they wanted, and Arsenal then playing the evening game against Man U (who had to give Arsenal a guard of honour at the start) with everyone singing a certain plaintive refrain about what could be done with the two points, over and over again, not just before the game but all the way through and for about an hour after.

It was nothing to do with Arsenal being champions, but a commentary on the League and the way it handled affairs.  And quite rightly.  The media would never mention the matter, so we had to do it for them.

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