December 13: when Arsenal fans turned against Arsenal – the start of the modern era

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal FC has a long history of supposed fans turning against their own players – a history that goes back to the 19th century.  Indeed much of this early Anti-Arsenal Arsenal activity is discussed in The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: a volume which considers in detail the crowd’s behaviour at the early matches.

However there is a case to say that the modern AAA movement started on December 13, 1997, when Arsenal lost a home Premier League game against Blackburn Rovers 1-3.

The reason I pick this game is that, as the volume “The Gunners” by Lerman and Brown points out, “After the game [Ian] Wright was warned by the police about his abusive behaviour towards a group of Arsenal fans who had congregated below the players’ changing room window in the East Stand.”

That moment is also, quite possibly, the origin of Wright’s repeated criticism of the modern regime at Arsenal – although that might also have quite a bit to do with Wright being left out of the cup final in which Christopher Wreh appeared in his place.

There is a brief review of the season on this site here

But perhaps the fans were particularly annoyed by the string of results.  This was Mr Wenger’s second season at the club, and already expectations were high.  But then his happened

Game Pos Pts
11 18.10.1997 Crystal Palace away D0-0 1 23
12 26.10.1997 Aston Villa home D0-0 2 24
13 01.11.1997 Derby County away L0-3 2 24
14 09.11.1997 Manchester United home W3-2 2 27
15 22.11.1997 Sheffield Wednesday away L0-2 3 27
16 30.11.1997 Liverpool home L0-1 5 27
17 06.12.1997 Newcastle United away W1-0 4 30
18 13.12.1997 Blackburn Rovers home L1-3 5 30


What is clear from this chart is that Mr Wenger had taken the club up to first in the league but with just one win in six games the club slipped down to fifth after the home defeat by Liverpool.  A further home defeat to Blackburn on 13th suggested to these fans that we were not going to win anything.

I believe it was from that feeling that the issue under the changing rooms arose.

But it is interesting to see just how situations repeat themselves.  After this Arsenal went 18 games without defeat.  This run included six games in which we scored just five goals, but in letting in zero got five wins and a draw.  The run also included ten straight wins.

Incidentally in this season we were knocked out of the Uefa cup after the first round we played in.   Rather different from today.

The books…

The sites…



4 Replies to “December 13: when Arsenal fans turned against Arsenal – the start of the modern era”

  1. Yes Tony, I’m sure many of us remember this series of events only too well. Those ten straight wins…starting at Old Trafford and including a 4-1 drubbing of Blackburn in a blizzard on the return fixture. You seem to have left out two things from the point you may be trying to make. Firstly, a manager over fourteen younger in the infancy of a new challenge. Secondly, a team that included Bergkamp, Overmars, Vieira, Petit and the inheritance of quite possibly the tidiest domestic back four English football has ever seen.

  2. I well remember that game and the depression we felt. Had our game at Wimbledon not had a floodlight failure we may not have won the League that year. However the difference is that was a very good side having a bad period which if I remember rightly Tony Adams helped sort out by impressing on Petit and Vieira their defensive responsibilities. This team has a fraction of the talent that one had in every department.
    It does need to be said that criticism of Wenger is not anti- Arsenal. It is an expression of dissatisfaction from people who are saddened by the decline of the team which Wenger seems powerless to stop.
    Recalling great recoveries is all very well but I don’t think there is a parallel here. Rather it just reinforces our awareness of how inadequate this team is at the moment.

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