Arsenal 2 – 0 Norwich City
This fixture had a lot to live up to if it was going to match the recent encounters between the two sides at Highbury.
1988/89’s title tilt came back on track after the Hillsborough disaster as Arsenal won 5 – 0, ultimately ending any hopes they harboured of a top two finish. The following year, on the day David O’Leary became the record holder for most first team appearances at Arsenal, the match ended in a contretemps in front of the North Bank.
For Arsenal, that incident would have far-reaching consequences but that’s a story for another day.
Both managers were conscious that the media would be watching and in the lead-up to the match, George Graham said, “My players understand that there must be no repeat. They know the standards required of them, and how to react properly.” “The brawl was an unfortunate incident and everyone here wants to forget it,” he added, checking himself before his thoughts became public knowledge; “The players will pay my fine if it happens again” remained firmly locked in his mind, safe for another day.
That Norwich ended up with a larger fine shows that the FA held them more responsible than Arsenal for the incident. This time there was no repeat. Norwich were comfortably despatched by an unbeaten Arsenal side. It was their sixth league defeat of the season and left them a point above the relegation places.
Arsenal’s hero was Paul Davis, nabbing a brace of goals. It wasn’t a frequent occurrence, not least because the previous two years had been so injury-riven. It was only the second time he managed to score more than once in a competitive game for the club, the previous occasion almost a decade before against Southampton. He was playing arguably the best football of his career, to the extent that there were serious calls for his inclusion in the England squad.
Having been cast into the wilderness following the Cockerill incident, it was long overdue. Nothing happened. Despite the newspapers belief, there was a dearth of midfielders at the time and any reporter who relies on pitting Davis against more attack-minded players, knows that. Even so, he was never capped by his country, a decision which remains particularly baffling given how the period 1990 – 94 turned out.