Tales From 1990/91: FA Hand The Title To Liverpool

It’s so quiet at the moment with the international break, we’ll revisit the pivotal moment of the 1990/91 season.



12th November 1990

Judgement Day: all it needed was Arnold Schwarzenegger to arrive a year early and the moment would have been complete. Arsenal and Manchester United were in the dock following the well-publicised brawl at Old Trafford during their league meeting a month earlier. Both clubs had fined players, Arsenal had fined their manager and frankly, anyone who had an opinion, offered it.

The Football Association deemed it so serious that they convened a Commission. Not an Inquiry, a Commission. Not quite sure what the difference is but the FA were and they used it.

Immediate expectations were of a points deduction for Arsenal, the previous season’s misdemeanour during the match against Norwich City had raised that prospect. Despite The Canaries being held as the provocateurs, Arsenal were also fined and this was expected to count against them.

rnOut of the blue and with more than a hint of reverse psychology, Ron Noades offered the prospect of some sort of reprieve. The outspoken owner of Crystal Palace – and a Football League bigwig – didn’t expect the FA to have the brass balls to dish out such a severe punishment. “Wimbledon or Sheffield United would stand less chance than Arsenal before the FA”, he argued, “and that’s not right.”

Even so, Noades was in favour of a suspended sentence with a substantial fine. Arsenal were the only realistic challengers to Liverpool for the title and he felt that ought to be taken into consideration. “More is riding on the decision than a straightforward points deduction”, he observed, before arguing that he wanted Arsenal and other clubs treated the same when they found themselves hauled before the FA.

Football clubs had long suffered points deductions for financial indiscretions, failing to fulfil a fixture or fielding ineligible players but for on-pitch fights? It hadn’t happened before. Nor since either.

The Football Association weren’t in the mood to listen and duly announced the punishments: fines and points deductions for both clubs. The provocation of the United players which led to the flashpoint was recognised as they lost a single point. Arsenal’s sins were held against them and they received a two-point deduction.

It was open season for the media. It was front page news; not quite usurping Margaret Thatcher’s impending downfall but muscling its way into our living rooms nonetheless. Focus turned to Arsenal and the apparent destruction of their title challenge. David Lacey in The Guardian offered solace by pointing out that appearing in the UEFA Cup as First Division runners-up could be quite lucrative. Not raising as much revenue as the revamped Champions Cup but something nonetheless.

Arsenal took it seriously. In the post-season review video, George Graham laid down the law whilst trying to foster a siege mentality. A show for the cameras, sending the message that the club took it seriously. Except I am sure the late Denis Healey would have viewed it as the players being “savaged by a dead sheep”. When the cameras weren’t rolling, I am sure that a more choice turn of phrase was employed and a lot more was made of being the victims in all this. The world was writing the players off and he would have enjoyed that no end; it made his job in that sense, a lot easier.

jlSurprisingly, James Lawton hit the right note with his Daily Express column (right). The ones who suffered immediately were the supporters, he argued. Not just those of Arsenal but of English football in general.

Or so it seemed.

In fact, you could argue that we benefited from the extra incentive that the Football Association provided, in much the same way Graeme Souness had in 1989 when he had written off in the build-up to the final match at Anfield.

David O’Leary echoed everyone’s sentiments with his comment about champagne being uncorked at Anfield. It seems surprising that anyone could hear them speak over the clinking of glasses in celebration, even if the words of the Liverpool players and manager were focussed on not becoming complacent.

Anders Limpar stood alone in this, convinced in the immediate aftermath that the title was still on. That mood became more prevalent among the support as the week progressed with a view surfacing that Graham could use this to good effect. Liverpool were due a stumble at some point and a defeat with a couple of draws would see Arsenal all but close the gap.

All Arsenal had to do was keep on winning.

click to enlarge






54 thoughts on “Tales From 1990/91: FA Hand The Title To Liverpool

  1. HenryB says:

    Leave George Graham’s Boom out of this! 🙂

    Morning Yogi, Jonny.

  2. Damon says:

    Miles out today. Well done and morning boys

  3. Jonny says:

    Morning YW. This international shite is tedious, eh?

    The cricket is rubbish too.

    Thank Gawd I have other sports to fall back on when Arsenal are not playing…

  4. Nicky says:

    How about banning leg spin in all future England matches? 😉

  5. andy1886 says:

    Morning Gents – nice to be reminded of the old siege mentality which worked a treat. Why is it the psychology of the club has taken a step backwards these days? We used to take adversity and kick it squarely in the nuts, now we just whine like girls when things go awry.

  6. Jonny says:

    It’s not so much the leg spin as the type of pitch, I feel. We just don’t look at home on a bunsen.

    I imagine we will rinse Pakistan in the UK next summer – leg spinners and all.

    The South Africa tour should suit us better than this too – though that will be v. tough.

  7. Ustyn says:

    Hello chaps and chapesses
    It been a while I posted here,the international break hasn’t started but boredom has already sip in,I just wish it will go quickly.on Arsenal front the break is very much welcome as it will give a lot of players a good rest to re-energize and come back fully charged.I feel for Sanchez who barely could run again and jetting out to another planet…

  8. Phil says:

    Morning all,
    A great post there YW.
    So administrative incompetence isn’t a new phenomena.

    Further to PF’s point,
    Theo has been banging on about being a striker for what seems like an eternity. Wenger had to be dragged kicking and screaming to agree.
    Not much kudos for that.

  9. Phil says:

    Clearly some pitch doctoring going on over there, trying to thwart the English.

  10. Brevity says:

    PF, Phil,

    Thanks for the replies, I was just curious how you saw it.
    My own tuppence worth is that when players successfully change position it’s 80 or 90% down to the player putting in the extra effort to learn the role, thinking about what he has to do and how he has to play differently.
    Personally, I’d give a bit of credit to the coaches who help him and the manager who plays him but mostly it’s the player.

  11. Ian says:

    I recall standing on the North Bank singing ‘You can stick your two points up your a*rse’

    That deduction certainly galvanised an already very good team, we battered Southampton the following Saturday 4-0 and then rolled over Liverpool a few weeks later…

    That was a great team we had that season…

  12. Brevity says:

    Thanks for the post YW.

    Noades was the chairman at Wimbledon. I know a few of their supporters as I come from South London and they all still hate Noades for trying to sell the club to Milton Keynes the first time.

  13. YW says:

    Yup, he was at the helm when they were promoted to the Football League. Bit of a visionary in trying to get them to MK decades before it happened…? A bit of a something, anyway. Perhaps visionary wasn’t quite the word I was looking for!

  14. Jonny says:

    Come now Phil, we all know that only the cheating English ‘prepare’ pitches.

  15. Arsenal1Again says:

    We only lost one League Game that season. Almost ANOTHER Invincible campaign and onwards we go.

  16. C says:

    Sad news to hear former Premier League goalkeeper Marton Fulop dies aged 32 of cancer.

  17. C says:


    Just think, almost an Invincible season and some still shrug off George Graham. Damn kids don’t know their history!

  18. Pistol Fish says:

    Boy does that cat avatar bring back some memories.

  19. C says:

    So Roma want to keep Sczny either for a longer loan or on a permanent deal.

  20. Phil says:

    And of course by allowing/ converting Theo to a central striker role, Wenger didn’t need to dip into the transfer window. So every one is a winner!

  21. Phil says:

    It was just my way of saying hello to you!

  22. Brevity says:

    I saw that about Szczesny. Bit tough for him as Cech’s done so well but anyway no need to decide anything now as its early days yet.

  23. Phil says:

    So Wenger has been asked in for a private chat with the FA regarding his doping comments.

  24. Phil says:

    Unless Cech gets hit by the ubiquitous Arsenal injury plague,
    Szcz, might get little playing time.
    Might be an idea to cash in?

  25. Pistol Fish says:

    What some seem to disregard is in 9 years Graham won the leuge twice.
    In 20 years Wenger has won 3.
    For a club with the resources that Arsenal have and considering it was pretty much a 2 hourse race for the first 10 years 3 titles in 20 season ( I know it’s still 19 but it’s close enough to 20) is really not that impressive.

  26. Damon says:

    I wouldn’t be against selling Sczny, as long as we had some sort of buy back clause in it for the next 3 – 4 years.

    I still think he’s got what it takes, he just has a bit of working things out to do. Better do it in Roma’s first team for a couple of years, than sitting on our bench. If it happens at all, that is

  27. C says:


    Yea but it didn’t help our winger situation.

  28. C says:


    You are spot on, problem is, they don’t even want to take a look at it because of the financial success that Arsene has brought about and honestly the things that he has changed in English futbol. George Graham though certainly can hold his own weight in the discussion about Arsenal managers; problem is the lazy people of my generation will never give him his just due (well I do but you get what I’m saying) because all they have known is Arsene and well history isn’t always the best subject!

  29. Phil says:

    Very true C.
    Although that’s Ramsay’s spot!

  30. C says:

    I tend to agree with Damon, I wouldn’t sell Sczny but I would certainly allow him to stay on loan to Roma next season and then the following year figure out how Cech is doing and how Sczny is doing and then make the decision then about another loan spell.

  31. C says:


    Very true but behind Ramsey, we have an unproven Campbell and a plateauing Ox. Sell both and bring in Lacazette and I’d be happy!

  32. Phil says:

    Not sure where I sit on the Ox issue.
    He shows potential, and is now entering that age bracket where he should be performing consistently.
    A shame that with Ramsay out, that he missed an opportunity for some continuity in the team.

  33. Brevity says:

    GG will always be a great manager for us. He turned things around in the mid 80’s when we’d been struggling along for a few years and made us a team to be taken seriously again.

  34. C says:


    I was joking, but if the opportunity came to sell Ox and get a goal scoring winger like a Lacazette, Jese(from Madrid) or somebody like that then I would certainly be open to it.

    Well you know its interlull time as we are discussing transfers.

  35. Jonny says:

    Hello back, ya flamin’ galah.

    Scz – it would be ideal if he come good – for one thing he is Arsenal through and through and that’s always enjoyable to watch but also he is fucking mental and I like that in a goalkeeper. First and foremost he has to step up, obviously.

    Ox is just now starting to reach the age where he should blossom – like most young, promising English players he has been overplayed at too young an age. It really is about time we started learning from Europe and stopped running players into the ground.

    Unusually, for such a progressive mind, our manager is one of the worst culprits.

    Nice to see he is planning a rest for Sanchez – will it materialise if the chips are down?

  36. C says:


    The thing with Ox is that he must start showing it and showing it consistently. I do get what you are saying about English players but at the same time, should they not be played and are talented enough then they start banging on about match time and wanting to leave, double edge sword. Clearly there is a fine line but a line nonetheless that exists to where you can play them enough to be happy but without overplaying them.

    Sanchez to get a rest, thank god, problem is, who plays for him?

  37. Pistol Fish says:

    I like Ox, think there is a really good player in there but he needs to get his head right. He is the kind of player you want knocking on the door and coming on late in games. Or starting the cup games. If we had a genuine quality RW Ox would be the perfect back up.
    But we don’t.

  38. Pistol Fish says:

    Well we do bit he wants to play CF when he’s not injured.

  39. C says:


    Its not just he, but the manager has banged on since his arrival about him playing CF.

  40. Jonny says:

    Sure but I’m not really talking about 21-22 year oldswho should be expecting regular starting berths, its the 16-20 bracket that we are seemingly destroying.

    If they are good enough they should be played but it has to be carefully managed as, during that period, they are still growing. From what I have read, the figures in the UK speak for themselves and are damning in comparison to Europe.

    Walcott, Ox and Ramsey should all be back somewhere near the end of this month – that should help provide numerous squad options for the LF berth. I guess we rest Sanchez then.

    Assuming he doesn’t get injured beforehand!

  41. C says:


    So true, but the reason they are destroyed at 16-20 range is because they are being overplayed and told how talented they are both by managers and the press. When that happens, they play and play and play but if you look, so many seem ot plateau and don’t push on because they are rushed back from injuries and then seem to go straight back into the England set-up (don’t get me started on that worthless lot).

    If they are ready to play then they play but at the same time they need to be brought along slowly and all to often they aren’t. Take Ox, he was brought into the team full of pace, power and directness and to be honest, he hasn’t developed all that much when you would think given the amount of matches he has played he should have. We shall see and hopefully the trend comes to an end quickly but I’m starting to wonder if the trend will continue. I mean take a look around the PL and you see so many of the “English stars” either developing slowly or plateauing for one reason or another and in the end being relegated to the bench when they should at the very least be really talented squad players that can be counted on without hurting the team.

    Hopefully they will all be back and with them coming back Sanchez should be able to get a rest. I do wonder though would Arsene give Sanchez a rest coming out of the international break by playing Iwobi and Adelaide against West Brom, Norwich and Sunderland and just play Sanchez in the CL matches.

  42. Bill says:


    Thanks for the post. I could not really follow European football until Fox Soccer Channel came on line early in this century. I don’t anything about George Graham era. I always enjoy the historical post since it helps me in touch with our clubs past.

  43. Bill says:


    We have been talking about all the potential in the young players in our academy and in the English set up for a long time. I think at least some of players who are truly talented would eventually break through at some point even if they are “mishandled”. The fact is that very few ever really come close to reaching the potential we believe they have. Think about how many of the hundreds of players that have come thru our academy have even been good enough to play in the PL.

    I accept that mismanagement might be part of the problem in some cases but I think the reality is the much bigger issue is we want our own young players to succeed and we see what we hope to see and consistently over rate their potential. That is the only thing that makes much sense.

  44. Bill says:


    You can’t mentally under rate anyone on our schedule. Every point is going to be critical if we really want to challenge for the PL title. Why would he play Arsene play Iwobe or Adelaide when he has already has Campbell and he has Ramsey/Ox coming back. If he is desperate and Sanchez has to be rested then Gibbs scored the equalizer against Spurs and surely he is the better option as the left winger. No?

  45. Bill says:

    With every point being critical, we can’t really afford to rest Sanchez or the CF against any team. Sanchez and our CF are the only legitimate goal scoring threats we have on the pitch every game. There is a very good chance we will be shut out if we rest one of them and the other does not score for some reason. No matter who is the opponent, you are never going to win if you don’t score any goals.

  46. HenryB says:

    Everybody talking about the burnout of young players seems to have gone, but for what its worth I think it is a mathematical pyramid that in some respects has always been there.

    What I mean is that looking at the Premier League as an example, each club would probably take on kids from 10 years of age, in their junior intake, and then have various teams with lightly older age groups.

    So Arsenal, as an example, there are probably about 50 players in the Academy and maybe another 50 in age groups below that invited to practise with the club, so maybe a figure of 100 kids from 10 up to maybe 18 years old, give or take.

    But there is a conveyor belt aspect to this based on age. Every year there is a new intake of 10 y.o.at the bottom of the pyramid, and many being rejected higher up the age chain and replaced by others of comparable age from abroad or from other British clubs.

    Then the crunch age group sucks more to their footballing doom. You see their is a minimum of 8 home grown players that have to be included in the fixed 25 man squad once they reach 21 years of age.

    So there are too many players trying to get into too few places, and the weaning out process occurs when players get to 18 years old, and even though some are sent out on loan to ease the pressure there is an inevitability that 90% of the youngsters coming through the Arsenal system are rejected at some time during the process, on the basis that they are not good enough.

    The problem is that the judgement as to whether a player is ever going to be good enough is very subjective, and taking Le Coq as an example of this, it is well documented that he was set on loan, and did not set the world alight, and was due for the chop last summer – but the fickle finger of fate chose to down many of our midfielders with a variety of injuries, including Arteta and Flamini, and out of the blue he was recalled made a great fist of the job and the cheap chippy chopper was put away for another day.

    Burned out? Over-played? I doubt that is the reason. It is more than likely that the dreams and hopes of so many of the kids were always unrealistic – and the best bet for some of them is to find a career with a club in the lower leagues – but even they are few and far between, and for the rest it is sayonara with many a tear shed.

  47. Bill says:

    The fact that it is so hard to rest Sanchez calls into question why we didn’t strengthen our squad last summer. We have over $200M sitting in the bank and the idea that there was not one player in the entire world who could have added some diversity in our goal scoring firepower and strengthened the squad seems unimaginable to me.

  48. Bill says:

    Henry @ 7:59:

    Very eloquent as always and in this case very accurate. IMO.

  49. Phil says:

    In the absence of any boom-
    Australia just reached 2- 416 at stumps day 1 v NZ.
    This is the 24th highest score on the first day of a test match.
    Warner – 244 not out.
    A far cry from the highest score of 6/496 set by Australia v Sth Africa in 1910.
    In 1930 at Headingley, Australia reached 3/ 458.
    The Don finished the day on a lazy 309 not out.
    Thank you for your attention.

  50. Brevity says:

    Morning Phil.
    I suppose the other blokes batting with Bradman that day can’t have been very good then.
    Took a few minutes but I knew I could think of a negative if I tried hard enough 🙂

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