Total Recall: 1990/91

We examine a particular season of Arsenal's glorious history, what happened, when and where, the stats and the facts. 

Remarkable as it may seem, not a single Gunner had been selected for the 1990 World Cup, but at least they return to pre-season training fresh for the new season. Having failed to retain their league title in the previous season, manager George Graham invests around £1 million each in goalkeeper David Seaman from QPR, defender Andy Linighan from Norwich and Swedish winger Anders Limpar from Cremonese. Limpar becomes an immediate favourite with fans after lashing in a cross-shot against Aston Villa in the pre-season Makita Tournament at Wembley. Arsenal get off to a great start in the League, beating Wimbledon 3-0 at Plough Lane and Luton Town 2-1 at Highbury. The team’s confident start sets the tone for the rest of the campaign.

In a tense north London derby at Highbury, only the width of a post stops Alan Smith from giving Arsenal victory in a 0-0 draw, and Perry Groves grabs the Gunners an away point at Goodison Park after following up Anders Limpar’s thunderous drive, which is parried by ‘keeper Neville Southall. The team find their shooting boots at home against Chelsea, as Limpar, Dixon (from the penalty spot) and Rocastle grab their first league goals of the campaign. Rocastle and Limpar repeat the trick at the City Ground a week later in a 2-0 win against Forest, and "the super Swede" hits a double in a 2-2 away draw against newly promoted Leeds at Elland Road.

For the only time in his Arsenal career, the laconic Paul Davis scores twice in one match, netting a brace against Norwich at Highbury in a 2-0 win, but all the headlines this month surround Arsenal’s stormy 1-0 win at Old Trafford (Limpar grabs the winner from a piece of quick thinking at a corner) as Arsenal and Manchester United players square up to each other in a mass brawl. The FA investigates the matter further... Away from the league, Arsenal maintain their form in the League Cup, crushing Chester City 6-0 over two legs and beating Manchester City 2-1 at Maine Road.

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Arsenal’s excellent run of form continues in the league. George Graham describes Anders Limpar as “my new match winner” after he scores twice in a 2-0 win at Coventry. Alan Smith, who hasn’t scored in the League since the opening day of the campaign, nets twice in the 4-0 destruction of Southampton, and grabs another as the Gunners fight back from being a goal down to win 3-1 at Loftus Road. "Smudger" doesn’t stop scoring from now on. There’s a rare defensive aberration at home to Manchester United in the League Cup as youngster Lee Sharpe grabs a spectacular hat-trick in his team’s 6-2 win. Off the pitch, the Gunners are deducted two points for their part in the Old Trafford fracas. David O’Leary claims that Liverpool have just been handed the title on a plate. It didn’t quite work out that way...

One of the most important victories in Arsenal’s recent history, as the Gunners destroy champions Liverpool 3-0 at Highbury. Pick of the goals is Alan Smith’s clinically dispatched effort, driven crisply home after Paul Merson’s sublime backheel. Unbeaten Arsenal then draw three on the trot against Luton, Wimbledon and Aston Villa. Andy Linighan takes his place in the line-up at Villa Park in place of Tony Adams, as the Arsenal skipper is jailed for drink-driving offences. The Gunners plough on regardless in late December, easily defeating Derby (3-0) and Sheffield United (4-1) at Highbury.

1990/1991 Results

Date  Opposition Home/Away Competition Score Venue
Aug 25 Wimbledon A League W 3-0 Plough Lane
Aug 29 Luton Town H League W 2-1 Highbury
Sep 1 Tottenham Hotspur H League D 0-0 Highbury
Sep 8 Everton A League  D 0-0 Goodison Park
Sep 15 Chelsea H League  W 4-1 Highbury
Sep 22 Nottingham Forest A League W 2-0 City Ground
Sep 25 Chester City  A League Cup W 1-0 Moss Rose
Sep 29 Leeds United A League D 2-2 Elland Road
Oct 6 Norwich City H League W 2-0 Highbury
Oct 9 Chester City H League Cup W 5-0 Highbury
Oct 20 Manchester United A League W 1-0 Old Trafford
Oct 27 Sunderland H League W 1-0 Highbury
Oct 30 Manchester City A League Cup W 2-1 Maine Road
Nov 3 Coventry City A League W 2-0 Highfield Road
Nov 10 Crystal Palace A League D 0-0 Selhurst Park
Nov 17 Southampton H League W 4-0 Highbury
Nov 24 QPR A League W 3-1 Loftus Road
Nov 28 Manchester United H League Cup L 2-6 Highbury
Dec 2 Liverpool H League  W 3-0 Highbury
Dec 8 Luton Town A League D 1-1 Kenilworth Road
Dec 15 Wimbledon H League D 2-2 Highbury
Dec 23 Aston Villa A League D 0-0 Villa Park
Dec 26 Derby County H League W 3-0 Highbury
Dec 29 Sheffield United H League W 4-1 Highbury
Jan 1 Manchester City A League W 1-0 Maine Road
Jan 5 Sunderland H League W 2-1 Highbury
Jan 12 Tottenham A League D 0-0 White Hart Lane
Jan 19 Everton  H League W 1-0 Highbury
Jan 27 Leeds United FA Cup D 0-0 Highbury
Jan 30 Leeds United  A FA Cup D 1-1 Elland Road
Feb 2 Chelsea A League L 1-2 Stamford Bridge
Feb 13 Leeds United H FA Cup D 0-0 Highbury
Feb 16 Leeds United A FA Cup W 2-1 Elland Road
Feb 23 Crystal Palace H League W 4-0 Highbury
Feb 27 Shrewsbury Town A FA Cup W 1-0 Gay Meadow
Mar 3 Liverpool A League W 1-0 Anfield
Mar 9 Cambridge United  H FA Cup W 2-1 Highbury
Mar 17 Leeds United H FA Cup W 2-0 Highbury
Mar 20 Nottingham Forest H League D 1-1 Highbury
Mar 23 Norwich City A League D 0-0 Carrow Road
Mar 30 Derby County A League W 2-0 Baseball Ground
Apr 3 Aston Villa H League W 5-0 Highbury
Apr 6 Sheffield United A League W 2-0 Bramall Lane
Apr 9 Southampton A League  D 1-1 The Dell
Apr 14 Tottenham N FA Cup L 1-3 Wembley
Apr 17 Manchester City H League D 2-2 Highbury
Apr 23 QPR H League W 2-0 Highbury
May 4 Sunderland  A League D 0-0 Roker Park
May 6 Manchester United H League W 3-1 Highbury
May 11 Coventry City H League W 6-1 Highbury

Even with Adams absent, the Gunners defence excel themselves in January in the league, not conceding a single goal. David Seaman’s one-man show to defy Gary Lineker and Nayim at Tottenham in a 0-0 draw has to be seen to be believed, as does his sublime stop to push Leeds midfielder Gary McAllister’s piledriver over the bar at the start of Arsenal’s epic FA Cup marathon fourth-round tie with Leeds. At the end of the month Paul Merson nudges home Perry Groves’ low cross as Arsenal snatch a 1-0 over Everton.

Arsenal’s unbeaten run in the league comes to an end at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea running out 2-1 winners. The shock news elsewhere is the resignation of Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish due to ill health. For Arsenal, normal service is resumed at the end of the month, as Crystal Palace are destroyed 4-0 thanks to goals from O’Leary, Merson, Smith and Kevin Campbell. Arsenal march on in the FA Cup too. Leeds are beaten at the fourth time of asking at Elland Road as Dixon and Merson strikes end Howard Wilkinson’s men’s interest in the competition, and Mickey Thomas’s fine effort knocks out Shrewsbury in the FA Cup fifth round.

Another vital month for the Gunners in the league. Paul Merson’s cool finish puts Arsenal in the driving seat in the title race as Arsenal win 1-0 at Anfield. Youth team graduate Kevin Campbell (“he was like a new signing”) steps up with a fine brace at home to Leeds in Arsenal’s 2-0 win, and two identikit Alan Smith headers do for Derby at the Baseball Ground. In the FA Cup quarter-final, Tony Adams returns to action and scores in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Cambridge United.

Arsenal are ruthless as they close in on the league title. A 5-0 rout of Aston Villa sees Kevin Campbell burst to the fore once again, and Paul Davis’ stunning hook send the ground into raptures. Two breakaway goals from Campbell and Smith see off Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and a 2-0 home win against QPR puts the Gunners within sight of the finishing post. Against Aston Villa, fans sing "We’ve got that ‘double’ feeling", but in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Tottenham take the spoils on the way to winning the trophy. Gary Lineker scores twice, but the star of the show is unquestionably Paul Gascoigne, whose blistering free kick past David Seaman lives long in the memory for all the wrong reasons. 


Alan Smith

Alan Smith


Despite the blow of the semi-final loss, Arsenal don’t falter in the league – but Liverpool do, losing to Chelsea as Arsenal grind out a point at relegation-haunted Sunderland. When Liverpool lose again at Nottingham Forest on May Day Bank Holiday Monday, Arsenal are crowned champions. Manchester United form a guard of honour at Highbury before being beaten 3-1 courtesy of an Alan Smith hat-trick. Steve Bruce’s late goal means Arsenal won’t set a new defensive record for the fewest number of goals conceded in a season, but only letting in 18 goals is a remarkable achievement. “Go out and be the Arsenal,” instructs George Graham prior to the last game of the campaign at home to Coventry. His players listen, running out 6-1 winners. Anders Limpar scores his first goals in six months and bags a hat-trick. Smith scores his 23rd league goal of the season and Arsenal can look forward to a crack at the European Cup.


George Graham and Tony Adams

George Graham and Tony Adams


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