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GCR Books

1994: The last Arsenal pre-season for George Graham

By Tony Attwood

This article continues the series on pre-season events across the years.  All the pre-seasons from 1995 to 2014 have been covered so far and there is an index on the home page.

Although of course we didn’t know it at the time, Arsenal finished George Graham’s last complete season (1993/4) in fourth place which doesn’t sound too bad but it was 21 points behind the champions, which does.  We went out in the fourth round of both domestic cups.

1993 was the time when the new all seater North Bank opened, and yet despite having a capacity of 38,000 Arsenal generally played to smaller crowds.  Even the home game against Tottenham only brought in 35669.

Part of the problem was that Arsenal scored just 53 goals in that 1993/4 season – fewer than Tottenham who finished up 15th.  The club had by far the best defence in the league letting in 28 all season in the league, but that didn’t bring in the crowds.

So for 1994/5 clearly something needed to be done.  But in fact it wasn’t.  My own feeling that even without his downfall for accepting a back hander when signing Jensen, George Graham had simply lost the drive to get things sorted.

On 19 March 1994 we had had Southampton 0 Arsenal 4.  It was the final appearance for Anders Limpar; Wright scored a hat trick for the second league match running.   But as the transfers through the year showed, Limpar was not replaced.   Much of the transfer activity was of clearing out unwanted players.

20 March 1998: Vince Bartram signed for Gillingham on a free transfer.  He had made 11 league appearances in 1994/5 but none thereafter.   And on 22 March Neil Heaney transferred to Southampton.  He had made four league starts and three appearances as a sub in his three seasons with Arsenal.

To complete the clearout, on 24 March 1994 George Graham sold Anders Limpar to Everton for £1.6m.  Limpar was subsequently very critical of Graham’s style of forcing players out by arranging transfers without telling the player that the offer was there until the last minute.  Maybe George had really lost touch with the need to motivate players.

Still, the club end that season fourth, but more to the point on  4 May 1994 Arsenal won the Cup Winners Cup for the one and only time by beating Parma 1-0 in Copenhagen.  Ian Wright missed the final through suspension, Alan Smith scored the goal.

Was it that having a European trophy the club thought everything was all right?  Having sold three players the transfers inwards were not that exciting.

The one big name to come in was Stefan Schwarz.  Otherwise we had on 16 June 1994Lee Harper signed from Sittingbourne.  He only played once for Arsenal before moving on to QPR.  In his career he played over 100 times each for QPR, Northampton and Kettering.  And on 10 August 1994: Vince Bartram signed from AFC Bournemouth.  He had played 132 games for Bournemouth, but went on to play just 11 games for Arsenal.  On the way out was goalkeeper Alan Miller transferred to Middlesbrough for £500,000.  He played just nine games for Arsenal and had three separate loan spells before going on to play 57 times for Middlesbrough.

Pre season friendlies

  • 26 July 1994: Lyn 1 Arsenal 0

This was the first game for Stefan Schwarz in friendly v Lyn.  He had played 77 games for Benfica across a three year period but only played one season for Arsenal before moving on to Fiorentina.

Quite how Arsenal lost this game I have no idea.  I wasn’t there and I can’t find a report on the game.  The team was Seaman, Dixon, Morrow, Jensen, Linighan, Adams, Campbell, Wright, Merson, Schwarz, Carter.

Even the bench was strong including Winterburn, Hillier, Bould and Smith.   But at least they picked themselves up.

I presume the Lyn in question is the Lyn from Oslo, who reached the Norwegian Cup Final in 1994.  Maybe the answer is that they were half way through their season, and this was the first warm up.  The second match, against Raufoss, from Uppland in Norway, went more according to plan…

  • 31 July 1994: Raufoss 0 Arsenal 9 (Wright 3, Merson 2, Campbell 2, Dikov, Carter)
  • 2 August 1994: Stromsgodset 1 Arsenal 5 (Wright 3, Merson, Adams)

Then came the Makita Tournament, and there is a bit of it on You Tube

  • 6 August 1994: Arsenal 0 Atletico Madrid 0 (AM won 3-2 on pens)
  • 7 August 1994: Arsenal 1 Napoli 0 (Wright)
  • 10 August 1994: Gillingham 1 Arsenal 3 (Wright, Campbell 2)
  • 13 August 1994: Arsenal 1 Crystal Palace 3 (Dikov.  Tony Adams testimonial).

What happened next?

Arsenal won one game in the first six in the league, scoring five goals across those games.  There was a slight upturn but by match 22 on 31 December in which Arsenal lost 1-3 at home to QPR, with Jensen famously scoring, Arsenal had won a grand total of six matches.  The trouble though was still scoring goals – Wright got 18 in the league, and it wasn’t until Hartson came along that there was a second scorer.  On 21 January when George Graham was relieved of his duties, Arsenal were 11th.  They ended up 12th, 38 points behind the winners and went out of the FA Cup in the third round, and the league cup in the 5th.  It was a dismal time to be an Arsenal season ticket holder.

 

3 comments to 1994: The last Arsenal pre-season for George Graham

  • Jamie

    George Graham was relieved on 21st February, not January.

  • Patrick Harrington

    At least he got the year right, unlike Amy Lawrence in “So Paddy Got Up”.

  • Lawrence Hall-Daniels

    so sad when George left. to my mind a better manager than Wenger. Wenger brought better players no doubt but Graham was a winner! had he had the same team as Wenger we would have won a lot more.

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