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April 2018
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GCR Books

Is History Repeating Itself for Arsenal?

 

Arsenal lost the League Cup final at Wembley in humbling fashion. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest, and finished in a disappointing sixth position in the league.

The Gunners stuck with their manager that summer and the next season they won the league for the first time in over a decade.

Is this a grandiose prophecy? No. The year was 1988.

It’s quite amazing how patterns such as this can emerge, and we can always learn from history. That is, of course, not to say we expect Arsenal to win the league next season.

The toothless 3-0 defeat to Man City at Wembley is one that many Gunners’ fans would like to forget in a hurry. But the same would also have been said in 1988, when Arsenal headed into the final ten minutes 2-1 up, only to throw it away and gift Luton Town – yes, the now League Two Luton Town – their first and only major domestic title.

On that fateful day at Wembley (in 1988), George Graham’s side contained a few familiar names: Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Michael Thomas and Alan Smith – each of whom would go on to play iconic parts in the club’s history.

Incidentally, the club were knocked out of both domestic cups at the third round stage in the subsequent title-winning year, so hold your horses before eyeing up Arsenal in the League Cup betting markets in 2019.

The season that followed would produce one of the dramatic rollercoaster title rides in football history. Arsenal got off to a flying start, at one stage leading Liverpool by 11 points. However, Liverpool were the form team after New Year and looked set to fittingly defend the league title just a month after the Hillsborough disaster.

With three league games to go, Arsenal had a two-point advantage over their Merseyside rivals, but they threw this away losing 2-1 at home to Derby, and then drawing 2-2 with Wimbledon at Highbury.

Those results meant Arsenal would head to Anfield three points behind Liverpool in the final match of the season, with a goal difference of two less than Kenny Dalglish’s side. Simply put, Arsenal had to go to Anfield and beat Liverpool by two goals or more in order to claim the league title.

Many felt the match was a formality, with Arsenal having not won at Anfield since 1974. Michael Thomas had other ideas.

Only twice in the history of the English top flight has the title been decided in stoppage time of the final game. The other was, of course, Sergio Aguero’s late, late strike to secure the Premier League title for Man City in 2012. But many still believe, especially those who were there to witness it, that Arsenal’s injury-time winner at Liverpool was the most dramatic title decider of all-time.

The big question is, though: can history really repeat itself for Arsenal?

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