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GCR Books

1997/8 Mr Wenger’s second season. The close margin between success and failure.

By Tony Attwood

The result in the league for 1997/8 look wonderful – we won the league with two games to spare, and finished five points ahead of Manchester U who ended up in second place.

We also won the FA Cup – our second double.

The winning match of the season, by which I mean the game when we won the league, was a 4-0 home thrashing of Everton.   You will know this game, even if you were not there – because Tony Adams scored a wonder goal in front of the north bank, and just stood there, arms aloft.  It is one of the iconic pictures of Arsenal and Highbury.

I have so many memories of that day.  Being with Roger, my dear pal, and turning to him at half time and saying “we’ve done it” and him saying, “we could still throw this away!”   Thinking, “we’ve certainly got an interesting forward line in Anelka and Wreh,” and having little knowledge of what was to happen to both.

Plus with five minutes to go, leaning forward in my seat in the north bank upper, and looking left and seeing not the normal straggle of early leavers drifting away from the ground trying to beat the crowd, but instead the streets utterly packed solid with fans outside who had not been able to get tickets to be in the match.

As it happened with lost the final two matches 0-4 and 0-1 but no one minded because we were then thinking of the FA Cup.  It was all so wonderful.  Wasn’t it?

It was until mid-October. We were undefeated and had beaten Barnsley (yes Barnsley, in the Premier League) 5-0.  But then the next eight games were awful.  We won two of those games, drew two of them 0-0, and lost to Derby, Sheffield W, Newcastle and Blackburn.   By 13 December we were slipping, and slipping badly.

Although we started to rally around Christmas the team clearly had the ability to cause us regular supporters some serious heartache.   Third round of the FA Cup in January – at home to Port Vale, no problem.  We lined up

Seaman

Grimandi Keown Bould Winterburn

Parlour Vieira Petit OPvermars

Anelka Bergkamp

Not much wrong with that team.  No taking the FA Cup too lightly eh?  We drew 0-0 at Highbury.   Still the replay would be fine – except that we drew that too, 1-1 in extra time.   We won on penalties.

In fact the FA Cup, which of course we won, gave us particular problems that season.   We had another 0-0 at home in the fifth round with Crystal Palace, then of the Premier League, and against West Ham in the sixth we once again had to go to penalties.

In the League Cup we were at it again.  Against Birmingham in the third round we won 4-1 but not until extra time.  Against Coventry in the 4th round, there was extra time again.  We finally went out to Chelsea over two legs in the semis.

As for Europe, we lost to PAOK Salonika in the first round we played in, with a draw at home and a 1-0 defeat away.

My point therefore is that we won the double, and of course I celebrate this, not least because I was there.  But there were some very difficult times, and a lot of gnashing of teeth about the team’s performance on occasions.   The record book doesn’t lie – a double and five points ahead, but during the season itself it was not all plain sailing.

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1 comment to 1997/8 Mr Wenger’s second season. The close margin between success and failure.

  • Andy Kelly

    I remember from January onwards things started to click. Petit & Vieira were outstanding.

    In February I told my future boss (a Chelsea fan) that I could see us winning the double. He offered me 1000/1…. but only if I would stake £1000! Hindsight is a cruel mistress.

    Does anyone remember being in the upper tier of the North Bank for the last few games of the season and feeling it moving? A very strange sensation.

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