By Tony Attwood
In part one of the review of 1999/2000 we looked at a season opening that was a mix of injuries and the arrival of new players who took time to settle. It was no coincidence this season that Arsenal’s run of success had to wait until the end of the season, when the injuries finally cleared up. We got 8 consecutive wins in March and April which secured second position, when for much of the season fourth seemed a more likely outcome.
But it was outside the league that something singularly odd happened, and was, for me at least, the first signal that all was not right with the world of football.
The match is question was Werder Bremen against Arsenal. Mr Wenger was trying to organise two substitutes at once – a very ordinary procedure and certainly not outside the laws of the game. However the officials refused to allow two subs at once for a reason that was never explained either then or later.
During the confusion Henry committed what seemed to most people to be a very ordinary foul on Mike Barten of Werder Bremen and was sent off for it. It had little consequence for the game, which Arsenal won, but had every consequence for the following game for which Henry was banned. So eccentric and odd were the decisions of the ref that day that I can mark this down as the moment when more than at any other time, the review of refereeing in football began in my mind – a review that is now carried on daily on Untold Arsenal.
If we take a look at the cups this season, we find a strange mix. In the FA cup we went out in the fourth round to Leicester on penalties. In the Worthington we were out in the fourth round also, this time to Middlesbrough, again on penalties. In the Champions League we played again at Wembley but went out in the group stage and moved into the Uefa Cup. Here we reached the final, but lost on penalties.
Three cups three defeats on penalties.
Perhaps even more alarming was the fact that although we were second, we were a poor second. Manchester U got 91 points and lost only three league games all season. We got 73 points and lost nine. In third place was Leeds United with 69 points, and a total of 11 league defeats.
There’s a special significance here because Leeds’ third place took them into the Champions League, and they pushed on to the semi final under the guiding lights of our old chums David O’Leary and Peter Risdale. They were knocked out at the end of March 2000 and not long after the fall from grace began. While Arsenal were winning the league unbeaten in 2004, Leeds were one of three clubs on just 33 points that went down. By 2007 they were in administration, suffering a 10 point deduction and going into the third division.
Such events show to me that it is not just a question of what you do this season, or next season, but how you conserve your resources over time.
Following this point I find it interesting that in 1999/2000 of the 13 bottom clubs only 3 are still in the top division. The bottom 13 in descending order were
- West Ham
- Bradford City
- Sheffield Wednesday
All these clubs still exist, although Wimbledon has morphed into a new club (AFC Wimbledon) who this year won promotion to the fourth division from the Conference. Wimbledon began their descent into non-existence and rebirth in Milton Keynes, along with Sheffield Wednesday (who have been on the edge a few times since) and Watford.
The FA Cup semis involved Bolton, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Chelsea. Chelsea beat Villa 1-0 in the final In the league cup Leicester beat Tranmere 2-1. Charlton, Manchester City and Ipswich Town came up to the Premier League.
Next – 2000/1