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GCR Books

How Arsenal were docked two points but still won the league

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal started the 1990/1 season well, and indeed this turned out to be the trial run for the unbeaten season – we only lost one league match all through the season.

Here is the opening…

Against Res Scorers Crowd
25 August 1990 Wimbledon A W 3–0 Merson, Smith, Groves 13,733
29 August 1990 Luton Town H W 2–0 Merson, Thomas 32,723
1 September 1990 Tottenham Hotspur H D 0–0 40,009
8 September 1990 Everton A D 1–1 Groves 29,919
15 September 1990 Chelsea H W 4–1 Limpar, Dixon (pen.), Merson, Rocastle 40,475
22 September 1990 Nottingham Forest A W 2–0 Limpar, Rocastle 26,013
29 September 1990 Leeds United A D 2–2 Limpar (2) 30,085
6 October 1990 Norwich City H W 2–0 Davis (2) 36,737
20 October 1990 Manchester United A W 1–0 Limpar 47,232

That last game was the one where most of the players got involved in a fair bit of pushing and shoving and the ref lost control.  I seem to recall him running around quite a lot, blowing the whistle quite a lot, and trying to pull players apart quite a lot.  He would have been better off just stepping to one side, blowing twice, and then walking off, if he really thought it was the “mass brawl” that the press subsequently described it as.

There was an enquiry afterwards, and the FA decided to remove two points from Arsenal and one for Manchester United.   Quite why there was this difference, quite why this suddenly happened having never happened before, and quite why other teams that engaged in much the same sort of behaviour were not punished in this way was never explained.

Players could have been suspended, Highbury could have been closed for a match or two… anything.  But for the first, and possibly only time, (do write in please if it has happened before or since) the clubs had points deducted for not controlling their players.

And yet that sort of fracas was not uncommon.  Odd that, that they should pick on Arsenal.

The deduction of points appeared in the league table on 17 November for the first time.  Of course straight after the Man U game, no one quite knew what if anything would happen.  We had, after all, seen it so many times before.

So the table after the Man U game but before the points deduction looked like this:

    Pd   W D L F A GD Pts
 1 Liverpool 9   8 1 0 20 6 +14 25
2 Arsenal 9   6 3 0 17 5 +12 21
3 Tottenham Hotspur 9   5 4 0 15 3 +12 19
4 Crystal Palace 9   4 5 0 13 6 +7 17
5 Manchester City 9   4 4 1 12 9 +3 16
6 Nottingham Forest 9   3 4 2 12 11 +1 13

After the deduction on 17 November the gap between the top two was even bigger and it seemed that the two points removal was the final straw.

    Pd   W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 13   12 1 0 30 7 +23 37
2 Arsenal 13   9 4 0 24 5 +19 29
3 Tottenham Hotspur 12   7 4 1 22 9 +13 25
4 Crystal Palace 13   6 6 1 19 12 +7 24
5 Leeds United 13   6 4 3 22 14 +8 22
6 Manchester United 13   6 3 4 17 14 +3 20

Liverpool[‘s start that season was extraordinary and the press were writing the season off after just 13 games – Liverpool had won it.  Might as well stop now.

But this was the season in which Arsenal won the league with games to spare with Liverpool playing an afternoon televised match, failing to get the win they wanted, and Arsenal then playing the evening game against Man U (who had to give Arsenal a guard of honour at the start) with everyone singing that plaintive refrain, over and over again:

You can stick your fucking two points up your arse

Oh, happy days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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