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GCR Books

The best defence and the worst attack. The origins of Boring Boring Arsenal

By Tony Attwood
.
3 March 1993: Norwich 1 Arsenal 1 is the 12th consecutive match in which neither Arsenal nor their opponents scored more than one goal. –

1992/3 is a season well recorded in Arsenal’s history as the season in which the club did the Cup Double – the first ever club to achieve this, winning both the FA Cup and League Cup.

So we’ve done the cups.  But what is sometimes forgotten is that it is also the season in which the phrase “Boring boring Arsenal” came to haunt the club through a seemingly endless succession of games in which neither side could score more than one goal.

Arsenal in fact only once scored four goals, and only twice scored three in any league match during the entire season.  As for over four goals, that never happened.

The worst part of the league season ran from 12 December 1992 through to 3 March 1993 – and the gruesome details are set out below…

  • 12 December 1992: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 0
  • 19 December 1992: Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough (23197)
  • 26 December 1992: Arsenal 0 Ipswich Town 0 ( 26,198)
  • 9 January 1993: Arsenal 1 Sheffield U 1 (23,818)
  • 16 January 1993: Manchester City 0 Arsenal 1
  • 31 January 1993: Arsenal 0 Liverpool 1 (27,580)
  • 10 February 1993: Arsenal 0 Wimbledon 1 (18,253)
  • 20 February 1993: Oldham Athletic 0 Arsenal 1
  • 24 February 1993: Arsenal 0 Leeds U 0  (21,061)
  • 1 March1993: Chelsea 1 Arsenal 0
  • 3 March 1993: Norwich City 1 Arsenal 1

Arsenal then did end this awful run with a 0-2 away victory against Coventry on 13 March, and followed this with an utterly unbelievable  4-3 win over Southampton at Highbury on 20 March 1993.  Sadly the excitement didn’t continue as then we went back to our old ways

  • 24 March 1993: Manchester Utd 0 Arsenal 0
  • 6 April 1993: Middlesbrough 1 Arsenal 0

By this stage the league table looked like this

Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Aston Villa 36 19 10 7 52 33 +19 67
2 Manchester United 36 18 12 6 54 28 +26 66
3 Norwich City 37 19 8 10 51 52 -1 65
4 Blackburn Rovers 34 14 11 9 51 34 +17 53
5 Manchester City 35 14 8 13 49 40 +9 50
6 Sheffield Wednesday 33 13 11 9 42 37 +5 50
7 Coventry City 37 13 11 13 48 47 +1 50
8 Chelsea 37 12 14 11 43 43 0 50
9 Queens Park Rangers 36 13 10 13 48 46 +2 49
10 Tottenham Hotspur 34 13 10 11 43 49 -6 49
11 Arsenal 34 13 8 13 33 31 +2 47
12 Wimbledon 36 12 10 14 46 47 -1 46
13 Liverpool 35 12 10 13 46 48 -2 46
14 Southampton 37 12 10 15 48 51 -3 46
15 Ipswich Town 37 10 16 11 42 46 -4 46
16 Everton 36 13 6 17 43 45 -2 45
17 Leeds United 35 11 11 13 45 49 -4 44
18 Crystal Palace 35 9 14 12 41 50 -9 41
19 Sheffield United 35 11 7 17 42 45 -3 40
20 Oldham Athletic 35 10 8 17 52 62 -10 38
21 Middlesbrough 37 9 10 18 43 64 -21 37
22 Nottingham Forest 35 9 9 17 33 48 -15 36

Yes it seems hard to believe but here we are in the Graham era with Arsenal one point above Wimbledon and 18 point behind Norwich.  (It is also interesting that I write this on 3 March 2014, having yesterday watched Coventry City v Shrewsbury in the 3rd division.   The match was played in front of less than 2000 people – and yet here they are 21 years ago above us in the top division.   It makes me realise that surviving at the top is as much part of the game as anything else.)

But back to the events of 1993.

Arsenal had the worst attack (equal with bottom of the table Nottm Forest) and the second best defence.  This combination kept us in mid-table and undoubtedly served the club well in the cups, but it did not endear the club to the fans at league games.   As a result crowds dropped as shown in the figures for home matches above.  There was certainly no need to buy a ticket in advance.

And things didn’t really improve after the 6 April game, for Arsenal had eight more league matches to go, and the results were

  • Won: 2
  • Drawn: 3
  • Lost: 3

Of this sequence only the last two games had more than one goal for either side.  They were

  • 8 May 1993: Arsenal 3 Crystal Palace 0  (22,225)
  • 11 May 1993: Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3 (26,393)

In all we had played 42 games and scored 40 goals and had played Tottenham in front of just 26,393.  OK it was a meaningless end of season match – but still it was Tottenham.  22 years after the famous end of season victory as part of the double.

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The Anniversary files now have over 3000 entries, and are now divided into six sections:

 

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