Having finished the 1990/91 season as Division One champions, losing just once in the process, it would have been an unwelcome surprise to fans at Highbury when George Graham’s side put up such a poor title defence.
In their first 25 games of the 1991/92 campaign Arsenal won just nine, drawing eight and losing eight. The club was also knocked out of Europe by Benfica in the second round and famously lost to Wrexham in the third round of the FA Cup. It was certainly not the season of champions.
Winless in seven games, Arsenal entered February in 8th place before finding inspiration from somewhere to go their final 17 league games unbeaten to finish 4th. Ian Wright’s goals in his debut season for the north London outfit played a pivotal role in the incredible turnaround, as the Gunners missed out on the UEFA Cup by an agonising three points.
The Arsenal Class of 1997/98 are looked back on with fond memories of steel and silk, grit and greatness, but if not for a late-season surge it could have been a very different story.
After a strong start to the campaign, Arsene Wenger’s team contrived to lose four out of six games before Christmas, finding themselves 5th as February rolled around with Manchester United four points clear at the top.
Then began the run of form that would lead them to the club’s first title for seven years. The famous Arsenal defence kicked in as the Gunners completed eight games without conceding a goal before going on a run of 10 straight wins from March to May.
That victorious streak included a pivotal 1-0 win at Old Trafford and culminated in Tony Adams' famous goal against Everton as Arsenal sealed the title with two games to go.
On February 2, 2002, Arsenal were hardly in crisis and right in the title race, but a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton was in keeping with what had been up until then – a season stuck in second gear.
With 13 games to go the Gunners were three points behind Manchester United (who had played a game more), and a point behind Newcastle. The title, then, was very much up for grabs – and boy, did Wenger’s men grab it. Arsenal went on to win their remaining 13 league games, clinching the title through Sylvain Wiltord’s winner at Old Trafford with a game to go.
The run also included Dennis Bergkamp’s physics-defying strike against Newcastle, as Arsenal’s defence allowed just six goals past them (and three of those came in the final game of the season).
Their fine form extended into the FA Cup, as they clinched their second domestic double in four years by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Wembley.
The 2005/06 season was a traumatic one for Arsenal. With Chelsea dominating the Premier League and Highbury in its final year, keeping their place among Europe’s elite would have been something of a comfort blanket amid the upheaval.
But after 27 games, Arsenal had already lost 10 of their fixtures and sat in 7th, with Bolton on two games in hand above them and Tottenham residing in the last Champions League qualification position.
But Wenger's men showed steely resilience to put together a fine run of form that would see them clinch 4th place on the final day of the season. In their final 11 league games the Gunners scored 29 times, earning 26 points and conceded just nine goals. They even got a fairy tale ending to the season, beating Wigan 4-2 in Highbury’s final game thanks to a Thierry Henry hat-trick.
By now the rumblings at Arsenal were getting louder. Seven years without a trophy at the start of the season and ignominiously exiting all three cup competitions, Arsenal found themselves in crisis when Tottenham beat them 2-1 at White Hart Lane with 10 league games to go.
With Gareth Bale performing weekly heroics for Spurs there was a feeling that this was to be their year to overhaul Arsenal in the league. With 10 games left Wenger's team were 5th, seven points from 3rd-place Tottenham and five points from Chelsea in fourth.
But Arsenal once again turned their form around as they engaged in a thrilling battle with Spurs for a place in Europe. Conceding just five goals in their final 10 league fixtures, Arsenal edged out their north London rivals on the last day of the season with a nervy 1-0 win away at Newcastle.
The Gunners may not have ended their trophy drought, but were happy enough to secure Champions League football for another year.
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