The George Graham era is when I went to Arsenal home and away the most and towards the end of his reign I sat through many a yawnsome afternoon. However there is a perceived and accepted notion that his Arsenal were boring and lacklustre; winners yes, but a dull side to watch. This of course is untrue of the whole of Graham’s tenure.
One only has to look at a game such as Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2 at Anfield in 1989; possibly one of the least boring games ever played in English football. What about 1992 when Arsenal scored a total of 92 goals in all competitions or the demolitions of Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday and Standard Liege? Then there are some of the players; Merson, Limpar, Thomas, Davis, Wright, Rocastle; Boring? No way. Alan Smith won the golden boot as did Ian Wright, proving that we had goals alongside defensive quality.
Good defending achieved a lot in those days not least the amazing ECWC win against a number of better teams. Then there was an unprecedented Domestic Cup double, a Championship season with only one loss, while having to deal with a points deduction, and other cup victories.
Arsenal 5 Villa 0
A lot of us remember the likes of Selley,and Morrow yet they were part of the ECWC winning team. Hillier, Pates Kiwomya, Hartson were on a par with Diaby, Denilson, Eboue and Bendtner but were not allowed to stay for six years. Other gambles didn’t quite pay off; Jensen was a decent player as was Stefan Schwartz but it never quite worked out for them. Campbell budding success was somewhat pruned by the arrival of Ian Wright.
Wright at wembley
Champions V City
The point is that Graham manged to keep winning trophies even when he over burdened the club with sub standard players.
Of course he bought some bad player; was McGoldrick more inept than Stepanovs? Was Jimmy Carter more of a liability than Almunia? Did Glenn Helder represent better value than Amaury Bischoff?
Whatever is said about Graham’s reign you have to look at the influence of the players that he bought to the club; in Winterburn, Bould, Dixon and Seaman along with Adams and Keown he created a dynastic defence utilised to great effect by Wenger (who also inherited Rioch’s Bergkamp). Ray Parlour was also retained and what these players had was ‘The Arsenal way’ embedded in them and they were able to teach the newcomers these values. Add to this players like Davis, Thomas and Rocastle and he had a group of men that were, tenacious, mischeavous, and not afraid to get stuck in.
Arsenal V Parma
Of course it's clear that the Invincibles represent the pinnacle of Arsenal team's in terms of entertainment but Graham's era was about much more than obdurate defending. This is by no means an ode to stroller, however his tenure at Arsenal is often misunderstood, it wasn’t all boring, boring Arsenal, it was sometimes scoring, scoring Arsenal and he was the manager that took over a club that was in the doldrums and took them back to the top. This is something that should not be taken lightly.
Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 0
a night of chilling simplicity