The 1986/87 season saw so many twists and turns, i don’t think i could do it justice in one article.
So, if you’ll indulge me, i’ll split it into two parts……
The summer of 1986 saw one of our ex-players return to the club as Arsenal manager, George Graham.
George ‘Stroller’ Graham had been a classy player and a vital member of our 1971 double winning team. He had excellent ball control, a great range of passing and was brilliant in the air. What George was most definitely not noted for, however, was his workrate. But workrate and effort was exactly what Stroller now demanded from his playing staff. As he would later remark himself, George the manager would never have picked George the player.
The first thing George did was get his message across to our under-achievers. Mariner and Woodcock were gone before pre-season training had started. Nicholas, Williams, Anderson and Rix were all told to shape up or f**k off. The only addition to our squad was Perry Groves from 4th division Colchester, who’d been a transfer target for Graham at Millwall.
The season started with a full house at Highbury for the visit of Man Utd, Charlie Nicholas tapping in the only goal of the game. This was quickly followed by defeats at Liverpool and Coventry and, as October rolled around, we’d only won once more in our opening 8 games.
Injuries to Nicholas, Rix and Robson brought Williams, Groves and Hayes into the first team and we started to pick up a bit of form. Williams scored with a 30 yarder in a 1-0 win away at league leaders Everton. Watford were beaten 3-1, with Groves having a blinder, and Steve Williams got another goal as we won up at Newcastle. David Rocastle single-handedly beat Chelsea at Highbury and by the time Martin Hayes scored a brilliant solo goal, to seal an away win at Charton, we found ourselves top of the table.
The transformation was incredible. The back four were looking solid. David O’Leary and Viv Anderson seemed to revel in the responsibility of looking after an erratic Tony Adams. Steve Williams and Paul Davis were bossing the middle of the park, David Rocastle was playing out of his skin and Hayes, Groves and Quinn weren’t giving the opposition defences a moment to relax.
November saw Villa and Southampton both beaten 4-0 away home, either side of a 3-0 win over Man City at Highbury. Martin Hayes ran QPR ragged in a 3-1 win at home but the game was more notable for George Graham going mental when QPR scored a late consolation goal. The boss locked the players in the dressing room for an hour after the match and reminded them, in no uncertain terms, that he expected 100% effort for the entire 90 minutes.
Niall Quinn scored the only goal as Arsenal celebrated their 100th birthday with a win over Southampton at Highbury on Boxing Day and Wimbledon were beaten 3-0, all the goals coming from set-pieces (another improvement under Graham), on New Years Day. Then followed our annual visit to the yids.
A tap-in from Tony Adams and a Paul Davis free-kick put us in the driving seat. The yids scored right on half-time and the second half saw us produce a superb “backs to the wall” display as we clung on for a 2-1 win.
We were now 4 points clear at the top of the table and as we bounced up and down on the Park Lane, taunting the yids about the shift in power in North London, we all felt that our long wait for success was coming to an end……………
Wrote by Libertine @ Goonersworld