Twenty years since one of the great Arsenal teams clinched the title
Arsenal’s title-winning side of 1990/1991 is still talked about by many fans as being of their best. Whilst this success didn’t contain the sheer drama of Michael Thomas scoring the clincher with less than two minutes to go or the foreign flare of Arsene Wenger’s early sides, it did have a certain charm that was adored by all those that were watching week in and week out.
A wider look at the 1990/1991 season
The Gunners won the title after only losing once all season. Whilst Wenger would obviously, and famously, go on to mastermind an invincible season, the team's last top-flight win under its First Division branding would be just as dominant.
At the bottom of the league, newly promoted Sunderland went straight back down after achieving promotion the year before. This is similar to the 2020/2021 season where 2 of the 3 newly promoted sides were relegated after just one season in the top flight. English Premier League relegation odds had placed Fulham and West Brom as two of the favourites to go down this season and that was exactly what ended up happening. The gulf between the divisions has only grown since the early 90s.
Missing out on the double
One of the few low points during this season was the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Tottenham. It was a game most widely known for an amazing goal from Paul Gascoigne, which perhaps eases some of the initial pain. It wasn't to be but clubs have always found it difficult to compete on multiple fronts.
Chelsea reached two cup finals this season whilst also being in a battle to finish in the top 4. The odds on the Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal placed the Blues as favourites to win that but their fatigue had an impact. Arteta's side, still recovering from Europa League defeat, managed to beat them 1-0 – a much-needed victory. Back in 1991, however, Arsenal’s only league defeat came away at Chelsea.
How good was Tony Adams?
This Arsenal side obviously contained several legends, with many going on to have a career spanning several seasons and managers. Tony Adams had the distinction of becoming captain in 1988 at the age of only 21. He would remain as captain until his retirement in 2002. A statue of Adams was set up in 2011 as part of the 125th-anniversary celebrations. During the 1990/1991 season, he played in most of the games alongside Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould, one of the most iconic back fours in the club's history, as well as football history.
It can often be forgotten just how resolute the Romford man was. But no other centre back at Highbury or the Emirates has come close to emulating the grace and composure Adams brought to the pitch. Only Sol Campbell can truly hold a candle to his fellow legend.
The crucial signing of David Seaman
One thing often forgotten when remembering this title win was that, in the build-up to the 1990/1991 season, Arsenal signed David Seaman. Many will say that this signing was key to the Gunners regaining the First Division title. He appeared in every single match and only conceded 18 goals. It's not controversial to say that no keeper since has been as consistent.
A further aspect of that triumph in 1991 was the number of homegrown players involved. Tony Adams alongside David Rocastle, Paul Merson and Paul Davis were all graduates of the academy. Fans have always placed great importance on the club developing young players. Mikel Arteta has started to flood more younger players this season – Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka have all been given more game time and seem to be key for Arsenal’s plans going forward.