The time is up for Wenger, Henry, Bergkamp, Ljunberg, and Parlour
On 23 December 2000 Arsenal lost 4-0 to Liverpool, the Arsenal team including Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Dixon, Keown, Parlour, Ljungberg… The media called it a “thrashing” with some editors undoubtedly getting excited with memories of their own public school experiences.
Indeed, December 2000 had proven to be a difficult month all round for Arsenal with just two wins in the last six, and a sequence of just five goals in five games.
And of course the press couldn’t let go of the tale that Arsenal had not won at Anfield in eight years and hadn’t even scored in their last three visits to Anfield, and after this game (making it no goals in four visits) the press crowed over the “wonderful” Steven Gerrard, “the game’s outstanding performer” (the BBC).
Arsenal on the other hand were said to have travel sickness and a complete inability to score goals. The attacking players (Henry, Bergkamp, Ljungberg, Parlour) just were not up to the job and needed to be moved on if Arsenal were ever to make a serious challenge for the title.
As a result of the game Arsenal retained their second place above Leicester on goal difference but were eight points behind Man Utd.
Worse, this result made it three defeats two wins and two draws in last seven, and there was considerable talk of Arsenal slipping down the league especially looking at the next fixtures.
In fact, on Boxing Day Arsenal had to play third placed Leicester City. The media predicted another Arsenal defeat. Arsenal won 6-1.
But we still were not back on track. New Year’s Day saw an unusual defeat to Charlton. In fact the new year started as the old year had finished, and by 20 January with a goalless draw against Leicester, that made three draws and one defeat in the last four league games.
The league table on this day showed Arsenal in third, with Liverpool and Ipswich only one point behind them. A top four finish was said to be unlikely, especially as on 25 February came another disaster: a 6-1 defeat to Man U, emphasising the fact that there were now 16 points between Man U and Arsenal. Arsenal’s days with this Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira team were numbered. Or so we were told.
In fact Arsenal did recover enough to finish the league second, ten behind Man U, making it a hat trick of coming second.
Of course had this been 2014, the 6-1 defeat to Man U, and the 4-0 to Liverpool, not to mention a 1-3 home defeat to Middlesbrough, would have had sixty or so Arsenal “fans” up in arms demanding that Wenger should go, with the full support of the press.
Thankfully for the moment at least the board took no notice. I say fortunately because the following season Arsenal won the Double.
It would have been a shame to miss it.