Arsenal History: How George Graham won the 1990/91 title with the “Pre-Invincibles”

The pre-Invincibles

The 1990/91 season witnessed George Graham’s Gunners clinch the First Division league title after losing only one out of 38 matches.

Like the 1988/89 league campaign Arsenal’s first match was against Wimbledon which they beat comfortably 3-0 with three strikes being delivered in the second half from Paul Merson, Alan Smith and Perry Groves.

Four days later in August Luton Town were narrowly forced into submission 2-1 at Highbury thanks to goals from Merson and Michael Thomas.

September commenced with two consecutive draws, beginning with a 0-0 stalemate in the North London Derby with Spurs followed up by a 1-1 draw against Everton at Goodison Park, Groves goal saw at least a point gained. By the middle of the month Arsenal stepped up again securing four points out of four (with two counting for a win then). Chelsea were cracked open 4-1 with four solo hits from Andreas Limpar, Lee Dixon, Paul Merson and David Rocastle chipping in, all before Nottingham Forest were beaten with ease 2-0 with Limpar netting and David Rocastle.  A tricky 2-2 draw with Leeds United away closed off the month, Limpar grabbed two within 11 minutes of one another.

Arsenal would then seal four consecutive wins on the bounce in the First Division from the start of October to early November. Paul Davies filled up the score sheet against Norwich City after firing twice in the first half to grab a 2-0 Gunners victory. A crucial 1-0 win was then met at Manchester United with Limpars fifth goal of the campaign so far.  In the last match of October Lee Dixon scored a penalty late on versus Sunderland at home with nearly 40,000 crammed fans watching keenly from the ageing stands of Highbury. November watched Arsenal start off with a 2-0 beating of Coventry City thanks to Limpar again. However, a week later Crystal Palace held Arsenal at Selhurst Park to a dreadful 0-0 draw.  The Gunners finished off the month with four points out of a maximum four, Southampton were whipped 4-0 with lethal strikes from Merson, Limpar and Alan Smith with a brace.  The second was a 3-1 walk in the park over QPR seeing thunderbolts fire in from Merson, Dixon and Campbell.

Out of six matches in December, Arsenal won three drawing the remaining tussles.  The three draws came one after the other beginning with a 1-1 draw to Luton with Smith grabbing a point for The Gunners who were well and truly in charge of the title race already. In the middle game Wimbledon visited Highbury sealing a point in a 2-2 tedium where Merson and Tony Adams scored in the first half inside four minutes of each other, before a 0-0 stalemate finished off the run.

The New Year witnessed Arsenal suffer their one and only loss of the season in February to Chelsea 1-2 despite Smith pulling one back in the 89th minute to try and rescue a point and his sides unbeaten run.

The month before in January Arsenal struggled for goals direly scoring only twice in three matches which saw them pick up two 1-0 wins versus Everton and Manchester City.

However, after losing to the Blues Arsenal rediscovered their attacking form straight away sailing past Crystal Palace 4-0. Record appearance maker at Arsenal David O’ Leary got the scoring underway after only three minutes before Merson, Smith and Campbell netted the rest in the last game of February.

Liverpool whose hopes of a 19th league title were dashed after in-form Arsenal won at Anfield 1-0 due to a crucial goal from Merson midway through the second half. For the rest of March Arsenal won two drawing the other two. Leeds United was overturned 2-0 through the finishes of Campbell late on in the match. Three days later Campbell scored again when The Gunners drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest, when another three days after that another draw was witnessed at Carrow Road in a 0-0 stalemate. But a win at the end of the month against Derby County made up for the draws after Smith single handily put The Rams to bed.

Arsenal gained eight points out of ten in April with the standout match coming against Aston Villa who were thrashed 5-0 with Campbell and Smith both filling their boots with two strikes and Davies joining in with the fun. The two draws of the month were achieved home and away, Saints stopped The Gunners in a 1-1 draw at The Dell with Smith scoring the solo strike, before Manchester City ran away from Highbury with a point following a 2-2 draw with Dixon scoring from the spot and Merson later dispatching for Arsenal.

In Arsenals final three games of the season a 0-0 draw was secured at Sunderland’s Roker Park, two days forward Manchester United were comfortably beaten 3-1 with hero of the day Smith grabbing a hat-trick. On the 11th of May Arsenal were crowned Champions of England and Highbury with a total 6-1 annihilation of Coventry City at home. Trevor Peake reached his peak scoring, alongside Limpar who rose to the occasion with a hat-trick, with Smith and Perry Groves putting one in the back of the net each and not forgetting one unfortunate Coventry player too who slid one in at his back post.

Arsenal topped the table on 83 points by the final point of the season beating Liverpool to the title by seven points.

This would prove to be Arsenal’s final league title won under George Graham before he departed North London in 1995.

Liam Harding

Do you want to read our whole collection of history articles? Check out our Just Arsenal History section

CALLING ALL ARSENAL FANS! Anyone who would like to contribute an Article or Video opinion piece on JustArsenal, please contact us through this link

Tags 1990/91 George Graham


  1. Some great players in this Arsenal side and a wonderful achievement given the strength of Liverpool in particular and other clubs at that time. George Graham certainly deserves a statue given his service and achievements, as a player and manager at the Arsenal.

      1. jon, “bungs” seemed to be a common occurrence in those days with GG and Arsenal the only club action was taken by. Any history video on the late Brian Clough and many other managers at the time made the same accusations yet no action was taken.
        The money from transfers, which made its way into George Graham’s pocket pales into insignificance to that taken by many highly paid underperforming players and recent club administrators. At least GG always gave 100% for the Arsenal as a player and manager before he was shown the door.

  2. George is an absolute legend, having won all domestic trophies and in Europe. No one has that record. Without him, Wenger doesn’t achieve what he did.

  3. Almost a forgotten legend because of this ridiculous narrative from some that Arsenal were nothing until Wenger’s arrival.

    Some forget Graham only won one league title less than Wenger, and in 9 years compared to Wenger’s 22 years in charge, and Graham was the the last Arsenal to win a European trophy.

    Both brilliant for us, it’s just a shame Graham rarely gets the acknowledgments he deserves.

    1. The trouble with his legacy is that it was tarnished, unfortunately. No doubt that countless other managers were lining their pockets illegally but GG got caught.

      Nonetheless George Graham was a brilliant manager

  4. George Graham was just ibe game away from having his own “Invincible” team and was so unlucky not to have achieved that accolade that Sir Alex Ferguson has stated was THE most brilliant thing to have achieved in modern day football.
    Funnily enough, if our board had waited just a little bit longer, they could have signed AF, but they didn’t and GG became out manager instead.

    I haven’t read or heard anyone say that The Arsenal were “nothing” until AW arrived, but one gets used to these untruths from certain posters.

    George was such a different player to his managerial stance, earning the nickname of Stroller because of his Ozil like attitude and body language on the field, but he was a strict and autocratic manager who, like MA in many ways, did not tolerate anyone who attacked his authority.

    We saw the likes of Charlie Nicholas and, tragically, David Rocastle leave the club, as George wouldn’t tolerate individual technique above his teamwork.

    1-0 To The Arsenal is one of his legacies and, in my opinion, sums up his attitude to the game.
    Despite the trophies he won, it was like a breath of fresh air when our style of football changed when he left – but I still chant the 1-0 and remember how we, the fans, loved being called “boring boring Arsenal”.

    As eluded to above, George brought about his own downfall at The Arsenal and even went on to manage the spuds!!

    Of course, there was The Arsenal before GG and Bertie Mee, Herbert Chapman etc were also integral parts of what the club is today.

    Does he deserve a statue?
    His results certainly suggest he should be in with a shout, but my paragraph about his downfall and managing the spuds inclines me to say no.

    1. Hello ken.
      I am usually in agreement with your here in JA, but this time, I am not so sure I do.

      As a player Yes a statue. I think if he had never managed the club a statue would be a certainty

      As a manager the trophies say it all.

      Yes I agree there is shall we say a ‘shadow’,

      But surely the one permanent way we can say ‘Thank you George.’ is by way of a statue.

      1. A statue for a man who stole off the club that paid hm a massive salary? Are you quite well, I have to wonder!

    2. A fictional narrative ( one of JA favourite words ATM )I would add Ken ,made up from a poster (his third account )who will try every time to diminish any kind of achievements Arsene had at the club .
      Like you I have never seen any one ever post such tripe so not sure where ThirdJen as got that from .

      1. Plucked it out of thin air again and will say it’s a fact Dan kit.

        The sad thing is, the more stories and quotes made up, makes one question EVERYTHING else said by this embittered AW joker.
        I note Jon Fox has even given up!!

        1. Agreed Ken , atleast JAs bully boy doesn’t make fake accounts ,but would still put them in the same boat .
          All the years I’ve been on here probably the 2 biggest 🤡 but there are a few catching up steadily.
          Shame we don’t have the old gang back on here ,the real Sue ,Phil ,loose cannon (jokes )Kev and a few others .

    3. ken, he was a professional football manager; what was he to do; stay unemployed rather than manage Spurs?
      Did GG take £8 million a year out of the Club.
      Arsenal hypocritically has no problem buying Spurs, Chelsea etc players.

      1. I don’t believe any other manager, past or present, has been found guilty of taking money out of the club illegally OG – if you have evidence that someone has, please present it to me.
        Of course he had every right to manage the spuds and he did a good job if my memory serves me correctly. That doesn’t mean I can’t give my opinion that it felt as if he was stabbing us in the back twice though does it?
        I have no idea what his salary would be in today’s financial situation, but I’m sure he didn’t have to steal money from the club to make ends meet.
        Buying and selling players is a weird narrative to explain how GG ended up managing the spuds, but I respect your views and just differ from them this time,although I’ve said above, his fantastic record deserves some kind of recognition.

        1. George didn’t steal from the club Ken, he took a bung from an agent, but if I remember correctly his mate Terry Venables was up to no good at Spurs.

          1. He did Jax, that’s why he returned the money to the club – unless you have a different story to tell?

            1. Ken, I’ve just Googled “why did George Graham get sacked by Arsenal”, and both The Athletic & Wikipedia have come up with the same answer, that he took “an unsolicited gift” (bung) of £425K from agent Rune Hauge. I would guess that he just handed the money over when he got caught.

              1. So5why would he hand the money back to the club if he hadn’t stolen it from them?
                I’ve also googled and read the comments.
                Tell me Jax, why was GG given the money in the first place?

                1. I couldn’t say Ken. I don’t know how he would have had access to that amount of club money in cash to steal in the first place.
                  I don’t know what it represented as far as the agent was involved, but assume just out of guilt he had to give it to someone.
                  I only know what I can vaguely remember and recently read.

                  1. I’ve just read another article from The Independent which says that they were ‘irregular payments’ from Hauge totaling £425K, and also suggesting that they were from the agents fees he received from Arsenal for his dealings with the club, (and which GG probably asked for), and as it was originally Arsenal’s money he paid it back to them. Does that make sense to you?

  5. I agree that GG’s playing record speaks for itself. A true Arsenal hero. (He was an 80 000 pound gift from Chelsea!)

    As a manage a true Arsenal hero.

    I think to compare him with any other manager is not a good idea.

    I believe that all Arsenal managers have one attribute in common in that they gave their best for Arsenal

    For that they equally deserve our full respect and appreciation for their contribution to Arsenal.

    Of course we can read the numbers be it O or plus of a manager’s record.

    Numbers are only as it were headlines and do not tell us the story of each manager’s commitment.

    1. Charles, glad to know we, mostly, see things Arsenal in the same light.
      I do find it difficult when talking about George, because he brought so much joy to the club and who could ever forget that night at Anfield?
      His managerial CV at the club speaks for itself and he won a European trophy (as did Bertie Mee of course) something that eluded Arsene no matter how many times he tried.

      But it is the fact that he felt it right to take money, whether directly or indirectly, out of the club in a fraudulent way that weighs heavy for me.
      Can you imagine MA, AW or BM doing that?

      I’m also surprised that you put such emphasis on his playing career at the club, as I necer would suggest a statue usubg that as a criteria – button it’s all about opinions of course.

      For me, the two domestic cup wins in one season (the first time ever achieved) the Anfield night of nights and the fact that just one game away from being Invincible, are the points that I feel puts him on a pedastal – if only he gadbt taken the money…. as I have long wished that Arsene hadn’t signed that last two year contract or that Bertie hadn’t broken up the 71 double winning team so early.

      Maybe something like the “George Graham Way” at one of the entrances to The Emirates?

      1. Hi Ken. I find the use of the word ‘way’ makes me think of defense and 1-0. and we had to score more goal then opponents. which we did.

        I like your idea so how about simply ‘George Graham’.

        At the time of the game of ‘2-0 to The Arsenal’ I lived in a small village in Fife. At the end of the game I saw the fans dancing in the streets around Highbury.
        I thought I’ll do that.
        I was out the door in seconds and straight into a herd of cows that had escaped from a nearby field.

        A night never to be forgotten. All thanks to George Graham.

        1. Charles, I live within the Cairngorm National Park, so not too far away from the kingdom of Fife!!
          At the time, I lived in Saffron Walden Essex and my neighbours told me they heard my scream of delight at the final whistle!!
          Met my daughter at the local pub, along with a dozen or so fellow Gooners and my wife, once again, disowned me when I got back about 2.00 am…. all because of George Graham!!

          You know, we could name three of our stands after the three managers who led us to the double, leaving the fourth for MA!!

          1. Too late Ken! AW would already have TWO stands to himself, You would need us to build another stand, if you wanted fraudster Graham to have one , bearing in mind MA will soon need one too. Not this year but soon enough!

            1. Like me Jon, it’s the fraudster bit that I have never understood.
              But the club have welcomed him back on a few occasions and, perhaps, it’s time to remember what he achieved on the field?
              As for the Wenger stand, it would be called the Arsene Wenger x 2 stand, still leaving room for MA, if he does do the double!!

              1. Ken It seems from several posts above,that you,I and Sue P are the only THREE who have a principled objection to an employee who stole off us and who was then summarily sacked, correctly, being suggested by some for a statue! Yes his honours per year her was two in three(actually six in nine). But he also stole from us. An already wealthy man stealing from his employers is far worse rhan a street urchin stealing food for being hungry. That would be something I would be keen to forgive. But not a rich man stealing to become even richer. NO WAY!

                Its completely out of the question and though forgiveness is important, to forget would be impossible. And in any case we both KNOW IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

                1. Jon, you have to consider what was normal practice in the day and the relatively poor salaries of managers in the day. How many wealthy families in Britain owe their inherited wealth to the slave or opium trades, “businesses” discredited today?

                  1. “Normal practice” OG?
                    How many other managers were caught doing what GG did?
                    You can’t say that others were doing it without any proof and don’t forget, it was an open and shut case – no grey areas whatsoever… he stole from the club and only gave it back when found out.

                    1. Hi Ken. I have given this subject some more thought. I had more or less forgotten the seriousness of his theft.

                      This morning I remembered something I was told by a work colleague when every Arsenal fan loved GG.

                      My colleague surprised me with this: ‘His brother Jim, is the pastor of my church.”

                      I remember it being Gold Hill Baptist Church. with a membership of around 500. Gold Hill, Chalfont St Giles (I can’t quite remember the ‘chal’ bit’

                      Its very, very sad. Not only because of his record with Arsenal

                      As far as I know, three Arsenal players have managed Spurs and GG was the only one of the three to win a trophy. for them.

                      Unique for that reason alone but attached to it and because it. it links him to Herbert Chapman who for two years played for Spurs. his playing days over ……………

                      Its very sad. Why did he do it? Maybe we will never know. It’s very sad.

                      I agree with you entirely..


                  2. Ozzie,What has ANY of that to do with Arsenal?? We can all list any number of criminals and thieves in life but the last few posts above this one discussed a statueor some honout like naming a stnd after GG for GG . But he STOLE from our club, while already being a wealthy man.

                    I utterly reject as nonsense your statement that salaries of top division managers in those days were “relatively poor”
                    Graham’s salary was ANYTHING BUT POOR. As I am sure you know..

                    NOT REMOTELY DESERVING OF A STATUE THEREFORE, DESPITE HIS HONOURS WON HERE ! I am saddened that a worldly wise man like yourself dismisses theft from OUR club quite so easily as being nothing out of the ordinary.
                    Personally, I dont want thieves managing our club , either back then or at any time in the future.

                    Clearly your life philosophy and principles, as against my own, are COMPLETELY different. Theft by fraud is still THEFT!

                    1. Jon, I have never cast aspersions on your integrity (or on other JA contributors to my knowledge), so why should you question my integrity, over a difference of opinion. For your information, in my past life I worked as operational auditor investigating and weeding out corruption. In my private life I have been a justice of the peace since 1979.

              2. If for financial reasons we can’t call the stadium ‘The Arsene Wenger Stadium’ Then surely we could his name up on the outside of the stadium. Without his vision assisted possibly by David Dein we might still be at Highbury.

                I like to think that he became an Arsenal supporter the day he signed Glen Hoddle, to play for him at Monaco.

                  1. @Jax
                    We signed a former Spurs.player as manager. GG was a former Arsenal player and a a manager, he managed Spurs.

                    The name of the former Spurs player who managed Arsenal, was manager of Huddersfield until he was appointed manager of Arsenal.

                    His name Herbert Chapman.

                    If the name means nothing to you then I suggest you check it out in Wikipedia. I haven’t done so myself, but I am certain there is an article about him there

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors