Eighteen years we waited for this to happen – eighteen very, very long and difficult years and we fans were wondering if it would ever happen again. Our last First Division Championship win had been in 1970-71 when, under Bertie Mee, we won the First Division and FA Cup double. However Arsenal being Arsenal they made winning this First Division Championship as difficult as they possibly could by waiting until the players had the last gasps of air in their lungs.
Following, is a game by game accounting of our 1988-89 season alongside Liverpool games. The GD Total column is accumulated goal difference, the Point’s Total column is accumulated points and the Arsenal Diff column is accumulated points difference between the two teams.
The season started off brightly with a 5-1 away win at Wimbledon and we won six of the first ten games, drew two and lost two games – one to a very poor Aston Villa at Highbury. This left us five points ahead of Liverpool and with a superior goal difference of seven.
The next ten games saw us win seven, draw two and lose just one to Derby, while Liverpool won four, drew four and lost two, so after 20 games we had a lead of twelve points and a better goal difference of sixteen.
We faltered badly in the next ten games winning only four, drawing four and losing two.
Liverpool went unbeaten winning eight and drawing two. Now they were only two points behind us and trailed by one on goal difference, setting up a tight race over the final eight games.
Arsenal drew the next game against Manchester United at Old Trafford while Liverpool beat Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 this left us tied on points and Liverpool three ahead on goal difference. We then won the next four games putting us ahead by three points and three goals with just three games to play. Little did we know how important our 5-0 home win against Norwich on May 1st would become? We only got one point from our next two games losing again to Derby and scraping a point against Wimbledon, while Liverpool won both games taking the Division one lead over us by three points and three goals for the first time since game six. Liverpool beating West Ham 5-1 in their penultimate game was a rapier-like riposte to our caning of Norwich.
Liverpool had only lost two home games all season with the last occasion being on December 17th 1988 and Arsenal had the unenviable task of having to go to Anfield and beat them by two clear goals.
A peak British television audience of over 12 million saw a first half of few chances as Arsenal successfully nullified Liverpool. Striker Alan Smith scored from a header as play resumed in the second half, but as the game drew to a close with the score 1–0, Arsenal needed a second goal to be crowned champions. In stoppage time, Arsenal’s Thomas made a run through the Liverpool midfield and scored a last-minute goal, in the process denying Liverpool the chance of a second League and Cup double.
The season ended with Liverpool and Arsenal tied on Wins, Draws, Losses, Points and Goal Difference so the First Division winner had to be decided on goals for and Arsenal had outscored Liverpool by 8 goals – 73 to 65.
1988-89 – Season trivia
Chelsea won the Second Division and Manchester City were runners up.
Twelve of the twenty teams in the First Division in 1988-89 namely – Nottingham Forest 3rd, Norwich City 4th, Derby County 5th, Coventry City 7th, Queens Park Rangers 9th, Millwall 10th, Wimbledon 12th, Charlton Athletic 14th, Sheffield Wednesday 15th, Luton Town 16th, Aston Villa 17th and Middlesbrough 18th – are not in the current Premier League.
May 6th 1989 Liverpool v Arsenal 0-2 (att: 41,783)
Scorers: Smith (52), Thomas (90+1)
Arsenal Team: Lukic, Dixon, Winterburn, Thomas, O’Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Richardson, AM Smith, Bould (P Groves), Merson (Hayes)
Written by GunnerN5