Lee Dixon says press criticism worked in the Gunners favour back in 1989, when pundits wrote off their title hopes.
Arsenal went into the final game of the season three points off top, needing to win by two clear goals against league leaders Liverpool. As a result, many believed they had no chance, and the Mirror published an article at the time, headlined “You haven’t got a prayer Arsenal”
Lee Dixon spoke to Daily Cannon ahead of the film premiere on Wednesday, and explained: “That sort of stuff works in your favour. Graeme Souness did a piece saying “men against boys,” so we’re going to send him a DVD!
“In all honesty, everybody outside the club thought the same. There’s no way people 100% went “of course we’re going to win”, that’s a fan’s attitude.”
Amy Lawrence, Arsenal writer and producer of the film, agreed that it felt like it was North London against the rest of the country, saying: “I distinctly remember on the coach everybody was reading all those tabloids, and it geed up the fans, never mind the players. There was this sense that everyone was against you.
“There was a real feeling that North London was alive to this thing. You felt like you were in an army going to war. Obviously as fans you’re not doing anything except going, and praying, and trying to be part of it.
“But people who didn’t like football were wishing you good luck, patting you on the back as if you were part of something. So you didn’t feel you were going up for nothing.”
There seems to me to be a stark contrast between that attitude and the impression you get from players today. The press are just as critical of Arsenal now as they’ve ever been, but rather than geeing the fans and the players up, it seems to have the opposite effect.
Jeering in the stands, Mesut Özil’s statement asking those working in the media to support the players, Arsène Wenger urging shareholders to “be behind the team”, it all gives you the impression that, rather than being fired up by the critics, everyone around the club has been disheartened.
The Gunners need to take note of Lee Dixon and the ’89 winners’ approach. Take those hyperbolic comments from pundits and use them as inspiration to prove everyone wrong on the pitch.
Just like they did back almost three decades ago.
89 is available in OurScreen cinemas from 11th November & on DVD & Digital Download from 20thNovember.