ARSENAL officially missed out on Champions League qualification for the first time in 20 years on the final day of the Premier League season.
Arsene Wenger‘s men may have won 3-1 against Everton, but Liverpool’s 3-0 thumping of Middlesbrough and Manchester City’s crushing 5-0 win at Watford saw the Gunners miss out.
It was a somewhat fitting way to end the season, which has seen Wenger and Arsenal plagued by protests and inconsistent performances.
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Now, despite their incredibly strong run towards the end of the season, the Gunners will not take on Europe’s elite for the first time under their French boss,
Football Whispers have gone back in time to take a look at how Arsenal were lining up last time they missed out on a spot in the Champions League.
The 1996-97 season was already underway before Wenger, a relative unknown as a manager at the time, assumed the Highbury helm on September 30.
The Frenchman took over a side that had finished the previous campaign fifth under Bruce Rioch and immediately turned the Gunners into a force in the Premier League.
They finished the season third behind champions Manchester United and runners-up Newcastle.
But, at the time, only the top two qualified for the Champions League – as Arsenal agonisingly missed out only on goal difference.
Instead, Arsenal – who would win the Premier League the following season – would have to settle for Uefa Cup football.
Here’s how Wenger’s side looked in 1996-97, with 5-3-2 being the Frenchman’s favoured formation at the time.
GK – David Seaman
THE undisputed England and Arsenal No1 for over a decade, Seaman was limited to just 22 Premier League starts that season due to injury.
Still, when he was between the sticks, Arsenal’s famous backline instantly looked more assured.
RWB – Lee Dixon
DIFFERENT to the wing-backs that have become so prevalent in the English game this season, Dixon was very much a defence-first type of player.
He did, however, chip in with two goals for the Gunners in 1996-97.
CB – Tony Adams
CAPTAIN of both England and Arsenal, Adams was the Gunners’ on-field leader and general of the back three.
Still remembered as one of the all-time great English centre-backs, the Romford-born defender would go on to make more than 500 appearances for the north London side.
CB – Martin Keown
SIGNED from Everton in 1993, the tough-tackling and uncompromising Keown was the epitome of a no-nonsense centre-half.
He played 33 times for the Gunners in the Premier League in the 1996/97 campaign.
CB – Steve Bould
ALMOST four years both Adams and Keown’s senior, Bould was the elder statesman of the Gunners backline by this point.
His legs may have begun to slow down but his aerial prowess and positioning was still top-drawer.
LWB – Nigel Winterburn
COMFORTABLE playing as part of a back four, Winterburn enjoyed the added freedom of being able to fly up the left flank when playing as a wing-back.
The two-cap England international was an ever-present in this campaign.
CM – Paul Merson
IN midfield, the likes of Stephen Hughes and Ray Parlour would act as part of a rotating cast, but Merson’s versatility, creativity and intelligence saw him turn out 33 times in the league.
He scored six goals too, that season.
CM – David Platt
AFTER four seasons in Serie A with Bari, Juventus and Sampdoria, Platt returned to England to sign for Arsenal in 1995.
In the 1996-97 season he played 28 league games and scored four goals.
His experience in the middle of the park was invaluable to the Gunners.
CM – Patrick Vieira
ALONGSIDE Platt was a 20-year-old Vieira, signed that summer from AC Milan for £3.5million.
The French midfield powerhouse would go on to captain the great Invincibles side of 2003-04.
But it was his 31 appearances in 1996-97 that gave Arsenal fans a glimpse of how good the Frenchman could become.
ST – Ian Wright
THE star of the team and the man who got the goals for Arsenal.
Wright finished as the Gunners’ top scorer in 1996-97 with 30 goals in all competitions, 23 of which coming in the Premier League.
ST – Dennis Bergkamp
SIGNED from Inter Milan in the summer of 1995, Bergkamp’s first season at Highbury established the Dutchman as one of the most gifted players in Europe.
The 1996-97 campaign saw the former Ajax star bag 12 league goals in 29 appearance, including a stunning hat-trick against Leicester City at Filbert Street.