Five of the best Arsenal Boxing Day wins

1. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 4 - First Division, 1983

Arsenal's start to the 1983/84 season was dreadful. Their 3-1 loss at West Ham on the 10th December, was their tenth defeat of the season. They had been humiliated in the League Cup, knocked out by Walsall at Highbury. Something had to give; on the 16th December, manager Terry Neill was sacked and Don Howe took temporary charge. The turnaround in form was immediate. Watford visited Highbury the next day and were beaten 3-1, with Raphael Meade scoring a hat-trick

Arsenal's next game was the Boxing Day visit to White Hart Lane. One of the few bright spots in Arsenal's season, to that point, had been a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane in the League Cup in November - but any relief that gave dissipated quickly after the Walsall debacle, and Arsenal fans hopes were not high.

However, at White Hart Lane, Charlie Nicholas opened the scoring, latching on to his own deflected shot and curling a beautiful left-footed strike into the corner of the net from the edge of the area. Spurs equalised after appalling defending from Arsenal at a set-piece, to make it level at half-time. 
Early in the second half, Nicholas worked his magic again, lobbing the keeper after being sent clear. 

More poor defending let in Steve Archibald for another equaliser, but Arsenal showed the sort of resilience and fight that had been missing earlier in the season to take the lead once again. A rare Paul Davis right-footed cross set Meade up for a near post header. Then, with five minutes to go, Nicholas was denied a derby hat-trick. His saved shot was slotted home by Meade to seal an unlikely, but glorious, victory.

See also: Five of the best Charlie Nicholas goals for Arsenal

2. Charlton 2 Arsenal 3 - First Division, 1988

It's often said that grinding out wins over the Christmas period, when the games come thick and fast, is crucial for any team with title aspirations. As Christmas 1988 approached, George Graham's Arsenal were in second place in the table and starting to look like serious contenders.

The Gunners were helped on their way against Charlton when referee Roger Milford awarded a soft penalty, after an alleged Charlton handball. Brian Marwood sweetly dispatched the penalty to give Arsenal a half-time lead.

Marwood was one of the most influential players in the first half of the season - and this was one of his most effective games for Arsenal. In the second half, a free kick was punched out by the keeper straight to Marwood. His instant touch and turn gave Paul Merson the opportunity to put the ball into an empty net and make it 2-0. Charlton’s McKenzie pulled one back with a close range finish, before Marwood grabbed his second, capitalising on a rebound off the post from Merson’s shot. McKenzie scored again for Charlton, but Arsenal held on for a win, which put them top of the table.

3. Arsenal 3 Derby 0 - First Division, 1990

Arsenal came into this match on Boxing Day still unbeaten, but not at their best, after three consecutive draws against Luton Town, Wimbledon and Aston Villa. Arsenal's initial response to their two point deduction (for their part in the Old Trafford brawl in October) had been impressive, with three big wins - the last of those wins was a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Liverpool. Going into the Christmas period it was important for them to get back to winning ways.

Arsenal went into an early lead when Anders Limpar’s cross from the left found Alan Smith unmarked to score a regulation header. The second goal came soon after. Paul Merson picked up a loose ball on the right-hand side of the penalty area and his shot was hooked off the line. However, the referee judged the ball had crossed the line - echoing decisions earlier in the season against Manchester United and Liverpool - where Arsenal got the benefit of the doubt in similar circumstances.

The weather was dreadful that winter. Snow earlier in December gave way to storms and high winds over Christmas, which perhaps went some way to explaining Arsenal’s third goal. David Seaman’s long kick was left by everyone as it bounced on the edge of the area and hurtled towards the Derby goal. Martin Taylor, deputising for Peter Shilton, actually made a fairly decent save in the circumstances, denying his opposite number a goal by tipping the ball on to the crossbar. However Smith was on hand to net the rebound with a diving header, and Seaman had to settle for an assist.

4. Arsenal 6 Leicester 1 - Premier League, 2000

The 2000/01 season was one of transition for Arsenal. Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit had left for Barcelona, and the incoming Lauren, Edu, Robert Pires and Sylvian Wiltord were settling into the team.

On the whole, Arsenal had a poor Christmas period. Defeats at Liverpool and Charlton and a home draw with Sunderland, were hardly the kind of results to suggest Arsenal were capable of mounting a serious title challenge. Arsenal fans were given some Christmas cheer on Boxing Day however. The 6-1 thrashing of Leicester was one of the highlights of the season.

The first goal was a classic from the creative cannon of Robert Pires and Thierry Henry. Pires’ corner found Henry twenty yards out and his low, accurate half-volley found the bottom corner of the net. 

The 1-0 half-time scoreline gave little suggestion of what was to come, but within five minutes of the second half, Patrick Vieira latched on to Henry’s pass to flick the ball over Tim Flowers and pass the ball into the empty goal. The swagger with which Arsenal had scored their first two goals suggested they were in the mood to torment their opponents, but they were warned against complacency just a few minutes after Vieira’s impudence, when they let in Ade Akinbiyi for a soft goal.

However, Henry got two more fine goals to complete his hat-trick and Freddie Ljunberg scored after Igor Stepanov’s header had hit the bar. In the last minute, much to the fans’ delight, Tony Adams sprinted forward and smashed Henry’s cross into the roof of the net to end the match perfectly.

5. Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1 - Premier League, 2001

Arsene Wenger’s second league title was secured with an astonishing run of results, which began with a 2-1 win at Liverpool two days before Christmas 2001. Arsenal would go unbeaten for the rest of the season, winning 17 and drawing three of their remaining matches. The second match in that extraordinary run came with a hard fought win over Chelsea at Highbury.

This run would have seemed an unlikely outcome at 1pm on Boxing Day. Arsenal trailed 1-0 at half-time to a Frank Lampard goal and looked out of sorts. It had been just six months since Sol Campbell made the move across North London in one of the most controversial transfers of all time. Campbell had already won over Arsenal fans with faultless defensive performances, but here he showed the Highbury faithful another side to his game, thumping in a header from a Robert Pires corner on 48 minutes. Campbell’s first goal for Spurs had also come against Chelsea.

Sylvian Wiltord got the winner. Just three minutes after coming on as a substitute for Freddie Ljungberg, he latched on to a clearance from Van Bronkhurst’s corner and hit a low shot through the crowd and past Carlo Cudicini.

See also: Top ten Arsenal retro Christmas gifts

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