Five of the best Charlie Nicholas goals for Arsenal

1. Tottenham, First Division, 26 December 1983

When Arsenal travelled to White Hart Lane for the traditional Boxing Day derby fixture, Charlie Nicholas had gone four months without a league goal - and his team were struggling.

Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to West Ham, on the 10th December, was their tenth defeat of the season. And they had been humiliatingly knocked out of the League Cup 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.

At White Hart Lane, 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. It was a demonstration of the kind of natural skill and flair that had been missing from the Scot’s game for some time.

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 led to a Steve Archibald equaliser, but Arsenal showed the sort of resilience and fight that had been missing earlier in the season to take the lead once again, through Meade. Nicholas was denied a derby hat-trick late on; his saved shot was slotted home by Meade to seal a wonderful victory.

2. Tottenham, First Division, 21 April 1984

Charlie Nicholas didn’t have to work too hard to become a Highbury favourite, but there’s no doubt that scoring regularly against Spurs helped. To do it three times in one season - contributing to three wins in the process – assured him legendary status.

This was the 100th North London derby and one which, despite the relatively close scoreline, Arsenal won comfortably.

Stuart Jones, writing in The Times, saw this match as further proof that Don Howe’s time as Arsenal manager should be seen as a success: "The directors should appoint Don Howe now rather than waiting until the end of term. It is not as if he has anything left to prove."

Nicholas was the key man against Spurs once again with a wonderful goal and all-round performance. Stuart Robson had already put Arsenal 1-0 up, when Paul Davis swung in a corner for Arsenal. The danger appeared to have passed when the ball was headed clear. However Nicholas collected the ball on the edge of the area and led a mesmerising dance through the Tottenham defence ("looking for all the world like a youthful George Best", according to The Times) before dummying the goalkeeper and slotting into the net.

Steve Archibald scored a scrappy goal for Spurs before Tony Woodcock restored Arsenal’s two goal advantage, scoring after a beautifully weighted through ball from Nicholas. Another Archibald goal gave the scoreline respectability for Tottenham, but they had been well beaten - and Nicholas was once again the thorn in their side.

3. Barnsley, FA Cup, 21 February 1987

There was perhaps a clue to the extent of the thawing relationship between Nicholas and his manager, George Graham, when after the match Graham referred to Nicholas’ spectacular goal as “a little bit lucky.” However, more likely Graham was irked by Arsenal’s disappointing display against Barnsley.

Despite the 2-0 win, Arsenal had been poor, but the afternoon was lit up by a piece of Nicholas brilliance, when he came on to replace Ian Allinson after 65 minutes.

Nicholas lost the ball in the tackle, then won it back again. Admittedly he beat the first two defenders with a ricochet, but then nutmegged the third, before fashioning an inch-perfect lob to beat the Barnsely keeper from 25 yards.

4.Liverpool, Littlewoods Cup Final, 5 April 1987

Before Arsenal took on Liverpool in the 1987 Littlewoods Cup final, Liverpool had never lost a match in which Ian Rush had scored - that amounted to a fairly extraordinary 144 games. So, when Rush latched on to a Steve McMahon pass in the 23rd minute of the final, and scored with his customary calmness, Arsenal fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

However, just seven minutes later, the Gunners were level. Paul Davis hit a free kick into the wall, but the ball was returned into the box by Kenny Sansom. Cue pandemonium in the box, and eventual Nicholas scoring from close range.

The winning goal, scored seven minutes from the end of the match, could hardly be called a classic - and was not one of Charlie’s better strikes - but it’s the winning goal in a cup final, so it makes this list.

Sansom released Perry Groves with a searching pass down the left wing. Groves had been sent on as a substitute for Niall Quinn - with simple instructions from George Graham: “Run in behind them, they’re knackered.” And the sub duly obliged, evading a tired challenge from Gary Gillespie and cutting the ball back perfectly for Nicholas, who hit a fairly tame shot that deflected off Ronnie Whelan and beat Bruce Grobbelaar.

Liverpool were unable to find an equaliser and Nicholas had won silverware with Arsenal at last. The general consensus was that the Scot would stay at Arsenal. After the match he said: "I have always been happy at Highbury and would like to stay", but within eight months he returned to Scotland - when it became clear he wasn’t a part of Graham’s long-term plans.

5. Leicester, First Division, 20 April 1987

Just over two weeks after their Wembley triumph, Arsenal entertained Leicester at Highbury - a match that gave Arsenal fans a chance to see their new signing, Alan Smith, who had been loaned back to the Foxes after an £800,000 transfer.

Smith was given a warm welcome by the Arsenal fans, but was unable to prevent his side from enduring another sound beating - one of many they received that season. Smith caused David O’Leary and Tony Adams enough uncomfortable moments to encourage Arsenal supporters, and had a hand in Leicester’s goal, but it was the Arsenal attack which shone.

Paul Davis scored the opener, and Martin Hayes got two, but it was Nicholas who scored the goal of the game - his last for Arsenal. Taken with typical panache, Nicholas picked up the ball on the left-hand corner of the penalty area and curled a beautiful shot into the far corner of the net.

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