Goalscorers: Mick Quinn 34 PEN, 62, 65
Arsenal: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Andy Linighan, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Davis, John Jensen, Paul Merson (Eddie McGoldrick 67), Anders Limpar (Martin Keown 73), Ian Wright, Kevin Campbell
Coventry City: Jonathan Gould, Phil Babb, Peter Atherton, Tony Sheridan, Stewart Robson (Steve Morgan 10), David Rennie, Sean Flynn, Roy Wegerle, John Williams, Mick Quinn, Peter Ndlovu
Referee: Alan Wilkie, Attendance: 33,016
Optimism was high at Arsenal ahead of the start of the 1993-1994 season. The Gunners’ might have finished a distant 10th in the first Premier League campaign but were the reigning holders of both the FA Cup and League Cup. Manager George Graham had won the league championship twice before so expectations of a title tilt were well-considered.
Although beaten via a penalty shootout in the curtain-raising Charity Shield against Manchester United, Arsenal had performed very well. They were expected to brush aside a Coventry City side that had been beaten in both head-to-head encounters the previous season without scoring. Coventry were among the favourites with the bookies’ to be relegated but they also loved to prove the punters wrong and they did so spectacularly on the opening day at Highbury.
Arsenal started brightly but if there was one criticism of Graham’s management, it was he had a perfect Plan A, but no back-up solution if his side got into trouble. Within 10 minutes, they had slipped back into their comfort zone. David Seaman was the playmaker with long punts up the park towards Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell. However, David Rennie and Phil Babb had a comfortable afternoon, dealing with anything the Gunners’ frontline had to offer.
In Mick Quinn, Coventry had an unpredictable presence upfront but someone who knew where the back of the net was. He put the Sky Blues’ infront on 34 minutes from the penalty spot and from that moment on, Bobby Gould’s side were always in control. Only the injected pace of Anders Limpar gave them the odd concern. When he was replaced by defender Martin Keown in the 73rd minute, you knew that Graham simply had no clue with what to do.
Arsenal had been linked seriously with the England international Andy Sinton who was destined to leave Queens Park Rangers. On this evidence, Sinton made the right call to join Sheffield Wednesday instead because this brand of football would have simply bypassed him. Quinn, nicknamed “Sumo,” doubled his tally on 62 minutes, firing a shot into the top corner after the tricky Roy Wegerle had bamboozled Tony Adams with his skill and flair. Three minutes later, almost a carbon-copy move occurred with Wegerle the provider and Quinn producing the perfect finish. The ball went through Seaman’s defences. Graham said afterwards: “Football is about more than ability. It is about application and it’s about winners. Coventry seemed to have more desire than us.”
Arsenal bounced back from this opening day setback to finish fourth and beat Italian giants Parma to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg. Gould resigned from his Coventry position two months later but ex-Liverpool FC defender Phil Neal comfortably steered them to a top-half finish. This was a day where underestimating the opposition was the fable. Arsenal did and paid a heavy price.