Even the most efficient machines sometimes need that finishing touch.
That ‘je ne sais quoi.’ That extra garnish, that cherry on top. Like a dancing hula girl bobblehead on the dashboard of a roaring Ferrari.
Without it, then despite the machine being an unstoppable, unrelenting monster, it doesn’t quite go down in the history books. In the annals of memory, it will lurk somewhere in the shadows – the name you can’t quite put your finger on.
And Anders Erik Limpar was very much our dancing hula girl bobblehead in 1990-91.
The season before, Arsenal had faltered slightly in their attempt to defend the title they had won so famously in 1989 at Anfield. The quality was still there, but Liverpool reclaimed the Championship at a canter.
Something had to change and George Graham decided to think outside the box.
Buying outside of the UK was still a rarity. In fact, at the time, only 14.7% of players hailed from outside of the country they plied their trade in, in the top leagues in Europe.
But Graham could see the Gunners needed a new threat. Something to unsettle opposing defences. Something unexpected, unpredictable.
In came the unassuming, mulleted figure of Anders Limpar. The Swedish winger had come from relegated Italian side Cremonese, where he had impressed in Serie A despite falling through the trapdoor.
And most could have been forgiven for thinking Limpar would struggle with the rigorous training that Graham was notorious for. And certainly, the Gunners gaffer wanted to put Limpar through his paces. And two things made themselves apparent from an early stage – according to the book, Almost Invincible – the Class of 91.
Firstly, Limpar had feet that moved as quick as a blur.
Secondly, Limpar was not the greatest trainer. Which put him at odds with Graham immediately.
But Graham would have a problem. Because while the Swedish wideman struggled on the training fields, on the pitch it was a different story. He bewitched defenders. His dextrous feet led teams on a merry dance and even though there were still plenty of hatchet men in the game at the time – Limpar was so quick they couldn’t lay a stud on him.
And from the off, Arsenal were in the title race.
And so it continued as the season progressed. And as the games wore on, Limpar rose to prominence. His cheeky goal against Manchester United surprised everyone – including those in the stands – and forging another supply line to the ever-reliable Alan Smith up front was stretching defences. And his tally of 13 goals for the season shows what a threat he was.
The man with the tiny boots lit up Highbury and his hat-trick on the final day of the season was both a reminder of his potency and a reminder for Graham that training regime isn’t QUITE everything. Talent does go a fair way.
His time in the brightest of spotlights wasn’t the longest – 96 appearances and four seasons in our red and white – but fans of this generation will tell you about his lob in 1992, his shoulder drop and how easy he made the game look.
Anders Limpar changed the season for Arsenal in 1990-91. We already had the watertight defence and industrious midfield. We had a steady stream of goals too. But there was no plan B when things didn’t click.
Limpar was Plan B. And his unpredictability made sure we had a Plan C too.
Even the most effective machines need that cherry on top.