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1984: Arsenal top of the league for first time in 12 years

By Tony Attwood

On 8 September 1984 Arsenal beat Liverpool at home and went to the top of the league for the first time in 12 years.

That might sound quite hopeful, and yet it wasn’t a complete brilliant runaway success since Arsenal had started with a 1-1 home draw with Chelsea and followed that with a 0-2 away defeat to Nottingham Forest.

Then came a run of nine matches involving eight wins and a single defeat – to Ipswich on September 15.

As a result of the run Arsenal were not only top on the evening of Saturday 8 September after the Liverpool game but again from 6 October to 2 November 1984.

It was in fact the last two games of that era that caused the problem – a 3-1 defeat away to West Ham and a 2-4 defeat away to Manchester United.  Indeed from that West Ham game onwards Arsenal’s record was fairly awful.  Arsenal won just 12 league games out of 30 between October 27 and May 11, and we finished 7th in the league.  One worse than the year before, and exactly the same as the year after.

The main explanation, other than declining confidence, was probably injuries.  For the first 11 matches Arsenal used only 13 players, but then the problems occurred.   Pat Jennings didn’t play again after November 25, and although a young Tony Adams, who had played just three games the previous season, started to appear in defence, making 15 starts in all from November 17 onwards, it was a young Tony Adams, still learning the business.   Additionally Graham Rix (previously a stalwart) was in and out of the side as were Paul Davis and Tony Woodcock.

The Cups offered little relief to the decline either.  We went out in the 4th round of the FA Cup to York City 0-1 away in front of a packed house of 10,840, and lost in the 4th round of the League Cup to Oxford United 2-3.

Ultimately Don Howe as manager paid the price, leaving part way through 1985-6.

But just for a moment in 1984/5 it looked like we might be on to something.  Here’s the line up for the game with Liverpool which saw us reach the top once more, in front of 50,006 paying customers.

Jennings

Anderson O’Leary Caton Sansom

Talbot Robson Davis  Allison

Mariner Woodcock

Three players claimed top league scorer of the season: Talbot, Woodcock and Allison.  They each got 10 league goals.

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