1982: Arsenal try to get beyond one goal a game.

By Tony Attwood

The 1981/2 season ended fairly poorly.   There was hope that in Stewart Robson Arsenal had found another talented youngster after he appeared on 2 January 1982  when he became Arsenal’s youngest FA Cup player.  Unfortunately the match ended Tottenham 1 Arsenal 0 in the FA Cup 3rd round and I think the general feeling was that he never really reached the level we hoped for.  Injuries played a part in that though.

On 27 March, Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 3 (with goals from Sunderland, two from Rix and Meade, was the second of just two wins in 11 games between February 6 and April 12.  The last day of that run indeed was one of the worst, for it is recorded as Arsenal 1 Tottenham 3 as Arsenal slipped to 10th, the club’s lowest position since 1976.

But there was a recovery of sorts and on 11 May, in the match Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1.  Sunderland scored his 11th league goal of the season to make him top scorer – which said a lot about our forward line.  Arsenal won their final game and ended the league in 5th but with just 48 goals from 42 games.


Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Liverpool 42 26 9 7 80 32 +48 87
2 Ipswich Town 42 26 5 11 75 53 +22 83
3 Manchester United 42 22 12 8 59 29 +30 78
4 Tottenham Hotspur 42 20 11 11 67 48 +19 71
5 Arsenal 42 20 11 11 48 37 +11 71

But it was worse than this, because not only had Tottenham beaten us in the league Tottenham Hotspur retained the FA Cup, beating Queens Park Rangers, (whom the press endlessly noted with glee was managed by former Tottenham player Terry Venables) 1–0 in a replayed final (Tottenham having knocked out Arsenal en route).   Worse Tottenham had also made it to the final of the league cup while Aston Villa won the league cup, with Arsenal’s ex-keeper in goal.  We really just were not keeping up with the Jones.

Quite clearly Arsenal needed more goal power and this arrived on 8 June 1982 as Tony Woodcock signed from Cologne.  He had been in Germany for three seasons, scoring 28 goals in 81 games.

This was also a World Cup summer and on 16 June Graham Rix and Kenny Sansom became the first Arsenal players to play for England in the final stages of the World Cup.

On 25 June Pat Jennings played as N Ireland beat the hosts Spain also in the World Cup 1-0.  In all he played 119 games for the Province.

Apart from Woodcock the one other major signing was Lee Chapman who arrived on 1 August 1982  for £500,000 from Stoke City, for whom he had played 99 league games.  Unfortunately he was very unimpressive with Arsenal, lasting just the one season, playing 23 games.  He then had one season with Sunderland, the first of 12 post-Arsenal clubs.

During August, Arsenal played five pre-season friendlies:

  • 6 August 1982: Feyenoord 2 Arsenal 0
  • 8 August 1982: Austria Vienna 4 Arsenal 0
  • 14 August 1982: Alexandria Select (Egypt) 0 Arsenal 0  (Lee Chapman’s first game)
  • 16 August 1982: Egypt 0 Arsenal 1 (Robson)
  • 20 August 1982: Chelsea 1 Arsenal 3 (Talbot 2, Chapman)

Tucked between the first team friendlies were the usual outings for the reserves, including one on 7 August 1982.    It was Tony Adams first appearance in friendly away to Colchester.  He had signed as a schoolboy and played his first league game on 5 November 1983.

11 August 1982:  A tribunal forced Arsenal to pay £500,000 for Lee Chapman after offering £100,000 for the player.  It was widely reported that Arsenal were totally shocked by the adjudication, and the fact they were not able to appeal.  Certainly Chapman’s performances in his one season with us, and his subsequent years in football suggest that half a million was an insane figure.

28 August 1982: Lee Chapman made his Arsenal league debut against his old club Stoke City.  Arsenal lost 1-2 and in fact lost three and drew one of their first four league games and just two of the first 14 games of the season.  The game on 30 October at Highbury (a 0-0 draw with Birmingham) attracted just 20,699.  By the end of the season crowds were down to 16,000.

Even Europe (for which Arsenal had qualified coming fifth in 1981/2) offered no relief.  On 14 September Spartake Moscow beat Arsenal 2-3 in Russia, which looked like a score Arsenal could turn around.  However on 29 September Arsenal lost 2-5 at home to make it 4-0 overall, and Arsenal were out in the first round.

From the Pre-season files

2 Replies to “1982: Arsenal try to get beyond one goal a game.”

  1. Aston Villa didn’t win the League Cup in 1981/2 and I can’t see how 2-3 and 2-5 equals 0-4.

    Didn’t Lee Chapman stay for more than 1 season? I’m sure I saw him play for us in 1983/4 or are you talking figuratively?

  2. you say tottenham winning the cup was the final insult to a dull season but remember that this enabled them to qualify for the cup winners cup, which freed up a place in the uefa cup for us!

    not bad considering our forward line but absolutely appaling. i often wonder if terry neil massively underachieved from 77-80 but overachieved with a poor team from 81-83.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *