Arsenal in the 70s part 10. Jan to June 73 – being screwed by the league and the prelude to deep decline.

By Tony Attwood

We ended the last piece  on the 1970s at the end of 1972 with the league table looking like this

Three points off the lead and a worse goal average than the clubs above and below, and having played one more than the top club and two more than the club below.

In that first half of the season Stapleton and Price had joined as trainees, Roberts played his last game and was replaced by Blockley, and George Graham was sold.  Alan Ball was now a part of the team, but there were differences bubbling up everywhere.  The departure of Graham had been fractious and with hindsight (or maybe even without) ludicrous, as had the the arguments with Charlie George and McNab.  Marinello was clearly a great talent who needed nurturing and care, which he wasn’t getting.

And indeed when in a moment we come to look at the team that played in the opening game of 1973 we’ll see it still packed with the same players who played in 1970/71.

Nothing wrong with that of course – providing there were more names coming through.  But the belief seemed to be that Arsenal had won the league with a very small squad, and that was all that was needed.

In fact by the end of the season Arsenal had used 21 players of whom three had played five games or less.  The squad for the future was being searched for but not in a very sensible manner.

The problem was that Bertie Mee, having come in as the club’s physio, had reached such a stature by taking the club to five cup finals, the first Euro trophy and the unbelievable Double, that he had become untouchable both as a manager and in his methods.  It is the old question: when the dictator starts to get things wrong, who is able to tell him?

By nature he was austere, and would brook no argument from players about salary or anything else.  A word out of line – as in the George Graham case – and Mee would ignore what was best for the club and instead focus on what he perceived as being best for his own authority – and then interpreted maintaining club discipline as being the best way forwards.  It clearly wasn’t, but once he had won the double, no one could tell him.

Perhaps in part this came about because of Mee’s background.  He was a physiotherapist, yes, but a physio in the Royal Army Medical Corps rising to the rather modest rank of sergeant. He joined Arsenal in 1960, half way through the Swindin reign, and saw Arsenal finish 11th and 10th, and then 8th, 13th and 14th under Wright.

The Wright reign is widely spoken of as one of no discipline and seemingly random decisions by the manager, so Mee’s initial comparative success followed by the three trophies gave him almost a god-like status, after years of failure.

The obvious difference was discipline, so discipline must be the cure.

Undoubtedly he had brought discipline back to the club – the sort of discipline and power that Chapman most certainly had.  But the discipline needed in the army is different from the discipline to pull a wayward club into shape and different again from the discipline needed to handle the men whom the success has made into superstars.

Chapman retained his disciplinary approach from first to last (consider how he dealt with the players whom he saw as letting the club down in his last ever FA Cup match – the disaster against Walsall).  But once he had a star he recognised that star’s individual needs, and worked with the star player to make his life meld smoothly into his playing.

Chapman’s discipline, in short, came from the fact that he knew when and how to deal with a player, and he could be firm or the avuncular jolly chap, as need be.  But above all, Chapman always sought the advice of others – which is how he started the Arsenal Boot Room tradition, long before Liverpool nicked the phrase.

But there is nothing in Mee’s latter period at Arsenal to suggest that he ever became anything other than the military sergeant of his earlier years and nothing to suggest that he realised that different types of firmness were needed at different times.

In this regard there is evidence that the board were always “hands off” – just as they had been with every manager from Chapman onwards.  Chapman had demanded to be his own man, and his genius allowed him so to be and this had been the model that worked with Allison and Whittaker.

So if we want an overview of the second half of the 1972/3 season, a period that turned out to be the final “hurrah” of the great Double side, using today’s parlance it would be one of “losing the dressing room”.  And because Don Howe had now left to try his hand at management there was no strong, established personality who could rally the players round when the manager got it all wrong.

Judging by what was said at the time and what we have learned from later events, this period was one in which over half the team were looking to get away, not from Arsenal, but from Mee.  And quite simply there was no one at the club who could do anything about it.

But just where sudden and violent changes of opinion was not needed – in terms of the playing style – that is what the club got.  Mee, rather preposterously, announced at the start of the season that “football was changing” and that Arsenal would be the club to bring the Dutch “total football” to England.   That was quickly forgotten by Mee and by the press, and we went back to the pressing game.  But this is the sort of thing no easily forgotten by the players who lose faith in a manager who simply sways with the wind.

The opening game of 1973 on January 6 ended Arsenal 3 Manchester United 1 in front of 56,194, and although from 40+ years on that looks promising, we must remember that at that moment Man U was bottom of the league having won just a handful of league games thus far in the season.  In the parlance of 2015 they were “doing a Chelsea.”

Kennedy, Armstrong and Ball got the goals in a game in which the selection of the team continued unchanged from the end of last year.  And this was not surprising since this game meant the club had a run of five wins and two draws in the last seven league games.  The pressure at the top of the table was continuing, and it was a positive moment.

Then came the FA Cup.  Arsenal had been in the final for the last two seasons, and had been in a final each of the previous three years before that.  They were seen as the absolute cup team.

On January 13 1972 the 3rd round cup game ended Arsenal 2 Leicester City 2 in front of 36,433.  Leicester were a first division club at the time, but looked, like Man U the previous week, to be in grave danger of losing that privilege having just two wins in the last six.   The foot of the league table at the time looked thus:

With only two going down (for the last time as it turned out) in one sense Leicester looked safe-ish, but Palace had two games in hand, and WBA one, so the reality was one of danger, and not a time to be flirting with the FA Cup.

However despite their worries elsewhere on January 17 Leicester gave it all they had.  Kennedy and Armstrong got the Arsenal goals.

Four days later however Arsenal won the replay at Filbert Street 1-2 with a crowd of 32,973 in attendance.  Using the same regular 11 starters Radford and Kelly both scored.    Blockley was now a key fixture in defence until he was injured in February, and indeed with him in the side Arsenal only lost four times – one being the disastrous last game of the season, which was hardly his fault, and one being the cup semi-final when he was clearly not fit to play.

On 20 January we were back to league football and a 0-1 away win against Chelsea with Kennedy scoring in the third consecutive game.  In fact he made it four in a row by scoring in the following league match.   That the crowd was only 36,292 was perhaps a reflection of their only winning one league game in the last six.

January 27 1973 saw Arsenal 2 Newcastle United 2.  This match is remembered particularly for an awful cynical foul by David Craig on Charlie George.  Charlie got a some pushing and shoving ensued, which allowed the Newcastle manager Joe Harvey to move all the blame onto Charlie and the headline writers and football journalists to scream about the lack of discipline at Arsenal, and the editorial scribblers link this with a general decline in society’s values following the wildness of the 1960s.

Of course it was all nonsense – explaining deep sociological issues in a couple of paragraphs and then blaming a footballer is ludicrous, but we all knew Charlie should not have retaliated.  However the cynical way the Newcastle manager excused his own players awful behaviour and manipulated the press, always keen to blame Arsenal for something and link social ills to someone or something else (as long as it was not the newspapers) left a very sour taste in the game, and thereafter.

Arsenal were 0-2 down when Charlie came on for Armstrong and his arrival transformed the game.  The fact that the incident with Craig was blown out of all proportion by the media is reflected in the fact that the players shook hands after the game.  They both knew there was a fair degree of play acting going on.   37,906 were in attendance and most of them seemed to get it too.

And so the month ended with the gap at the top down to one point.  Liverpool’s ten match unbeaten run had ended on 27 January with a 1-2 away defeat to Wolverhampton which itself followed a 1-1 draw with Derby.  Perhaps they were on the slide…

And indeed next up for Liverpool was… The Arsenal.  There was now just one point between first and second, and one more between second and third.  But Liverpool still had that game in hand.  A win for Arsenal was thus vital if they were going to keep up the challenge.

However before the Liverpool game there was the small matter of the fourth round of the FA Cup on 3 February.   It ended Arsenal 2 Bradford City 0  with a rather satisfactory crowd of 40,407.  The proved to be the final appearance for Peter Marinello as a sub, with Bertie Mee feeling yet again that he needed to stamp down in his military manner on indiscipline.   Marinello did indeed have personal discipline problems, but whatever methods Mee used to help the young man through, were not effective.  Marinello stayed with the club until the summer and then moved on to Portsmouth.  A potentially great star was lost through the use of the wrong techniques.

Of course in one sense Mee was right – Arsenal did not need Marinello as it turned out Armstrong had four more seasons in him.  But in three of those seasons Armstrong’s appearance level dropped significantly and in none of the did he get near the seven league goal of the double season.  As the results show, although Arsmstrong was a great servant of the club, his era of star performances was fading and a younger talent was needed.

And so we move on to what was seen as the crunch game of the season – and it ended Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2, on 10 February. Ball scored a penalty and Radford the other, with 49,898 at Anfield.  Here’s the movie and note the state of the pitch.

The result, as the commentary says, put Arsenal top.  Just to add a bit of icing to the cake later that week, on 13 February, Liam Brady signed professional terms with the club on his 17th birthday.  Of course that didn’t mean too much at the time, but later…

It was now vital for Arsenal to keep up the pressure by winning each league game hereafter and they started out well on February 17 with their 11th consecutive unbeaten game in the league – with the result Arsenal 1 Leicester City 0.  The fact that the Arsenal goal was a Leicester own goal and  that Leciester were, as we have seen, struggling against relegation, didn’t matter to the 42,047.  This was looking like a solid, continuing run.

The winning run in the cup continued on 24 February with Carlisle United 1 Arsenal 2.  Barnett made a return to the team, after Wilson had taken a knock in the previous game, and Arsenal rode their luck, stayed calm, and under the guidance of Frank McLintock, took command of the game.

Carlisle, lurking near the foot of Division 2, claimed they were the better team and could play even better, (despite their league position) and the media, always looking for ways to knock Arsenal, let them get away with the claims.

The home team’s key claim was that Ball was given offside by the linesman before the corner that led to the winning goal.  And as for Arsenal’s opener Carlisle said that because Winstanley had elbowed Radford, and Radford had (as was his wont) pushed back, there should have been a free kick, rather than giving Arsenal the advantage – from  which they scored via a simple McLintock header.   Such arguments are at best spurious, but that never stopped anyone making them.

Balderstone, the Carlisle captain, added one lovely comment at the end.  “Now they are over the hurdle of Carlisle, I can see them going to the final.”

And as a PS he added: “You can’t fight that sort of luck.”

Naturally he failed to mention that in the 25th minute Storey was taken out of the game by a horrific tackle from Ray Train (a man with a death wish clearly), and Storey had to be replaced by Sammy Nelson.  The balance of the Arsenal team shifted and Arsenal had to do a lot of readjusting.  By then Arsenal were one up, but with Arsenal still not right following the substitution, Carlisle equalised on half time – and that cynical approach ought to have been the story.  But of course it wasn’t.

23,922 had packed into the country’s most northerly ground.  After the game Bob Delgado of Carlisle put in a written request for a transfer.  Maybe he had just had enough of living in make believe land.

But then on the final day of February, disaster (in terms of Arsenal’s league aspirations) struck, as West Bromwich Albion beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Hawthornes before a crowd of 23,515.  It was the first defeat in 12 games, leaving the table thus:

Now it was once more advantage Liverpool with their game in hand and better goal average.  So although on March 3 the result Arsenal 3 Sheffield United 2 with two from George and the other from Ball, was a good victory, it felt like the pressure was still on, the crowd of just 33,346 suggested that the result the previous week had dampened the spirits.

The story from Anfield meanwhile was that having had a January/February stutter in which Liverpool won two and drew two of four consecutive games, they were now back on track – and a second consecutive win (this time 0-2 away to Everton) emphasised the fact.

March 10 saw Arsenal win 1-2 away at Ipswich Town 1 Arsenal 2, Radford and Ball scoring to make it one defeat in 14.  But Liverpool beat Southampton 3-2 at home. 

But then on 17 March Liverpool finally caught up with Arsenal in terms of league games beating Stoke City away 0-1.  Liverpool had been knocked out of the cup by Man City in the fourth round – hence the catch up game.   Arsenal however had a sixth round game which ended Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2.   If they were going to win a trophy they were once again doing it the hard way.  Here are the goals.

Only 37,685 were at Stamford Bridge to see Ball and George score, (largely because the Chelsea fans were fed up with yet more mid-table obscurity and a goal scoring rate of little over one per game, but when it came to the replay at Highbury on 20 March there was no such reticence, 62,746 cramming into the Highbury to witness Arsenal march on to the FA Cup semi-final for the third year running.   Ball scored a penalty, his fourth in four consecutive cup games, and Kennedy the other.

These results meant Arsenal had played an extra game, but Liverpool were once more two points ahead.  On March 24 1973 both Liverpool and Arsenal kept up the pressure with the results Manchester City 1 Arsenal 2, and Liverpool 3 Norwich 1.  George and Kennedy scored for Arsenal with 32,031 in the crowd.

There was then a moment of light relief on 25 March when, continuing the very occasional appearance of Arsenal men in broadcast fiction Bob McNab appeared as a footballer in an episode of “On the Buses.”

Next Arsenal had to play a mid-week game – the game postponed because of the FA Cup quarter final, and it ended on March 26, Arsenal 1 Crystal Palace 0 to close the gap on Liverpool once more with Ball getting the goal.   The result meant that the crowd of 41,879 witnessed Arsenal’s third home win in a row.  

But then, just when the championship looked a real possibility again, we had the result Arsenal 0 Derby County 1 on March 31 1973.   It was the last appearance of Frank McLintock.  The great man was substituted and subsequently sold to QPR.

The one bit of consolation was that Liverpool’s five match winning run had come to an end with a 1-1 draw at Tottenham, leaving the table looking like this.

Arsenal needed to keep winning and hope for Liverpool to drop a point.  And on 7 April Liverpool did just that losing unexpectedly 2-1 away to Birmingham City.

But the news hardly registered with Arsenal fans as the dream of another Cup final vanished with Arsenal’s 12th semi-final being played at a very miserable wet and cold Hillsborough and ending Arsenal 1 Sunderland 2, with 53,301 in the ground and the pitch even worse than the pitch shown in the film of the Liverpool match.

For the semi-final Frank McLintock who had previously been in the team as Blockley had been injured, was replaced by Blockley.  McLintock himself however had been injured in the game against Derby and substituted and in reality the choice was between two recently injured players.

Here’s the film, if you don’t mind watching the horror show.

Was it the wrong choice to play Blockley?  Probably, for Blockley looked unhappy in the game from the off.  And indeed on 25 minutes Blockley under-hit a pass back, and Arsenal were 0-1 down.

And judging from the comments made by players in the days and indeed years that followed, the problem with Mee’s approach was plain.  He saw players as potential problems, not as potential assets, and if a player spoke out, he was removed.  But in doing this constantly, one gets rid of the noisy players who raise the changing room at half time.  The players who shout and urge and encourage.  The Frank McLintock’s of Arsenal’s history.  All you generate is discontent.

So the great motivators were not there.  Bertie Mee had been so keen to be the sergeant who could not be questioned without the player suffering the consequences that the leaders were missing.  The leaders had gone.  There were no leaders.

On 56 minutes Blockley was replaced by John Radford – and there was no choice in the matter, for only one sub could be named and used.    On 58 minutes Sunderland got a second.   Charlie George scored one for Arsenal with five minutes to go.   Blockley later said, “I wasn’t fully fit and I was probably wrong in offering to play,” and he has been criticised for that.  But the point is in the verb: he offered. It is up to the manager to see how fit for purpose each player is.

However the disappointment of the semi-final was such that Arsenal couldn’t take up the challenge of the still possible championship victory.  And in the results that followed we once again saw the issue of leadership.

As if losing in a cup final was not enough Arsenal now had to play Tottenham – who had already won the league cup and thus qualified for Europe – ensuring that under the rules no matter what Arsenal now did short of winning the league they could themselves not get into next season’s continental competitions.  If ever true leadership was needed it was now.

The game on April 14 1973 ended Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1 with 50,863 in the ground.  Peter Storey scored. 

Meanwhile Liverpool scrambled a 1-0 win over WBA to darken the mood further.

On 20 April 1973 there was desperate news as Eddie Hapgood died of a heart attack while attending a sports forum in Leamington Spa aged 64.  His autobiography “Football Ambassador” was the first ever such book by an ex-footballer.  So ground breaking was the book that Sir Stanley Rous, who went on to become president of Fifa wrote the introduction.   Sadly Eddie’s passing was only noted in passing.  

He had played 393 games for Arsenal after his transfer from Kettering in 1927, and his ability was transformed by Chapman’s tactical understanding and Tom Whittaker’s training.  He was an absolute key figure for Arsenal winning the league five times, the FA Cup twice and becoming Arsenal’s captain.  Those of us who study Arsenal’s history felt the loss, whether we had seen him play or not.

But of course football always continues.  The following day Arsenal had their chance to put pressure on Liverpool by beating Everton, but could not do so.  It ended in a goalless draw which did not particularly enthral the crowd of 42,888.

But amazingly there was still hope as Liverpool, having won against Coventry on 17 April now lost to Newcastle on 21st.

And so we came to Easter Monday on which day both clubs played.

In Arsenal’s game against Southampton George scored in the second minute having got a beautiful pass from Ball.  Stokes equalised four minutes later.  The on 20 minutes a Southampton clearance hit Charlie George in the face.  As Charlie collapsed in heap the ball ran to Kelly who crossed for Radford to head home with Charlie still on the ground.

Then Stokes crossed again, Simpson attempted to stop the ball but the ball bounced away and with Wilson going one way, the ball went the other.

It was 2-2 while Liverpool beat Leeds 2-0.  This left the table as…

A point more would give Arsenal second for sure, but to win they league they needed to win the two remaining games by significant margins while Liverpool helped them along by losing their last game by a fair few goals.

But still Mee did not get the message about leaders and the balance of the team, nor about negotiation rather than ruling by diktat.   On 27 April 1973 double-winning captain Frank McLintock was sold to QPR for £25,000.  He went on to play 127 league games for QPR over four years, coming second in the league with QPR in 1976, their best ever performance, retiring one year later.

The following day, Arsenal went to Upton Park and beat with the result West Ham United 1-2 Arsenal 2, Kennedy and Radford getting the goals in front of 37,366.  Liverpool strangely could only manage a goalless draw at home to Leicester.

The final game was played on 9 May away to Leeds.  Only 25,088 bothered to turn up.

Rice and George were both suspended and it was clear that Mee had recognised the chances of overtaking that goal average were non-existent, as he brought in  Brian Hornsby and David Price, aged 18 and 17 respectively, and each getting half the game.

Jeff Blockley and Peter Storey did their best to unsettle Leeds from the start, but were out done by Norman Hunter who smashed Storey to the ground in the opening minute.  The ref did nothing until on 20 minutes when he took Blockley’s name.  The local press, and indeed some of the nationals celebrated Leeds’ “robust style” as they liked to call it.

Batson then had a penalty awarded against him for doing in the penalty area area what was going on all over the pitch and Leeds took the lead and the season was done.

Within minutes it was 2-0 and Arsenal lost heart although Ray Kennedy had two opportunities and had either gone in things might have ended slightly differently, although still without the title as on 50 minutes Ball had a shot blocked and the ball finally ran to George Armstrong who scored from 20 yards.

But soon after the hour Leeds scored again, and this time Arsenal heads did go down.  It ended 6-1.

Despite having lost the Cup Final to Sunderland of the second division a couple of days earlier, Leeds decided this beating of a deflated Arsenal and achieving third in the league demanded a lap of honour – this in the days when laps of honour were reserved for clubs that won things.

The press the next day showed where feelings lay.  The power of football was truly back in the north.  Leeds were sensational, Sunderland gallant, and Liverpool magnificent.

Worse if Arsenal fans did think of London they were now back to thinking of Tottenham, for having won three titles in two seasons themselves, Arsenal now had nothing but a cup final, a semi-final and a second place in the last two seasons.  A lot better than the Billy Wright era, but not as good as Tottenham who had two trophies in two seasons, and as noted above kept Arsenal out of Europe.

Indeed things got worse as it became apparent, that the one-club-per-city rule was no longer being applied by Uefa.  It was the Football League that insisted Arsenal must not represent England in Europe.  They never offered a reason or an explanation, but it was obvious to all: they wanted the north to get the European places.

As for Arsenal I’ve already raised the issue of where things were going wrong, with various players unhappy with their treatment from the management.  To this list one could now add Eddie Kelly and Ray Kennedy.  They knew what players were getting at Liverpool and they wanted the same.

And moreover the balance that Don Howe brought to the camp, with his understanding of players having been a pro himself, had now gone.  So instead of any understanding of the need to nurture growing psyches all the club had was the army man expecting obedience.  It was never going to happen.

Add that to the failure to rebuild the team quickly, and you have the disaster that was about to happen.  Mee worked well in his early years, but that was before he was dealing with players whose egos grew with the success and adulation heaped upon them.  In that scenario he was just the wrong man for the job.

Arsenal ended the season with two friendlies which from this distance look pointless in the extreme.

  • 23 May 1973: Toronto Select 0  Arsenal  1 (George)
  • 27 May 1973: Devonshire Colts (Bermuda) 0  Arsenal 4 (George 2, Radford, Marinello)  This was the final ever match for Marinello who as noted had not played in the league for some time.

(Please note some sources quote other dates or reverse the dates for these games, but the dates reported here appear to me to be correct.)

Quite what the club was up to with this “tour” it is hard to imagine but it is reminiscent of the failure of Arsenal to play in the Charity Shield in 1971 – without thinking that they might be involved, they’d booked a pre-season friendly for that day.  Such issues, and the lack of engagement with Bertie Mee’s decision making by the board, does raise questions about the directorial control of the club at the time.

So the season ended with disappointment – but not just in coming second in the league.  Arsenal had suffered the worst defeats of any team in the league, losing 6-1 to Leeds and 5-0 to Derby.  Two other teams also suffering 5-0 losses but didn’t double up on the effort.

The summer brought a few snippets of news as on 14 June 1973 David O’Leary signed for Arsenal.  He went on to become Arsenal’s all time record holder for first team appearances.  He was at the time however, just another youngster – although it is interesting to note the arrival of Brady and O’Leary at the same time.  

On the same day, 14 June 1973: Peter Storey made his 19th and last appearance for England.  He also played twice for England Schoolboys and twice for the Football League.

Meanwhile the League confirmed that a three-up, three-down system would operate between the top two divisions from next season.  It is doubtful many Arsenal fans took note, but horrifyingly, the time was not too far away when the issue did begin to be relevant.

Following the League’s fix of their own regulations, Ipswich, Leeds, Tottenham and Wolverhampton went into the Uefa cup.   And Man U sacked their manager, replacing him with Tommy Docherty.

Burnley and Queens Park Rangers came up from the second division.

In a final bizarre twist the FA ordered that the beaten finalists should play each other three months after the FA Cup final in a 3rd place play off.  Wolverhampton beat Arsenal 3-1 at Highbury on 18 August, the week prior to the start of the new season.  21,038 turned up, Hornsby scored as Arsenal used the occasion to take a look at a few youngsters.

In Europe the season ended with Liverpool winning the Uefa Cup and Leeds losing in the Cup Winners Cup final.    Pat Jennings (later to join Arsenal) was the FWA Player of the Year.

Pos Club P W D L F A GA Pts
1 Liverpool 42 25 10 7 72 42 1.714 60
2 Arsenal 42 23 11 8 57 43 1.326 57
3 Leeds United 42 21 11 10 71 45 1.578 53
4 Ipswich Town 42 17 14 11 55 45 1.222 48
5 Wolverhampton Wanderers 42 18 11 13 66 54 1.222 47
6 West Ham United 42 17 12 13 67 53 1.264 46
7 Derby County 42 19 8 15 56 54 1.037 46
8 Tottenham Hotspur 42 16 13 13 58 48 1.208 45
9 Newcastle United 42 16 13 13 60 51 1.176 45
10 Birmingham City 42 15 12 15 53 54 0.981 42
11 Manchester City 42 15 11 16 57 60 0.950 41
12 Chelsea 42 13 14 15 49 51 0.961 40
13 Southampton 42 11 18 13 47 52 0.904 40
14 Sheffield United 42 15 10 17 51 59 0.864 40
15 Stoke City 42 14 10 18 61 56 1.089 38
16 Leicester City 42 10 17 15 40 46 0.870 37
17 Everton 42 13 11 18 41 49 0.837 37
18 Manchester United 42 12 13 17 44 60 0.733 37
19 Coventry City 42 13 9 20 40 55 0.727 35
20 Norwich City 42 11 10 21 36 63 0.571 32
21 Crystal Palace 42 9 12 21 41 58 0.707 30
22 West Bromwich Albion 42 9 10 23 38 62 0.613 28

Unlike earlier seasons where Mee had been able to rely on players playing most of the season (remember 8 players playing 40+ league games in the 1970/1 season), now the number was in serious decline.  Only three played 40 plus.

  • Ball 40
  • McNab 42
  • Storey 40

But it was in goal scoring that the problem was growing.   In 1970/1 and counting only league goals the top three scorers got 45 goals between them.

  • Kennedy 19
  • Radford 15
  • Graham 11

In 1971/2 the top three league scorers managed  28.

  • Kennedy 12
  • Radford 8
  • Graham 8

And now in 1972/3 despite coming second the top three got 34.

  • Radford 15
  • Ball 10
  • Kennedy 9

It is reasonable, I believe, to say that all very successful teams have three players who are putting in the goals throughout the season.  This number means that if someone drops out injured there are two more who are used to scoring and it also gives the defence a problem in knowing who to mark.

In attacking prowess overall the decline over these three years was alarming.  In 1970/71 Arsenal scored 71.  In 1971/2 Arsenal scored 58.  In 1972/3 Arsenal scored 57.  And it was about to get worse.  A lot worse.

Thus there were numerous problems at Arsenal that needed addressing, but this decline of around 20% in the number of goals scored and the growing rift between manager and dressing room were the key points.

Next we’ll look at the response to this situation in the summer and autumn of 1973.

The story so far


4 Replies to “Arsenal in the 70s part 10. Jan to June 73 – being screwed by the league and the prelude to deep decline.”

  1. I remember that week March 31st-April 7th.Saturday March 31st lost to Derby and lost Mclintock,which did us great damage in the league. Monday April 2nd beautiful girlfriend gave me the elbow. Saturday April 7th went to Hillsborough to see us lose semi-final. Some week that.

  2. You seem to have forgotten that Chelsea’s capacity was restricted to 37,000 in the now 3-sided stadium, as they were preparing to build the infamous stand that nearly crippled them. I watched the Quarter Final away game at the Rainbow Theatre.

  3. If you look at the footage from the February match versus Liverpool at Anfield, the referee’s shirt appears to have cuff links!

    I know times were different the bay but even so……..

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