2 May 1970 was indeed a disappointing day in the club’s league history – the final league game of the season, away to Tottenham, being beaten and seeing the club 12th in the table. And yet one year on Arsenal won the League and Cup double – the first league title since 1953 – a gap of 18 years.
It seemed a remarkable transformation, as indeed it was, but then it was followed by a decline just about as rapid as the rise of the club until within a few years Arsenal were looking relegation contenders playing in front of increasingly small crowds.
So how did it all go so wrong so quickly? I suspect one major problem was that the manager’s approach was right for a club that had not won the league for 18 years, but not right for a group of players who had just won three trophies in a couple of seasons (remembering Arsenal did win the Fairs Cup just before the double). But also we must not forget the injury record. In the 1970/1 season there were hardly any injuries – it was one of the smallest number of players ever used by Arsenal through a season. In 1971/2 and thereafter the injuries returned to normal levels.
But whatever we decide was the cause, it reminds us all that two good years does not guarantee the success will continued.
Here are the anniversaries…
2 May 1891: Royal Arsenal’s club committee held the historic Extraordinary General Meeting where they voted by 250 to 10 to turn professional.
2 May 1903: Jimmy Bellamy signed from Reading. He went on to play 29 times and score four goals in the league before moving on to Portsmouth in 1907.
2 May 1910: As part of the attempt to build a recovery programme for Arsenal’s finances and show supporters that he was not trying to take over the club himself Henry Norris advertised shares in Arsenal in Athletic News for £1 each. He continued to divest himself of shares throughout his time at the club.
2 May 1921: Last game for John Peart. It was his one and only appearance at right back and his only game of the season – a 0-0 draw with Liverpool. Peart then moved on to play for Margate.
2 May 1925: Leslie Knighton’s last match in charge: Bury 2 Arsenal 0. Arsenal finished the league in 20th position, missing relegation by one place. It was Arsenal’s worst performance since the resumption of football in 1919.
2 May 1931: Arsenal ended their first ever League Championship season beating Bolton 5-0 to set up record 66 point league total. Jack Lambert scored two to make it 38 goals in 34 games (also a new record). David Jack scored two to make it 31 goals in 35 games.
2 May 1933: The first report of a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster in modern times.
2 May 1936: Arsenal played their fourth game in eight days drawing 2-2 at home to Leeds. Bastin and Kirchen got the goals. For five consecutive years Arsenal had ended the season in first or second place. Now they were sixth. But they had won the FA Cup.
2 May 1954: Death of Charles McGibbon. He had come in with no league experience, played four games, scored three vital goals and saved the club from relegation in 1910. He then vanished and we have no idea what happened to him.
2 May 1958: David O’Leary born. He signed as an apprentice for Arsenal in 1973 and played for the reserves from the age of 16, playing his first game for the first team on 16 August 1975, aged 17.
2 May 1967: David Rocastle born. According to Martin Keown when Rocky first signed he always played with his head down because of his poor eyesight. It was only when he was set up with contact lenses that his career really took off.
2 May 1970: Tottenham 1 Arsenal 0 ended the league season with Arsenal a disappointing 12th. Extraordinarily, one year and one day later the game was repeated, and the score was repeated, except in reverse as this time Arsenal won the match and the league.
2 May 1981: Arsenal 2 Villa 0 made it 7 wins and 2 draws in the last nine games as Arsenal finish 3rd – Neill’s best finish. Young and McDermott scored in front of 57,472.
2 May 1990: Brian Marwood’s last game. Following the arrival of Anders Limpar it was made clear Brian would no longer be first choice, and he transferred to Sheffield Utd for £350,000 in the following September.
2 May 1992: Last game for David Rocastle. He was then sold on to Leeds Utd who at the time were Champions, for £2m; their most expensive signing. Anders Limpar later revealed that Rocastle was deeply distressed about the move and the way that Graham handled it.
2 May 1992 Ian Wright hat trick (two in the 90th minute) in the last game in front of the old North Bank. Arsenal won 5-1 against Southampton as Wright beat Lineker to the top scorer spot with 24 league goals. A hardy group stayed on after the match chanting “We’re here to save the North Bank,” as stewards allowed them to drift away slowly in their own time..
2 May 2009: Portsmouth 0 Arsenal 3. For the fifth away game in a row Arsenal scored three and make it 25 goals in eight games. Bendtner got two and Vela the third.