The proof that a brilliant team without a decent manager will soon fall apart

By Tony Attwood

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It is undoubtedly difficult for many supporters today who complain about Arsenal not being in the Champions League, to realise the depths to which Arsenal has sunk after previous successes.  Having won the Fairs Cup, the League and the FA Cup across two season at the start of the 1970s, Arsenal quickly slipped backwards and by the start of the 1974/5 season were soon showing signs that the good times were well and truly over.

Having come just 10th in the previous season, Arsenal played on this day in 1974 and lost at home to Burnley.  That made it three defeats in a row and an overall record of played six and lost four.

In fact Arsenal went another seven games without managing a single win, and eventually ended the season in 16th place.  And this with a team that included Sammy Nelson, Peter Storey, Eddie Kelly, George Armstrong, Liam Brady, John Radford, Charlie George and Brian Kidd.

Given that array of talent one might assume that the reasonable approach would be to blame the manager, but he in turn blamed everyone and everything else, and it took another whole season in which results were even worse, before he was persuaded to retire.

In those days, as now, fourth was not a trophy, but it was a lot better than what Arsenal could achieve.

Here are the anniversaries. 

7 September 1896 Arsenal 3 Rushden Town 2.  The first ever United League match for Woolwich Arsenal.  The club entered its first team into the 8 team league with the matches arranged to bring some income in addition to that of Football League games.

7 September 1889: Charlie Booth’s first league game for Wolverhampton prior to moving to Arsenal.   In total he played 73 games and scored 10 goals before moving to Woolwich Arsenal in 1892 – the year before the club joined the League, and played in Arsenal’s first ever league match.

7 September 1901:  Arsenal beat Leicester Fosse 2-0   It was the first time ever that Arsenal had won their first two matches of the season!  Tommy Briercliffe scored his first goal for the club.

7 September 1912:  Having drawn their opening game, Woolwich Arsenal travelled to Liverpool for their next fixture having never won at Anfield, drawing two and losing seven, with Liverpool winning the corresponding fixture 4-1 the previous season.  This year Arsenal lost 0-3.

7 September 1918: The start of the fourth and last wartime league of the era.  Arsenal away to QPR but with victory on the battlefield edging closer there was already talk of how football would be reformed once peace was restored.

7 September 1925:  This was the season when the offside rule was changed to increase goal scoring, but the result Leicester City 0 Arsenal 1 meant Arsenal had scored four goals in four games, and the explosion of goals was (as yet) not happening.

7 September 1949  WBA 1 Arsenal 2.  Freddie Cox’s first match with the goals scored by Lewis and Barnes.  Freddie went on to play 32 of the remaining games of the season.

7 September 1945: Peter Storey born.  He was a member of the Arsenal youth team in 1961/2 and then moved into the first team making his debut in 1965 and going on to play 391 league games for Arsenal.

7 September 1974: After five games Arsenal were 14th with just two wins and three defeats from the opening games.  And on this day it got worse with the result: Arsenal 0 Burnley 1.  Only 23,586 showed up and by now everyone knew Arsenal were in real trouble.

7 September 1991: Arsenal 1 Coventry 2.  Lee Dixon from ten yards out from his own goal near the touch line, punted the ball back to Seaman but it went beyond his grasping hand and into the net.  It caused Arsenal’s first home defeat in a year and a half.

7 September 1996: Final match of Stewart Houston’s reign as temporary manager; 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.  He had managed six games while waiting for Arsène Wenger to arrive, but won just two of them.

7 September 2007: Arsène Wenger signed a contract extension rumoured to be costing the club £4m a year – a figure on a par with many of the players in his teams.

7 September 2012: Chuks Aneke loaned to Crewe Alexandra for whom over two seasons he played 70 games scoring 20 goals.  In 2014, he signed permanently for Zulte Waregem. After 2 years he returned to play for MK Dons and in 2019 signed for Charlton Athletic.

One Reply to “The proof that a brilliant team without a decent manager will soon fall apart”

  1. Having been there for the fantastic 70/71 season, it still saddens me, how the team slumped afterwards. Mee needed a good right hand man and he had one in first Sexton and then Howe. Poor Steve Burtenshaw was never up to their standard. I can remember going to a game at Loftus Road on Easter Monday ’76 and some of the fans were singing “don’t go Bertie,” while I thought “I hope he pisses off pretty quick.” Five years on from winning the double, we’d become pretty dire, with players like Hornsby and Mancini, not being good enough. Onto happier things. Happy Birthday Peter Storey !

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