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When Arsenal planned to cut the professional squad to 19 and scrap the youth teams

This day in 1973 marked one of the darkest days in terms of Arsenal’s management and decision making, as Bertie Mee, the man who had delivered the first double, responded to demands from his playing staff for more recognition for their talent in terms of salaries and bonuses, by announcing his plans to cut the Arsenal reserve and youth teams taking the club down to just 19 professionals.

He made a series of other pronouncements about the future of football in England which were hopeless wrong, and the tragedy was that the board were still so overwhelmed by his achievement of the Double and a European trophy that they were willing to go along with his scheme, the early results of which led to the erstwhile double winners becoming contenders for relegation.  It took a long time to repair the damage he did to the club.

Here are the anniversaries.

29 December 1888. Iona 1 Royal Arsenal 5 in the Kent Senior Cup on the way to winning the trophy.

29 December 1894: Arsenal 1 Dresden United 0.  Dresden were based in Stoke on Trent, and played in The Combination and the Midland League until being wound up in 1897.

29 December 1917: Just 2000 turned up to see Arsenal beat Clapton Orient 2-1 away in the London wartime league.

29 December 1930: An article by futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was published in the Gazzetta del Popolo, in which he called for the abolition of pasta as it made Italians, “sceptical, slow, pessimistic.”  He advocated rice, which he said would create “lithe, agile peoples who will be victorious” in future wars.  He also called for the abolition of the knife and fork.

29 December 1934: The start of a run of 19 games ending on 27 April 1935, in which Arsenal lost just one match.  In the same period, Tottenham won just two.

29 December 1945: Arsenal 3 Wolverhampton W 2 in the war time Football League South which continued until the summer of 1946.  It was one of six straight wins but subsequently Arsenal lost their way and finished the season in 11th.

29 December 1973: Arsenal lost 0-2 to Leicester in front of 25,860.  Afterwards Bertie Mee said that having cut one of the club’s academy teams to save costs he was now going to cut the second and reduce Arsenal to two teams, with a maximum of 19 professionals between them.  Mee blamed this on new player contracts, an “inevitable” European superleague and a first division of 16 or 18 clubs. As with so much post 1971, he was utterly and totally wrong on every account and as a direct result Arsenal won just one trophy in the next 12 years.

29 December 1979: Manchester United 3 Arsenal 0, with 54,295 in Old Trafford on a pitch that was totally unplayable and unsafe.  O’Leary left on a stretcher. Arsenal ended the year fourth, eight points behind the leaders, and with a massively inferior goal difference.  Third had to be the target, and that meant scoring a few more goals.

29 December 1982: Vladimir Petrovic joined from Red Star Belgrade for £45,000.  He played 13 league games for Arsenal before moving on to Royal Antwerp.  After finishing playing in 1988 he gradually moved into management, and has managed both national and league teams including Red Star Belgrade.

29 December 1990: Andy Cole made his only appearance for Arsenal in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Utd.  In 1991 he went on loan to Fulham, before being transferred to Bristol City in 1992.

29 December 2003: Seb Svard loaned to Stoke.  He never played for Arsenal in the league but played 13 times for Stoke.  Two further loans ensued before he signed for Borussia Mönchengladbach.

29 December 2003: Southampton 0 Arsenal 1.  3 wins and 2 draws in December left Arsenal in 2nd one point behind Man U.  The 19th league match of the Unbeaten Season; Pires scored the goal.

29 December 2007: Everton 1 Arsenal 4 – Arsenal moved to the top of the league.  Eduardo (2), Adebayor and Rosicky scored.

29 December 2012: Arsenal 7 Newcastle 3. A Walcott hat trick helped Arsenal to  four straight wins after the Swansea defeat. The Ox, Podolski and Giroud got the other goals.

29 December 2013: One year on from the 7-3 win over Newcastle the fixture was played again but this time away, and Arsenal won again but this time only by 1-0 with Giroud scoring.  It was the second in a run of seven straight victories.

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