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26 April 1975: Watch Arsenal beat Tottenham in a relegation battle

The end of the 1974/5 season was not exactly exciting for Arsenal fans, but it had its moments.  Arsenal were safe from relegation (just) but neither Tottenham nor Chelsea were in that luxurious state.

Chelsea sorted themselves out on April 23 by drawing 1-1 at home to Sheffield Utd while Arsenal were busy losing 3-1 away to Newcastle in front of a 21,895.  It was a demoralising affair for Arsenal as Macdonald outstripped the whole Arsenal defence time and again, endlessly prompting and persuading his colleagues to keep going for the jugular.

If there was any hope for the Arsenal fan it was that having avoided relegation with a couple of games to go they could be said to be saving all their efforts to help send Tottenham down.

With teams having one or two games to play, Carlisle were down, but the three teams above them (Tottenham, Luton and Chelsea) were all on 32 points.  One of them would fall. Arsenal on 35 could not be caught.

Tottenham looked safest with two to play, but their next game was on April 26 1975 against… Arsenal.  It ended Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0, with 43,752 at Highbury.

The Daily Express voiced the opinion that “Tottenham are simply not equipped in terms of either personnel or tactical development to face another season in the top flight”.  It was music to Arsenal fans’ ears after such an awful Gunners’ season.

This home victory for Arsenal – only their third since the start of February – gave Tottenham the need to get something out of their last match (against Leeds) in order to guarantee safety.  Their team boasting such notables as Perryman, Knowles, Jones, and Jennings looked lost.  Arsenal were not stunning but were good enough.

The verdict of the press, in general, was that Brady, Rostron and Hornsby represented the future for Arsenal. (One out of three was not bad for the media).

For Tottenham, no future could be seen.  Chelsea had drawn their last match and were down to division two.  Tottenham just needed a draw to avoid the drop on goal difference. On April 28 1975 the 15th and 16th clubs played out their meaningless game and it ended West Ham United 1 Arsenal 0, 30,195 at the Boleyn Ground.  The Arsenal team was:

Barnett, Storey, Nelson, Kelly, Mancini, Matthews, Ball, Brady, Hornsby, Kidd, Rostron.

Tottenham beat Leeds Utd 4-2, and so saved themselves.  But as for Arsenal and the question of what next, these last few games gave no clue.  All that one could say was that they looked relieved that the season was over.

Arsenal had finished 16th, their lowest position since 1924/5 – which itself was the season which caused Leslie Knighton to be sacked as manager, and Herbert Chapman brought in.  There was interest as to whether the once feted Bertie Mee would actually be in his job at the start of the next campaign.

In the Double season, Arsenal had used 14 players who made more than two starts in the league season.   In 1974/5 there were 20 such players – a 42% increase caused by injuries, lack of form, and transfers in and out.  Arsenal were unlucky with injuries – particularly with Cropley, but it was up to the club to cover for such situations.

Particularly worrying was that the top scorer was Kidd with 19 goals, followed by…

  • Ball 9
  • Radford 7
  • Brady 3
  • Hornsby 3

Kidd played 40 league games in the season – if he got an injury in the year to come, then what?

Arsenal followed up the season with four games in the Far East

  • 10 May 1975: Malaysian Select XI  2 Arsenal 0
  • 14 May 1975: Malaysian Select XI 1 Arsenal 1 (Kidd)
  • 17 May 1975: Singapore National XI  2 Arsenal 3 (40,000) (Kidd, Cropley, Radford)
  • 20 May 1975: Thailand National XI 0 Arsenal 3  (Kidd 2, Cropley).

And then, finally, thankfully, we could stop thinking about football for a while.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division

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