The last time Arsenal were bottom of the league

By Tony Attwood

This ever-evolving series of articles focuses on Arsenal’s managers, and what the club looked like through each era of management.  You can see the full list of managers at Manager by manager and from there go to an index of articles for each manager that we’ve covered.

In doing this I am trying to give myself (and anyone who happens to read – and quite amazingly we are now approaching 100,000 visits a month – I am staggered) a view of what things were like at the club under that manager.

This can be hard for many reasons.  The Leslie Knighton series, which we’ve just done, had the problem that a) it was a long time ago and b) what we know about Knighton mostly comes from his autobiography.  It took a while to realise just how lopsided that autobiography was, and just how many people since its publication in 1947 or thereabouts, have simply taken his word for what happened and not bothered to check the facts.

Doing the research on Knighton, and looking at how for two seasons running Arsenal just escaped relegation during his reign, my thoughts turned to this past season of 2011/12 and the fact that after 3 games we were 17th in the League, and how the anti-Wengerian group, the AAA, were talking of relegation.  (“This is exactly what I feared” was just about the most common line on Arsenal blogs that week).   But by the next game we were back to 11th, and soon started the rise up the table which saw us end up in third.

So when were we last bottom of the league?  I had to go searching, and it surprised me – the answer was in Bertie Mee’s time.

With writing about Bertie Mee there is a different problem from writing about other managers – in that he is rightly revered for ending The Darkness – that period under George Swindin and Billy Wright when we won nothing and didn’t even get to the Cup Final.

Bertie ended that era with a long series of Cup Finals, our first Euro trophy and of course the Double.   But what we forget is how things sank away after that.

Here’s the summary table

Year League FA Cup exit League Cup exit Europe exit
1966/7 7th 5th 3rd
1967/8 9th 5th Finalists
1968/9 4th 5th Finalists
1969/70 12th 3rd 3rd Won Fairs Cup
1970/71 1st Won 4th 4th round Fairs Cup
1971/72 5th Finalists 4th 3rd round Euro Cup
1972/73 2nd Semi-final 5th (Norwich)
1973/4 10th 4th 2nd (Tranmere)
1974/5 16th 6th 2nd
1975/6 17th 3rd 2nd

You can see that by 1974/5 things were getting fairly awful, and looking back to the title of this article one might guess that the last time Arsenal were bottom of the league was 1975/6 but in fact it was the season just before – 1974/5.

After two wins and a defeat in the first three games Arsenal then had a ten match run without winning a game.  Seven defeats and three draws, giving us an opening start in the first 13 games of eight defeats, three draws and two wins.  Relegation form.

Our regular players were Rimmer, Matthews (later replaced by Rice), Nelson (later McNab) Storey, Simpson, Kelly, Armstrong, Brady, Radford, George or Ball, Kidd.  Later additions were Mancini and Cropley.

So, hardly a poor team, but this is the team that took us to the bottom.

On game 10 (a 0-2 defeat away to Leeds) we hit the bottom, and hovered in the relegation zone until game 16 – a 3-1 away win at Liverpool.  A little good spell in December / January saw us achieve two wins and two draws and get up to 15th, otherwise it was all doom and gloom – but of course not relegation.

Naturally the crowds were low as well, with only 17,845 turning up to see a 101 draw with Birmingham in March, followed by just 16,540 being at Highbury for the 3-0 win over Newcastle.

Bertie lasted one more year after that and then called it a day.


The Updated Database of Arsenal Anniversaries

How it all began: the book that re-writes Arsenal’s history

When Arsenal almost died.  The story of 1910:  “Making the Arsenal”







5 Replies to “The last time Arsenal were bottom of the league”

  1. When one looks at the team it beggars belief – nine players mentioned above were in the 17-man squad that won the double four seasons before.

    If Don Howe had stayed on… who knows, but then you’ve just covered that one.

  2. I’ve been an Arsenal fan since 1958. In you articles you have quite a few things Wrong.

  3. We have around 3000 articles on this site and around 7000 events listed in the anniversary files so it is not surprising that there are some errors, given that the entire site is run by volunteers with full time jobs achieving something here that no one else has ever even tried, let alone done. The fact is that any reader can write in and point out an error, and when that happens, we look at the information and see if we can find the truth – and if so correct our error. However the one thing that doesn’t really help at all, is a comment like yours. Not only does it not supply any detail of the errors you have found, it also doesn’t then cite your source so we can check who is right. Of course if we have put that event x happened on 10 February and is shown in all other sources as 10 March, then we’re wrong. But if we’ve put a date down which appears in several other sources, then we need to know why everyone is wrong and the correspondent is right. However you’ve give us nothing. Which I think reflects rather more upon your needs rather than our accuracy.

  4. All you muppets who believed arsenal were better off without Arsene and not the tight arse board…well you got what you wanted !
    Flipping bottom man !
    What a great idea it was to give the job to a non manager who’s only input to touch line tactics was to nod to whatever pep said !
    Well if he’s not getting financial backing like from a far-east country like “man cheaty ”, then this is what your gonna get…….
    Wenger pulled rabbits outta hats every season whilst the new ground was being built, on the promise the cash would return to the transfer kitty and don’t get me wrong,Highbury and the surrounding areas are thankful for the redevelopment as i don’t think another club before had given back so much…..but
    The beautiful game has gone from Highbury Mk. 2 and what now…..More seasons of cringe football under pep’s nodding dog…….we’ll we may win the league soon, but not the league we’re in at the moment :(((

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