11 January 1969: Arsenal 2 Sheffield W 0. 6 consecutive wins, one goal conceded. First six in a row in the league since March/April 1956
Triumphs in football rarely, if ever, happen out of nothing. When Arsenal won the league and cup double in 1971 it is true that they had not won a domestic trophy since winning the league in 1953, but that simple fact hides the build up that led to 1971.
In terms of cups and finals, that build up consisted of
- 2 March 1968: Leeds 1 Arsenal 0 (League Cup final)
- 15 March 1969: Swindon 3 Arsenal 1 (League Cup final)
- 22 April 1970: Anderlecht 3 Arsenal 1 (Fairs cup final 1st leg)
- 28 April 1970: Arsenal 3 Anderlecht 0 (Fairs cup final 2nd leg)
Curiously there was no similar build up in the First Division as this record of Arsenal under Bertie Mee shows:
|League position||FA Cup exit round||League Cup exit round|
|1966/7||7||5 (Birmingham)||3 (WHU)|
|1969/70||12||3 (Blackpool)||3 (Everton)|
But what this hides is one other small fact. Nothing that would give us a trophy, but a sign of the changing times.
For what the figures above show us is that Mee could focus. 1969/70 was a terrible season in the league (12th) the FA Cup (exit in first round played) and League Cup (exit in second round played) but we won a European Trophy.
And it was this ability to focus that led to this other achievement, for on 11 January 1969 we had the result Arsenal 2 Sheffield W 0. That made it six consecutive wins, one goal conceded. First six in a row in the league since March/April 1956.
The six wins came after a very poor run, which in turn came after a very good opening run. Here’s how it went:
September 14 1968: Arsenal 1 Stoke 0 completes seven wins and two draws in the opening nine games. The table made encouraging reading…
|4||West Ham United||9||5||3||1||19||9||2.11||13|
|10||West Bromwich Albion||9||3||2||4||15||22||0.68||8|
23 November 1968 Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1. That made it two wins, five draws, three defeats in games 10 to 19. A less satisfactory table, but still not that bad…
|5||West Ham United||20||8||8||4||40||23||1.74||24|
|9||West Bromwich Albion||20||8||5||7||30||36||0.83||21|
11 January 1969 Arsenal 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0 made games 20 to 25 a run of six consecutive wins
|6||West Ham United||26||9||11||6||47||32||1.47||29|
|10||West Bromwich Albion||26||10||6||10||39||44||0.89||26|
18 February 1969: Arsenal 0 Ipswich 2 made it two defeats, one draw, one win in the last four games, as Arsenal slipped to fourth. Worse on 15 March 1969 Arsenal lost in the league cup final to Swindon.
8 April 1969. Arsenal played three games in four days over Easter, the last of which (Leicester 0 Arsenal 0) resulted in games 30 to 37 of the season giving: four wins, three draws. We pulled back a little
|6||West Ham United||37||13||16||8||63||43||1.47||42|
Although Arsenal were six points behind the leaders in an era of two points for a win and one for a draw, Arsenal might still have harboured thoughts of a runners’ up spot. But games 38 to 42 delivered three defeats and two wins. A disappointing end to the season gave us Everton 1 Arsenal 0 on 29 April 1969.
The season drifted on for another couple of weeks with clubs playing catch up through matches postponed for the weather and cup requirements, but when it was finally produced in mid-May the final table showed
|8||West Ham United||42||13||18||11||66||50||1.32||44|
|10||West Bromwich Albion||42||16||11||15||64||67||0.95||43|
It was indeed a most curious season – but it was showing that Mee was building a team that could put sequences together. However when the team was disrupted or lost its self-belief, it floundered, and indeed I believe this season held the secret of what happened to Arsenal with their decline after the double, with the club coming 16th and 17th in the league in Mee’s last two seasons.
There’s one other factor. The double season was built on a settle team, and Mee was already finding that. Wilson, Storey and McNab all played 42 laegue games while David Court played 40. Top scorer was John Radford with 15, second was Bobby Gould with ten.
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