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GCR Books

When Arsenal dreamed of a second 1970s double

On 12 February 1977  Manchester  City beat Arsenal 1-0.   It was the  fourth game without a win and the start of seven consecutive defeats in the league – the worst ever run of defeats for the club.
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The previous worst runs were of six consecutive defeats, one under Herbert Chapman and one under Leslie Knighton, his predecessor.
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Two years and one day after the start of the worst run ever, on 13 February 1979 to be exact, Arsenal beat QPR away 2-1.  That made it one defeat in 16 which was in fact Terry  Neill’s best run.
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The run had started back on October 21 1978 with a 1-0 away win at Southampton (Brady the scorer).   Prior to that Arsenal had been patchy and had left them sitting in 9th position, nine points off the pace (in the era of two points for a win) and scoring only 1.5 goals a game.
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The season it seemed, was over with just ten games gone.
Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Liverpool 10 9 1 0 33 4 19
2 Everton 10 6 4 0 13 5 16
3 Nottingham Forest 10 4 6 0 14 8 14
4 West Bromwich Albion 10 5 3 2 18 10 13
5 Manchester City 10 5 3 2 17 10 13
6 Manchester United 10 4 5 1 14 13 13
7 Coventry City 10 4 4 2 14 10 12
8 Tottenham Hotspur 10 4 3 3 10 18 11
9 Arsenal 10 3 4 3 15 12 10
10 Aston Villa 10 3 4 3 13 10 10

But then came the run of seven wins and three draws ending with something rather special that is still commemorated:

December 23 1978.  Tottenham 0 Arsenal 5. 

This put Arsenal in a brighter league position

Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Liverpool 20 14 3 3 44 9 31
2 Everton 20 11 8 1 30 15 30
3 West Bromwich Albion 18 11 5 2 36 14 27
4 Arsenal 20 10 7 3 35 17 27
5 Nottingham Forest 19 8 10 1 20 11 26
6 Coventry City 20 9 6 5 28 29 24
7 Manchester United 20 9 6 5 29 31 24
8 Leeds United 21 8 7 6 38 27 23
9 Aston Villa 20 7 8 5 24 17 22
10 Bristol City 21 8 6 7 23 22 22
11 Tottenham Hotspur 20 8 6 6 22 33 22

Astoundingly the gap to the top was only four points, but less we were to dream too much over Christmas, Arsenal lost the following game, 1-2 at home to West Brom on 26 December 1978.

But the dream was not completely over, because Arsenal now went on another run of four wins and a draw, ending with QPR 1 Arsenal 2 on 13 February 1979.

In total this made the run one of 11 wins, four draws and just one defeat – that game against WBA while we were all still celebrating the away win at Tottenham.

Here is the report of the final game in this sequence:

  • 13 February: Queen’s Park Rangers (A) 2-1
  • Attendance: 21,125
  • Jennings, Rice, Nelson, Talbot, O’Leary, Young (Walford), Brady, Sunderland, Stapleton, Price, Rix.
  • Scorers: Brady, Price.

After the snow covered hard grounds, we got the mud, and a pitch that was quite clearly unfit for football.  But second half goals by Brady and Price carried Arsenal  up to second in the league so in the end Arsenal’s complaints were tempered.

It was however a travesty of football, with such a talent as Brady reduced to trying to find the occasional piece of pitch where his boots would not get stuck – and the first time he did it almost resulted in a goal with Parkes just saving at the last.

Young then brought down Bowles; Bowles threw the ball at Young’s head from a distance of about 10 inches.  Both were booked.  That’s how it went in the 70s.

Arsenal changed to lifting every pass above the mud and on 59 minutes Young smashed the ball at the goal, it bounced back to Price who scored from 15 yards.  Brady added the second and the mud was beaten.

The game was soon forgotten, but the dreaming began…

Pld W D L F A Pts
1 Liverpool 23 17 3 3 50 10 37
2 Arsenal 26 14 8 4 45 22 36
3 Everton 25 13 10 2 37 19 36
4 West Bromwich Albion 23 14 6 3 48 22 34
5 Leeds United 27 12 9 6 49 32 33
6 Nottingham Forest 22 9 11 2 25 15 29
7 Bristol City 27 10 8 9 34 31 28
8 Tottenham Hotspur 26 9 9 8 29 42 27
9 Manchester United 24 10 6 8 35 41 26
10 Coventry City 24 9 7 8 30 39 25

Quite miraculously Arsenal were second in the league just one point behind Liverpool (although with Liverpool with multiple games in hand) and the dream of another double was on, for by 13 February Arsenal had progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup, having beaten Sheffield W on the fifth attempt in the third round, and Notts C in the fourth.

Sadly the dream of the double didn’t last as we lost the next league game 0-1 at home to Wolverhampton and only won one in the next eight, but it was a dream that could be at least replaced in part by the FA Cup…

The Anniversary Files now contain over 3000 entries

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