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The 1970s: Playing Leicester seven times, and the FA Cup in 1975

After winning the Double, Arsenal’s abilities in the FA Cup  turned  the FA Cup into a labour.  Their record from the Double onwards was:

  • 1971: Winners
  • 1972: Finalists
  • 1973: semi-finalists
  • 1974: Round 4

In 1975 Arsenal started with a seemingly easy home game against York City – and managed to draw it, winning the replay.  The fourth round required a replay too.

  • Jan 4 York City (h) 1-1.  Attendance  27029
  • Jan 7 York City (a) 3-1  Attendance  15362
  • Jan 25 Coventry City (a) 1-1  Attendance  31165
  • Jan 29 Coventry City (h) 3-0   Attendance  30867

It wasn’t the most convincing of runs, but still, Arsenal were in the fifth round which was an improvement on last season.

Arsenal were drawn against Leicester – a first division team at the time, and this was a case of “oh not again” and again and again.

Arsenal had played Leicester for the first time on August 17: 1974 – the result Leicester City 0 Arsenal 1

Then on September 10 1974 Arsenal played them for the second time, this one in the League Cup second round.  Arsenal 1 Leicester City 1.

The third game was on September 18 1974 in the replay of the league cup.   Arsenal lost: Leicester City 2 Arsenal 1

Everyone then imagined (if they thought of it at all) that the game on December 14 1974 would be the last we’d see of Leicester, and the result of Arsenal 0 Leicester City 0 did nothing to make anyone wish for another visit to Highbury of the team.

But then along came the FA Cup 5th round, and so the fifth match took place on February 15 1975 and the result was Arsenal 0 Leicester City 0.  At least the crowd was up; 43,841 turned up.

Jeff Blockley returned to Highbury where he was so disliked by some in the crowd, and of course never put a foot wrong throughout the game.  In fact his only mistake was made in his interviews after the game, where he stated that Leicester would now look likely to go through to the quarter finals.

Jimmy Bloomfield the Leicester manager spoke of Blockely’s confidence, control and organisational skills, and although most Gooners would not have gone that far this was certainly a different Blockey from the one that had played in red and white.

Once again it seemed that booing and jeering one of your own players has an effect in diminishing that player’s ability on the pitch.

Leicester played the defensive game throughout, generally placing no fewer than eight men in the penalty area if ever Arsenal came forwards with intent.    Both sides got the ball in the net – Arsenal’s “goal” was disallowed for a handball in the build up, Leicester’s for off side.  There wasn’t much else; it was that kind of a game.

So on to match six – the replay on February 19 1975.  And the result was, Leicester City 1 Arsenal 1 with 35,009 at Filbert St.   (These were the days when the FA Cup meant something to the first division teams, rather than being an unwanted distraction).

So it was another day, another Leicester match, another cup draw – perhaps neither side really wanting to play West Ham in the next round.  With nothing much happening in normal time Radford eventually headed Arsenal in front in the 98th minute, only for Birchenall to equalise.

Arsenal, clearly nervous, played a nine-man defence, with repeated forty yard back passes but with Mancini having a rare off day and Arsenal ultimately reliant on Rimmer to save the day on several occasions, Leicester clearly thought they must eventually have a chance.

John Matthews back from suspension was taken off with a leg injury, and Liam Brady replaced him which at least meant that Arsenal had some forward passes in between the retreats, but otherwise it was a highly forgettable affair between two teams that were each determined not to lose.

After the draw the clubs tossed for home advantage in the replay.  Arsenal lost.  It was that sort of day.

Before match seven in the never ending saga against Leicester there was the little matter of a league match on February 22 1975 against Derby.  The result was Derby County 1 Arsenal 2, which gave everyone a slight boost.

But then inevitably it was Leicester again.   February 24 1975, match 7.  And finally a result.   Leicester City 0 Arsenal 1 Attendance: 39,025

Radford scored in what was cumulatively the 225th minute of this FA Cup contest, (and that’s without counting the league and league cup games), five minutes from the end of extra time.  Blockley fouled Radford 25 yards out,  Ball tapped the free kick sideways and Radford blasted it home.

The victory was formed on the back of possession-possession-possession football with back-passes galore from both sides.  Arsenal effectively invited Leicester to come at them, and had the look of a team who would take as long as necessary to get the final result – even if it meant going for game 8.

As for the refereeing, it seemed to take the approach laid down by Yates in the Derby match, as a blueprint rather than a warning.  When, for example, Kidd slipped past Cross in the second half and headed towards goal Cross simply ran behind Kidd at full speed and pulled the Arsenal forward over.  The referee did not even wag a finger.

Not a single finger!

It was not pretty from either side, and not at all adventurous from Arsenal, but in the end the result was achieved.

By the final whistle Arsenal had played 12 hours 30 minutes against Leicester City during the season.  The result of the seven games was

Arsenal had won two, there were four draws and Leicester had won one.  And Arsenal were in the sixth round against West Ham.

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