For Arsenal it’s that déjà vu thing all over again

by Tony Attwood

On 26 September 1970 Arsenal lost 5-0 to Stoke City in the League.   Which was surprising because prior to the match we had played nine, won five, drawn three and lost one.   We were sitting third in the league and with a goal difference plus +11 (although they didn’t measure goal differences in those days).

18,153 turned up to watch – a poor attendance given that all the talk in the press about Arsenal’s new exciting style and endless reports of a punch-up between the players in a restaurant that had occurred after a game in Italy against Lazio.   And it was a surprise given that Arsenal had conceded only seven goals in the nine League games thus far a 2-0 win would have seemed more likely than anything else.

Besides, in goal there was Bob Wilson who was getting the plaudits not just for his ability to dive at the feet of oncoming forwards and get out uninjured but also because he was so interviewable.

Yet the reality on the day was that the score-line could easily have been worse, with Stoke missing a couple of simple chances.  It was in short the collective bad day for the defence, who spent the game giving the ball away again as soon as they did manage to get possession for more than a second or two.

The fourth goal epitomised the problems – Wilson went for a bouncing ball, which really could have gone anywhere, but the bounce on the uneven pitch took it to Jimmy Greenhoff who had the simplest of chances to convert.  The fifth came from a shot that Wilson parried straight to Alan Bloor who scored.

The press felt the mighty had truly fallen and such plaudits as they had got from beating Lazio in the second leg of a Fairs Cup match just three days before, now counted for nothing.   Winning the league was not on anyone’s mind after this display.

And being now rather old, I was reminded of all of this in watching yesterday’s game.  The media, I thought would make a meal of Arsenal being “brought down to size” or something like that.  The Guardian actually has Arsenal being “brought down to earth”, although the Telegraph goes with “Mikel Arteta’s run-in with Klopp acts as spark to ignite Liverpool blitz”

The Mail finds cause to use its favourite word of the year (“rant”) with ‘He was defending his team, I was defending mine’: Mikel Arteta plays down his furious first-half touchline clash with Jurgen Klopp at Anfield… despite Arsenal then going on to get thrashed by Liverpool at Anfield”    (And that is just the headline!)

But does this mean that the defeat yesterday defines the true Arsenal and all the earlier matches against lesser clubs (like Tottenham) are merely Arsenal flattering to deceive?

In 1970, the 5-0 defeat to Stoke didn’t affect Arsenal at all, for what is often forgotten is that just two days later Arsenal beat first division Ipswich in the second round League Cup replay, 4-0.   Kennedy got two, Radford and Roberts the others.

Arsenal were doing ok in the league, but their away record read won 1 drawn 2 lost 2, five goals for, 10 against.  Those of a more negative approach to life said that Arsenal needed to do much better away from home.  Those of a positive persuasion noted the club was still in all three competitions, with the fourth (the FA Cup of course) awaiting them in January.

September ended with Arsenal in the third round of the league cup, and with Leeds United still top of the First Division, two points ahead of their nearest rivals Manchester City. The challenge at the top remained a close one, with Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea all level on points.  But the 5-0 defeat to Stoke had dented the goal average and we were discounted in the media as serious challengers.

As for why I bother so much with events 50 or so years ago, well, if you know your history you’ll have recognised the season, 1970/71.   We lost 5-0 to Stoke and later went out of the Fairs Cup to Koln.  But we won the league at White Hart Lane for the first time, and won the FA Cup a few days lafter to give us the first double.   

One result in the overall scheme of things doesn’t have to mean that much.


3 Replies to “For Arsenal it’s that déjà vu thing all over again”

  1. OT

    Fascinting piece in he guardian about the FA, refereeing and the lack of minorities in refereeing….

    Just read that sentence…

    “The FA confirmed last week that all referees who were not from “white British backgrounds’ were recorded in the ethnic minority figures.”

    So anybody from the Uk at large and not from England is an ethnic minority…

    A fascinating insight.

    Seriously, I had wondered about it.

    “There are no black or Asian referees officiating in the Premier League or Championship. There are just four referees from ethnic minorities officiating in the country’s top seven divisions.”

    Now, if I look at the PL and PGMOL, probably referees from London are an ethnic minority as well… ;=))

    That just confirms it. This is the most financially powerful league in the world, and it is run by idiots, racists and incompetents.
    And, sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings, but, guys, this, looking at it from foreign country’s perspective, this is just so typical of what we have kind of expect of all things british nowadays. Old boys networks all over the place and just about no chance for any kind of competence to rise to the top.

  2. It’s easy to use season where we won the double as an example, forgetting other seasons where we’ve lost scandalously and ended miserably in the league too. It is true a match doesn’t define a season, and any analysis of a team’s season must take into cognizance many matches. For me so far, despite our good run against decidedly inferior opposition, we look like a team good enough to make 5th or 6th. I don’t like using terms like top 5 or top 6, because it’s just a way for the 5th or 6th placed team to rub shoulder with better teams. Sometimes the 6th placed team is so much closer to the relegated teams than the to the top 2-3 teams. We are clearly far behind the likes of Liverpool, man city, Chelsea. We finished 8th in the last 2 seasons, so if we finish 5th/6th this season it must be considered progress. But then again we need to look at the distance from the bigger teams and ask ourselves, at this stage of our post Wenger development, are we supposed to be this far behind? Is Arteta closing up the gap fast enough?

  3. Chris has highlighted the Guardian article concerning the nature of how referees seem to be chosen in England in order to officiate at the highest levels of English football. The Guardian article, while it is to be congratulated in this, is somewhat behind the times! Untold Arsenal, through a plethora of articles, has made reference to the dearth of black and asian referees in the various English leagues over a number of years now, along with a dearth of referees from Southern areas including the Home Counties of England
    Indeed, it would appear to me, that many major athletic bodies in the UK and especially England still seem to be managed by WASPs, (men who are white, anglo-saxon and probably protestant). The perpetuation of anti black and asian football referees at the highest echelons of English football is yet another reminder as to the nature of the way that England and indeed the UK society may still be organised, with the wealthy public school images and cultures still manifesting and dominating society both at and in every level of organisational management!

    Why has very few media outlooks ever challenged the secrecy of the PGMOL? Why has very few media outlooks ever challenged the transparency of the PGMOL? Of the Football Association? Of the Premier League? Who makes the decisions? How are decisions determined? Is it a case of ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’?
    Consider some of these major sporting bodies. The Football Association; the Premier League; the EWCB, the Racing Authorities such as the jockey club; Rugby Union authorities; Olympic Committees; Athletic Boards……..etc, etc. Who organises and controls them? Should we be surprised? I fear not! Does one care? I fear not! Will things ever really change? I fear not!
    For sporting fans, as long as the teams and countries that are supported still continue to win, (some at ‘all costs’), who cares about who or what the controlling factors are!

    Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves………..(and is and has for generations. Should we be surprised? Perhaps it is about time that we should and speak out about the inequality!)

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