1979-80 was also momentous. So many things happened that I will need 2 columns again. I should say that I was now 21. I had been to England to watch many games but mostly Man United as a weekend trip by ferry was only the possible option at the time. My brother was a Man U fan and I never fancied going by myself. Some years the Arsenal match didn’t work out for us.
What were our expectations that year? Liam Brady didn’t leave as rumour had had it. We had won the cup. We had been competitive in the league. We had some great games where we scored 5 goals. We were the kings of London with the draw against relegated Chelsea our only loss of points. Our young team was one year older and surely better? We liked Terry Neill and Don Howe. We were looking good. Liverpool were the big barrier. They were scary in a way that Forest weren’t. Clough’s teams always out performed themselves, Liverpool, we felt, were the real deal, they dominated English football in this period with 11 titles from 1973 to 1990, plus 4 European Cups (ask your dad), 2 Uefa cups, 3 Fa cups, 4 League cups and lots of other things like Charity Shields. They were incredible.
A Tale of Two Cities
We were the cup holders. We had to face them in the Charity Shield. So it was an early test for us. Could we beat them and set down a marker for the season, show them we are Arsenal this time? Well, no we couldn’t. They beat us 3-1. They had a team full of superstars, none better than Kenny Dalglish, we had Liam Brady as our talisman but Dalglish played superb, scoring a great goal, and laying on 2 for McDermott. Sunderland got our consolation. Second best this time.
Perhaps Liverpool's best ever player, Kenny Dalglish
Now, you may be wondering why I am talking so much about how good Liverpool were? It is because they were the best in Europe at the time. And we were to play them 7 times this season, yes, 7. So, if you were a boxer, and you had to face the champion 7 times in a year, do you think you would be drained? It gives a crucial background to this season. We were in the Cup Winners Cup as well to give us more matches. And, as I have said a few times before in this column, teams played the same 11 all season, whenever possible. Including the Charity Shield, we played a staggering 70 matches in total. Nowadays, players get rested, then, they didn’t.
A Bleak House for Brighton
We still had the same side as in previous years, more or less. John Hollins at 33 came from Chelsea and was a great addition to the squad, becoming a regular and staying 4 years. Neill was very good at taking a veteran, and giving them a new lease of life. It is not working out so good for Arsenal at this moment, with Luiz and particularly Willian not showing very much.
Footballers always have dodgy haircuts and Brighton were no exception
But because we are playing Brighton later today, I should mention that this was a good year against them, we played them 5 times, twice in the league. The first time was the first match of the season. We won 4-0, then 3-0 in the second. We faced them in the League cup 4th round and dispatched them 4-0 after a replay, our first replay of the season. Then we played them in the FA cup and sent them home crying 2-0. Can we do so tonight? Brighton have proven themselves a hard team to beat but we need to beat them. I would love that 4-0 that we did against them then twice.
Hard Times to start
So, in the league, we started well with that score. But then we were beaten 2-0 by Bobby Robson’s superb Ipswich side, becoming a real force in English football with the addition of 2 top class Dutch players, Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen. Then drew against Leeds and Man utd, then lost to Derby. One win, 2 draws and 2 losses. 4 points after 5 matches. Relegation form. So then we sacked the manager and won all our matches after that. Only joking, Arsenal has a history of not sacking managers easily and I don’t remember any talk of firing Terry Neill. But I was disappointed. We weren’t going to challenge. The only hope was the 3 cups we were in as we were now in the Cup Winners Cup as well as the normal 2.
So the League Cup. First up but second round was Leeds and a draw 1-1 in the first leg. They weren’t the frightening Leeds of old and we destroyed them 7-0 in the second leg at Highbury. This happened just before the loss at Derby so probably contributed to us not feeling too down when that happened. Then we beat Southampton 1-0 in the 3rd round. Then as mentioned, Brighton took us to a replay and 4-0.
Our Mutual Friends again
Then our old friends Swindon took us to our second replay and beat us 4-3. We gave them 2 own goals and it went to extra time to add to our gruelling schedule. Nothing was easy for us in the 70’s. Replays after replays.
Swindon again beat us in the League Cup
Out of that but let’s get back to the league. We did ok, we came 4th on 52 points with Liverpool on 60 on top. Man U 2nd, improving nicely after we had beaten them last year. And Ipswich 3rd, really starting to challenge. Robson had made them good, with his Dutch buys, and they played attractive football.
And the Tale of One City
We beat the Spuds 1-0 at home and 2-1 away to get a nice double. Palace, the only other London team, won and drew with us so our position as London’s top dogs was under threat. Another London team, West Ham, were to play a big role in the second half of the season.
Next week. The Cup Winners`Cup, and playing against some big teams, and the marathon FA Cup with some amazing games.