1983 горе и долу (Up and down)
повече надолу, отколкото нагоре (More down than up)
It is very hard to describe the season 1982-83 so I have borrowed the Bulgarian term which is also used in English- up and down. However, in Bulgarian it is a much more common saying. Good things did happen and let’s start with one of them. We finally replaced Frank Stapleton with an equally good player, England international Tony Woodcock was signed a year after Stapleton was let go. I am sure he cost a lot more than Stapleton in wages but that was Arsenal at the time. And we saved a years spending. And that’s a good up in the eyes of the board. We had finished 5th the previous year so now with a proper centreforward we could challenge?
Tony Woodcock fired in plenty of goals for us
Er, no we couldn’t. We started disastrously with 3 defeats and a draw before finally beating Coventry 2-0 on game 5. By December 16th we were hovering above relegation. It was one of our worst starts ever and similar to this year. I liked Terry Neill but his time had gone. He had lost our Arsenal.
Don Howe was true Arsenal, player and coach
He and Don Howe tried to steady the ship. However then we were beaten 3-0 by Sunderland. There was talk of Don Howe taking over. Honestly, although I liked Don Howe, he hadn’t got a great managerial record and I wanted us to get a top manager instead of going the cheap route. Ambition was our big problem, we wanted to do everything on the cheap. The magnificent marble halls of Highbury hid our big weakness, we got a heart attack if we wanted to spend money. It was very frustrating.
But then we beat the Spuds 2-0. And that made us happy. But we still only had 24 points at halfway, 21 matches in a 42 match season. That was just above relegation form but they manufactured enough wins for us to finish a comfortable 10th with 58 points getting 34 in that second part. That type of form for the whole season would have put us a lot closer to the top so it put us in better heart for the prospect of next season. Highlights were beating both Manchesters 3-0 at Highbury in that second half, and beating Luton 4-1.
Vladimir Petrovic, a one season wonder but I liked him
Vladimir Petrovic of Yugoslavia was brought in, our first such foreign player under the system that had been created a few years before. But then we weren’t really a buying team. He was good, I liked him, but he didn’t get many games and was let go at the end of the season. At least it showed that we were prepared to look at foreign players.
The Spuds hammered us 5-0 in the return on the 4th April. Chris Hughton the Irishman knocked in 2 superb goals, Mark Falco fired in 2 more great goals and Alan Brazil notched up his first of many. George Wood was in goal and I feel that was the end of him. He had been brought in a couple of years before to provide competition for Pat Jennings but allowing the Spuds to put 5 past him meant it was his last season. They were all great goals and it was a bit tough on him but we are Arsenal, we beat the Spuds not the other way round. And 5-0! Echoes of when we had run riot a few years before in 1978 and beat them by the same score. They had the FA Cup and the Charity Shield! They were now better than us for 2 seasons in a row, something that I never remember happening in my time before or after until the modern day, although maybe I should check that. My memory hasn’t been too bad in all this blogging. And I wasn’t very confident for next season.
Oh no, Tottenham better than us. What nightmare is this?
We had qualified for the Uefa cup but Spartak Moscow sent us home crying in the first round. A respectable 2-3 away from home gave us a chance in the second leg with 2 away goals. Eh, hello, they destroyed us 5-2 at Highbury. We were poor. Coupled with our results in the league it seemed we were going nowhere. It was a bad time to be Arsenal. I didn’t feel we were Arsenal at all.
Up (and down)
The League cup. Could we do something in this cup? We hadn’t won it in my time. Well we beat Cardiff 5-2 over 2 legs, then Everton 3-0 in a replay. Then one nil to the Arsenal at Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday. Then Man U in the semis. A disaster, 2-4 at Highbury in the first leg with Stapleton scoring and even our 2 goals coming at the very end to make it look like a tight match. Then 2-1 for Utd at Old Trafford. They now had Ron Atkinson in charge, a team full of top players and their ambition was to overtake Liverpool to put to an end of years of misery. They faced Liverpool in the final but got beaten 2-1.
Well, the FA cup? Our trophy? We could win that? Well, let’s see. Bolton 2-1, then 3 matches against Leeds before another 2-1. Then 2 matches against Middlesbrough before 3-2. Then Villa 2-0 in the quarters to set up a return against the Mancs in the semi. This time we would send them home crying. And it started out that way. Petrovic blasted the ball at Bailey in the Manchester goal, he dropped it and after a scramble, Woodcock tipped it in. But Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside scored and again they sent us home crying.
What sort of Arsenal were we at all? Definitely not one that could challenge the big beast Liverpool, nor Manchester United, or even the Spuds. Watford had come up to the 1st division for the first time and came second, way ahead of us in tenth. West Ham were 8th and Spurs 4th. Seems we were a mediocre team, the worst in London, unless you include Luton, who were 18th. 2 semi-finals were all we had to show for our season. Could Don Howe jump us back to the top? We were better in the second half, but surely we needed players, we needed ambition, we needed something. But where was it going to come from? Instead of all this nonsense, could we not just be Arsenal? Fighters, punching above our weight? Making comebacks? I didn’t think Don Howe could be the magic man to do it. A good coach, very knowledgeable, but better as a coach. In all fairness, Neill was reputed to be trying to sign big players during his time and Platini and Maradona were mentioned, among others, but most of the players he actually signed were like Hollins and Talbot, good pros but not world beaters. He did get it right with Woodcock, though.
Some good things did happen in our next season but you will have to wait till then to find out. But the teaser is, a donkey arrived. Oh, and I checked our record against the Spuds. I was right, they never topped us 2 seasons in a row before the modern day except for this season. I think most of us had come to the conclusion that Terry Neill could achieve no more, a bit like Bertie Mee before him. We needed a fresh approach but would we get it?