Arteta vs Neill
You know, the situation with Arteta now is similar to when Terry Neill took over. We were happy when he took over but results didn’t improve as much as we would have liked. Arteta got us two gongs and Neill didn’t do that but he got us up to 8th in 1976-77 from 17th . Neill went on a losing run of 9 defeats from 11 - sound familiar, Gooners? It started in January and finished in March whereas I am hoping December brings us Christmas joy at the moment. Wenger fans will be aware that November was always his bad month and I am hoping Arteta has inherited that from him and we start winning again.
But there is one thing that happened that year, a small team that most of you probably never heard of got relegated. Seeing as Mr Neill had left them well ahead of us in 9th. It was a big shock to them, I am sure, to finish bottom with everyone’s boot on their neck. 2nd division for them. I don’t suppose that could happen this year, though, unless Mourinho punches Harry Kane and he loses the dressing room. But you never know. He has a weak chin, Jose, go for the knockout.
Arteta understands the shirt
And so did Terry Neill, pictured here with some unknown footballer
Always some good in the Arsenal
Enough with the schadenfreude, though, and I am trying to point out that with Arsenal, I could always find some good in the season. Even not long ago, Emery got us to the Europa League final in what was the worst year in recent history. I do believe in Arteta, Partey and Gabriel have improved us as has Saka, Willock and others. I feel we will come good. And I did believe in Neill. He had lots of players I liked not just the Irish. Brady and Jennings would have walked into any team. Stapleton, O’Leary, Hudson, Macdonald and others were at the top of their game. That front 2 of SuperMac and Stapleton were scoring freely, and I can scarcely remember any 0-0 scoreline. I have just checked, only four 0-0 for the season out of 42 league matches then. I meant to say at the start (many weeks ago) that I try to write this from memory rather than relying on fact checking so I may get things a bit wrong. I have done ok up to now.
If Stapleton didn't score
I think football, for us fans, in those days, was somehow better than now. Now you see the whole game, all the boring bits, the passes gone astray, and who did nothing. Then, we got 10 -15 minutes, the great play, the goals, the dribbles, the saves, and our players looked better. Now, we can make our own mind up, and we are far more critical. For instance, that year, in the FA cup in the 4th round, we played Coventry, then a good mid table club, and beat them 3-1, SuperMac scored 2 and Stapleton scored one, I saw those goals and I was happy. I could dream of the cup. We were hammered 4-1 by Middlesbrough next round and the dream was over. But I can remember the Coventry game and only vaguely remember the Middlesbrough one. We would try not to get the results until we watched the game on the BBC Saturday night. Often we failed in that, though. It added to the memories though when we didn't know.
A small team goes down
Anyway, we contributed to the Spuds downfall, with a win and a draw. I never really felt we would go down, which was always my biggest fear, as our bad patch didn’t start till January and we had clocked up a good amount of points by then. A strong finish from March meant we really didn’t have to worry. We had a draw against Stoke, then 3 wins ending in beating the White Harts 1-0. Then a 2-0 away defeat against Liverpool, who had become the juggernauts of English football, and then another 3 wins in a row and we were dreaming of next year. We finished 8th, but next year would be much better, yes? On our day, we could win. And that seems to be true at the moment. We can win if everything goes our way. The 2 Manchesters, Liverpool and Chelsea have fallen by the wayside on our good days. That wasn’t happening before under Emery or the later Wenger. Now we can’t beat the Brightons and Burnleys of this world.
All I had to do was dream
Next season we would finish 5th and get to the FA cup final. It was actually a good season, one that sticks in my mind. We were playing well, most of the time.
And in this crazy season, we can still have a good one. We are still in 4 trophies, if we beat Guardiola, we can do that one. FA cup, Newcastle? Why not? Europa league, if we get our youngsters to keep playing, again why not? The league, well only if we put a 20 game run together we might start dreaming.
And that was what I had in those days, dreams. We’d fire in some goals, win a few matches. Brady and Hudson would mesmerize, the 2 S’s would notch up great goals, and the hope would rise. Were we Arsenal? I think so, but the hapless Spuds certainly weren’t. And sometimes we had to take the Arsenal we were given. And I liked Terry Neill. White Hart Lane turned into a one way street without him.
Dreaming of The Europa League final!
(Photo from the Arsenal end at The Baku Olympic stadium, 30 may 2019)