GGM 41: Arsenal win title by 0.099 of a goal

Anfield '89 may represent the most dramatic end to a title race but, as far as close-run things are concerned, the 1952/53 season deserves an honourable mention.

There was no final-day head-to-head between the two title protagonists on that occasion but number crunchers were gainfully employed as Arsenal pipped Preston to the Division One crown by the skin of their teeth.

On the final Saturday of the league campaign, Tom Whittaker took his team to Deepdale with a two-point advantage over Preston at the top of the table. Goals from Tom Finney and Charlie Wayman left the title race hanging in the balance with both sides locked on 52 points and one game each to play.

Preston were first up, beating rock-bottom Derby to move two points ahead of Arsenal. That left Whittaker's men facing a must-win game at Highbury on the Friday before FA Cup Final day. Burnley, a top-six side no less, made life difficult.

The Clarets were ahead after just three minutes when Arsenal captain Joe Mercer diverted the ball past his own keeper. The title seemed to be on its way to Deepdale but the Gunners roared back with goals from Jimmy Logie, Alex Forbes and Doug Lishman.

Arsenal's nerves were frayed once more when Burnley reduced the deficit to 3-2 in the second half, but the home side held on to the delight of a capacity crowd. The title was back at Highbury for a seventh time.

Arsenal and Preston finished with identical records of 21 wins, 12 draws and nine defeats. Goal average was needed to separate the sides and Whittaker's players were rewarded for their attacking ethos. Arsenal's goal average was 1.516, Preston's was 1.417. The margin of victory? A mere 0.099 of a goal.

That was the good news. The bad news, in retrospect, was that this success represented Arsenal's last major trophy for 17 years. It was the beginning of a barren spell which would eventually be broken by Bertie Mee's class of 1970.

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