The 1970s started superbly and ended pretty well however the middle years were deeply disappointing.
In the late 1960s there was a feeling Arsenal were growing. By the turn of the decade, the FA Youth Cup winning side of 1966 had started to rise into the first-team. They had even come close to silverware in the League Cup Finals of 1968 and 1969. However they needed a breakthrough.
It would come in Europe. Bertie Mee’s side had a relatively serene run to the Semi-Finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, even putting nine goals past Dinamo Bacau over two legs. They beat the mighty Ajax – Johan Cryuff and all – in the last four but seemed to have blown their chance of lifting the trophy when they trailed 3-0 at Anderlecht in the first leg of the Final. However Ray Kennedy’s late goal gave them a lifeline and they grabbed it with both hands by storming to a 3-0 win on an electric night at Highbury.
Bouyed with confidence, it would be easy to suggest the Double win the following year was always going to happen. Not so.
"It was Arsenal’s first title for 18 years but, five days later, the team would create real history. Eddie Kelly and, most memorably, Charlie George scored as Mee’s side came from behind to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final."
Arsenal vied with Leeds throughout the League campaign and, such was their proximity, Mee’s side went into their last game knowing a win or a goalless draw would give them the title. A score draw or a defeat and the trophy would end up at Elland Road. And, irony of ironies, the game was at White Hart Lane, home of Arsenal’s fiercest rivals – Tottenham. Ray Kennedy’s late header took the honours, literally.
It was Arsenal’s first title for 18 years but, five days later, the team would create real history. Eddie Kelly and, most memorably, Charlie George scored as Mee’s side came from behind to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.
They had become only the fourth team in history to do the Double and only the second in the 20th century.
Unfortunately that sunny May afternoon would be the peak of this side. They lost the FA Cup Final to Leeds the following year and would finish second in the League in 1972/73. By now Mee had spent a small fortune on World Cup winner Alan Ball but the side was faltering. They would finish 10th, 16th and 17th in the next three seasons and Terry Neill took the reins in 1976.
He bought Pat Jennings from his old side Spurs after spending a club record £333,333.34p to sign Malcolm MacDonald from Newcastle. These additions, along with rising talent like Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton, made Arsenal a top-eight side again in the League. However their brightest success would come in the Cups.
Neill’s side reached three successive FA Cup Finals - 1978, 1979 and 1980. The first and the third would be shock 1-0 defeats – to Ipswich and West Ham respectively. The 1979 showpiece would be dubbed the Five-Minute Final because, after seemingly in control at 2-0, Manchester United would draw level with a brace in the closing stages. However Arsenal striker Alan Sunderland would break their hearts and win the Cup by sliding home a goal in injury time.
Neill would find out how United felt. Four days after losing the 1980 Final to West Ham, Arsenal lost on penalties to Valencia in the Final of the Cup Winners’ Cup.
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