After yesterday’s slightly downbeat recollection of a Highbury defeat – albeit an exciting and eventful one – today’s entry sees us run the rule over a much more satisfying match; a victory away from home. One from a season in which the Arsenal finally won the League after 18 years of trying, having won the ‘Double’ for the first time in 1971. This was to be a pretty pleasant trip to the south coast.
The Arsenal travelled to The Dell 3 points clear of the chasing pack, but had played 2 games more than their closest challengers, Norwich. That’s right, Norwich. A further 5 points behind were the defending champions, Liverpool. Southampton, for their part, desperately needed a win as they were engaged in a relegation dogfight, hovering precariously around the drop zone. For both sides, it was a crucial encounter.
How rarely do we wear our yellow away shirts with white home shorts? We oughta do it more often, ‘cos it agreed with us that day. Tintin-lookalike Perry Groves got the Gunners off to a flyer after the ball had bobbled around the box following a header from Alan Smith that bounced back off the bar. Incidentally, if you haven’t read Groves’ autobiography, We All Live In A Perry Groves World, it’s wonderful and you absolutely should.
1-0 to the Arsenal, and so it stayed until the second half, when Paul Merson fed the ball to the late David Rocastle who, with a sublime bit of skill and trickery, dummied two or three Saints before hammering the ball into the far corner. Just a beautiful finish, right in front of the away fans too. A bit of a defensive mixup between Lee Dixon and Tony Adams then let Southampton captain Glenn Cockerill smash in a piledriver to grab a goal back. Thankfully the Gunners didn’t blow it though, as Merson made the game safe with a close-range volley after some nifty work from Smudger and a perfect cross by Rocky.
Brilliantly, word came in that Norwich had lost, and so the Arsenal went 6 points clear at the summit with just 8 games left to play. Granted, the Canaries still had a couple of games in hand, and the Reds now 9 points behind the league leaders had 3, but surely this title fight wouldn’t go down to the wire…