Due to their extended cup run, the Arsenal had 3 games in hand on frontrunners Leeds United and 3rd place Chelsea, their opponents at Highbury 46 years ago today. Bertie Mee’s Gunners trailed the Yorkshire side by 6 points, and were 4 points ahead of the Blues on this day in 1971. A victory was vital, and a home win against another top team would send an ominous signal to Don Revie’s Leeds. Arsenal and Chelsea had something in common; both were looking to capture a first league title since the 1950’s, with the triumph of the Blues coming in ’55 and that of the Gunners ’53.
The Gunners were riding high in all respects going into April. In the league, they had won 3 on the bounce since being humbled away to Derby County at the end of February, and had also just come through a bruising FA Cup Semi-Final Replay against Stoke City to set up a Wembley date against Liverpool. In addition, the Arsenal were looking to defend a home record that had seen them go unbeaten all season at Highbury. (via Statto)
Chelsea, for their part, arrived knowing that only a win would keep them in the hunt for the championship. They had beaten the league leaders at Stamford Bridge last time out – which was, of course, very helpful to Arsenal’s title chase – but had dropped points in their 2 games prior to that; a defeat at White Hart Lane and a dismal scoreless draw at home to Huddersfield. A repeat of either result would be curtains for their title hopes.
The first half was a pretty tense affair, with Arsenal’s Peter Storey flicking a header onto the post and John Baldwin, heart-stoppingly, having a goal ruled out for Chelsea. The breakthrough came in the second half, and was a thing of beauty; a magic bit of trickery from George Armstrong on the wing to beat a couple of players and cross along the edge of the 18 yard box, before a lovely Charlie George stepover let the ball run through for Ray Kennedy to smash it into the bottom corner.
Chelsea opened up as they flooded forward, desperate for the goals they needed to overturn the deficit and collect a win. This left them vulnerable to the counter-attack, and the Arsenal exploited this ruthlessly in adding a second; George, seizing upon a loose ball in the centre of the park, drove at the Chelsea defence and exchanged a one-two with John Radford before picking out Kennedy on the edge of the box. With unerring power and precision Kennedy lashed home, and the points belonged to Arsenal.