Having ceded their throne tamely in 1989-90, Arsenal made a determined effort to become regain their title. For the second time in three seasons, Anfield was set as the battleground for the match which would decide the outcome of League title. Liverpool had to win as the grip of their dominance on English football loosened, Arsenal were obdurate opponents built upon the bedrock of a defence which would be breached only 18 times in this particular campaign.
Once more, Arsenal came, saw and conquered.
The omission of Don Roper through injury was not a good sign for Arsenal. The winger was in good goalscoring form having scored 10 in the previous six games, including five in the 7 – 1 thrashing of Hibernian at Highbury. His replacement, Ben Marden, did not disappoint, the report below is complimentary about his performance. It seems to sum up his Arsenal career, in this five years at the club he made just 42 appearances.
This win took Arsenal to fourth place in the table, four points behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers with a game in hand, as they carved their way to the league title, sealed on goal average on the last day of the season.
The margin of victory remains Arsenal’s largest at Anfield against Liverpool although had Julio Baptista not missed from the penalty spot, it might not have been.
A win over defending champions Liverpool by a comfortable margin took Arsenal to the top of the First Division by the slenderest of margins, a goal difference of +3 compared to West Ham United’s +2.
This match made you wonder if scouts from Liverpool were at the previous home game against Newcastle. Arsenal free kick on the edge of the area, step forward Brian Talbot to curl the ball home into the top corner. Liverpool repeated the sin and received the same punishment.
My recollection of this match is somewhat different to the match reports. Through my memory’s haze, I recall Arsenal dominating and thoroughly deserving victory. The North Bank was jammed packed as Talbot scored a brace and Tony Woodcock lashed home to seal the win.
It was only a fleeting stay at the top for Arsenal. Despite winning eight of the next nine games, Arsenal would not return to pole position until beating Everton 1 – 0 on 6th October.
Ultimately, the season would be another false dawn, this time with Don Howe at the helm. But Arsenal, certainly before Christmas 1984, were one of the best teams in the country, entertaining us along the way. The wheels came off spectacularly, winning just seven games in 1985, ending the season in 7th place. Had they won their final game at The Hawthorns instead of the 2 – 2 draw, 5th place would have been sealed. Defeat would have seen them drop to 9th, underlining how the tight the finish to that season was, outside of the top 4.
Imagine the headlines today if a big club was thrashed 8 – 1. Just as well that Liverpool were not a big club at this time. Ted Drake’s first hat-trick came in what was a one-sided scoreline but the second half was when the action really happened, a 2 – 0 half-time advantage was turned into a massacre in front of 57,000 at Highbury. Almost lost in this occasion is the hat-trick scored by Ray Bowden.