Seven titles in sixteen seasons; the football equivalent of going from 0 – 60 in 4 seconds. Arsenal pipped Preston North End on goal average (1.514 vs 1.417). The two teams met at Deepdale in the penultimate game of the season when Arsenal blew their chance to seal the title by losing 0 – 2 to bring the Lancastrians level on points. Both won their final games leaving the gap between the two teams at six goals. Which over the course of a 42 game season is nothing. Preston only managed to beat Derby by a single goal on the last day of the season, nowhere near as many as might have been expected given The Rams were already relegated.
This was though the end of the club’s Golden Age; a watershed as having been so successful from 1930 – 1953 (excluding the war years), Arsenal would not win a trophy for another sixteen seasons.
That history was not apparent at the time although the end of an era would be signalled fully with the retirement of Joe Mercer being announced barely thirty minutes after the trophy had been lifted.
Mercer was already 32 when Arsenal signed him, Tom Whittaker holding no ‘age’ policy for signings. In his seven years at Highbury, Mercer captained the side to two League titles and the FA Cup twice. He began his managerial career at Sheffield United, moving to Aston Villa in 1958 where his team won the first ever League Cup final in 1961. Callously, the Villa board sacked him in 1964 once he had recovered from a stroke. He would go on to manage Manchester City to domestic (1968 League, 1969 FA Cup, 1970 League Cup) and European success (1970 Cup Winners Cup).
He would go on to become England’s caretaker manager in between the end of the Ramsey era and beginning of the Revie debacle.