Barely one week had passed since the end of Billy Wright’s tenure at Arsenal before the club appointed Bertie Mee as Acting Manager.
Footballing wisdom has it that Leeds were the dominant team of the era yet their record of success during Mee’s reign compares only marginally better than that of Arsenal:
League Champions 1971
FA Cup Winners 1971
Fairs Cup Winners 1970
FA Cup Finalists 1972
League Cup Finalists 1968, 1969
League Champions 1969, 1974
FA Cup Winners 1972
Fairs Cup Winners 1971
League Cup Winners 1968
Champions Cup Finalists 1975
Cup Winners Cup Finalists 1973
It is not a denigration of Leeds record. If anything, they were serial underachievers, finishing in the top four from 1966-67 through 1973-74 inclusive. However, Arsenal during Mee’s reign were worthy of similar consideration, particularly the double-winning side that transformed 1969-70s 12th place into top spot in the space of a season.
That was to be the finest hour of his reign although 1972-73 saw a title bid falter in the last four weeks of the season with draws against Spurs, Everton and Southampton being their undoing, as well as a final day 1 – 6 gubbing at the hands of Leeds. Six of the final nine fixtures were away from home, including the last four which gives an indication of how hard their fixture list was.
Mee’s achievements should not be underestimated nor should their foundations in the Billy Wright era be overlooked. In 1966, Arsenal won the FA Youth Cup and that side provided the core of the success which came over the next seven years.