The Cold War was in full swing, Smileys People were starting to be recruited and Arsenal put themselves in the line of fire. Not literally of course although I should imagine Jack Kelsey probably felt that way by the time the final whistle had been blown.
This was the club’s first trip to the Soviet Union (as was) and it set the tone for subsequent visits. Arsenal have played in Russia five times and recorded one draw and four defeats, scoring three goals and conceding thirteen; there is some evidence to suggest that we don’t travel well.
Not that we fare much better at home. The first encounter with Russian sides came in November 1945 when Arsenal featuring Mortensen and Matthews, lost 3 – 4 at White Hart Lane in farcical conditions. It is only in recent Champions League matches that Arsenal have had the upper hand at home. Even so, a record of three wins and a draw from six games is hardly impressive. The haemorrhage of goals has been stemmed with the last three matches seeing none conceded; a shame about the seven in previous three.
The benefit of hindsight is tough to use in some scenarios, for example how did goalkeepers feel about conceding five or six in a match. I understand that pride will have been stung but even for good sides, they could almost guarantee that two or three times a season, they would ship a high volume in matches. In 1954-55 for example, Arsenal conceded five on five occasions in competitive matches and friendlies. It doesn’t appear career ending necessarily, at least not as readily as in the modern game.
In front of a British Parliamentary delegation, Arsenal were brushed aside in the second half of this encounter, a single goal deficit at the interval increasing to five by the final whistle. Did they get the hint when there was a problem with the luggage (third report below), something which today’s media would surely have covered from a different viewpoint and certainly not so readily accepted the manager’s word on the matter.
For Tommy Lawton, there was a strong sense of deja vu; he had been a member of the Chelsea side of 1945 which struggled to draw 3 – 3 with the same opponents at Stamford Bridge during Dynamo’s tour of England. As for the rest of the Arsenal team, this was a new experience at club level at least and a harsh one at that.
Arsenal Collective also have a piece on the match here.