Arsenal arrived at Villa Park in mixed form; five wins and an equal number of defeats from the opening ten games had not been the start to the season envisaged. The problem was nobody could say, hand on heart, which version of the team would be playing. The one that swept aside both Nottingham clubs or the XI which crumbled against QPR, Coventry and Southampton.
The newly-formed partnership with Charlie Nicholas had only contributed seven goals in the opening games, a cause for concern and one that was recognised with the signing of Paul Mariner in February 1984. It renewed a strike partnership forged at international level.
On this day, Arsenal bowled into Villa Park three places below their hosts in 12th with ten points on the board. This fixture had not been kind to the club since The Villains had returned to the top flight; two 1 – 5 reverses in the five defeats in eight matches between the two on this ground.
Tony Woodcock put matters right on this day with five goals in one match, the last Arsenal player to achieve that feat to this moment in time. It was also the last time that an Arsenal player scored three or more goals in a match in Terry Neill’s reign.