When Arsenal won the League and Cup Double in 1971,
it came as a serious kick in the guts for Leeds United and manager
Don Revie: not only had the
Gunners denied the Whites the title they had been favourites to
win for so many months, but in one attempt they had achieved what
Leeds had come so close to securing on at least three occasions
in the previous six years.
The Gunners' visit to Elland Road at the end of
March 1972 provided Revie and his men with a perfect opportunity
for payback. A win would almost certainly bring to an end the
Gunners' dwindling hopes of retaining their championship and at
the same time boost their own chances. Certainly form favoured
Leeds: on 26 February the Gunners had been fourth, but had since
slipped to ninth, while United were currently third, five points
short of leaders Manchester City with two games in hand. The Yorkshiremen
had hit a rich vein of form at Elland Road, winning 13 games in
a row and conceding only five goals in eleven matches.
Nevertheless, Leeds acted as perfect hosts. After
completing their now customary pre-match warm up by throwing plastic
footballs to the crowd, they provided a guard of honour to applaud
Arsenal onto the field as a tribute to the Gunners' Double triumph.
Skipper Billy Bremner presented Arsenal counterpart Frank McLintock
with a commemorative silver tankard to mark the achievement.
Don Revie was deprived for the day of the services
of Eddie Gray, suffering a stomach complaint, but he simply moved
Paul Madeley into midfield and restored Paul Reaney at right-back.
It was hardly a diminution of United's considerable powers.
Arsenal were without striker John Radford, but had
Alan Ball making his first appearance at Elland Road since his
record £220,000 move from Everton in December and most of their
other Double-winning players were on show.
There was a let off for the Gunners as early as
the second minute; after the first Arsenal foray, United came
swiftly out of defence for Peter Lorimer to send Mick Jones away
up the middle. He beat McLintock but could only shoot narrowly
wide. They were off again immediately with Lorimer sending a 25-yard
shot wide, and then Jones was brought down unfairly as he powered
through the defence.
It was only a matter of time before the pressure
told and United opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Lorimer
broke away down the right and took the ball to the byline before
cutting the ball low across goal for Allan Clarke to steer past
goalkeeper Bob Wilson. It was an incisive move that cut the Gunners
like the precise slice of the surgeon.
Jones twice came close to increasing the lead, heading
fractionally over and then coming inches short of touching home
from a low Lorimer cross.
The Scot had established his clear superiority over
his marker, Northern Irish international Sammy Nelson, and rounded
him again to send over another telling centre, but Allan Clarke
could only clear the bar with his header. He slammed a fist into
the turf in annoyance at his lack of accuracy.
Surprisingly, despite an almost complete lack of
opportunities, the visitors came close to an equaliser on the
half hour when Charlie George headed against United's bar.
It was only a temporary stemming of the tide, however,
and Leeds doubled their advantage after 35 minutes.
Peter Simpson tried to play his way out of defence
but when he passed out to the right, he missed his target and
Terry Cooper picked the ball up and set off on another searching
run before looping a cross into the area. Nelson, Wilson and John
Roberts all hesitated, unsure of who should take responsibility,
and Jones capitalised on their hesitation, throwing himself at
the bouncing ball to flick it over Wilson and into the net.
Arsenal attempted to hit back; Ball struck an upright
and Jack Charlton had to
concede a corner as the Gunners pressed, but the third goal came
from the home team.
Bremner was fouled out on the left touchline. Cooper
fed the free kick short to Giles, who found Lorimer loose in the
middle. He had been the scourge of the Arsenal defence and got
his due desserts, unleashing a swerving power drive from 30 yards.
It flew into the net, with Wilson only able to touch it thence
off the post. 3-0 and no more than Leeds deserved for their dominant
first half showing.
Arsenal reshuffled at the interval, replacing John
Roberts, who had been found wanting in their defence, with Peter
Marinello and opting for an attack-minded 4-2-4 formation. Roberts
had earlier been left unconscious by an impact with team mate
Peter Storey as Arsenal frantically sought to avoid conceding;
Sammy Nelson doubtlessly wished that he had been the man withdrawn
after the chasing he had been given by Lorimer in the first period.
Marinello's penetration made the Gunners more of a threat, but
United came out in the second half with as much confidence as
they had ended the first, though they seemed content to sit on
Redditch referee John Yates had to speak to Ball
and Norman Hunter for a clash on the touchline which ended with
the awarding of a free kick to Leeds and he then booked both Ball
and Pat Rice for infringements against the threatening Cooper.
Bremner and Giles were troubling Arsenal whenever
they chose to try their hands and there was almost another goal
for United in the 64th minute when Clarke tuned a low cross from
Bremner goalwards only to see Wilson save it at the second attempt.
At the other end, Reaney blocked a hard shot from George before
Ball prodded the rebound wide of an open goal.
Arsenal came more into the contest as the
game moved towards its conclusion as United eased off slightly.
Mick Jones explained, "Perhaps we may have been thinking about
the Forest match, but the first half was very fast and you cannot
keep that sort of pace up indefinitely."
While one felt that United were playing within themselves
and could have gone up through the gears if the need had been
there, Leeds opted for containment in the second period and declined
to push on for another goal. Nevertheless, the damage had already
been done and the 3-0 final scoreline accurately reflected their
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "Leeds United in their
present state are as entertaining as any team in Europe. Without
further useless comparisons with Real Madrid of old, let us at
least be grateful for this alone, a fact which they amply emphasised
at Elland Road on Saturday.
"First, they generously applauded Arsenal on to
the field. Next, they presented McLintock with a silver tankard
to commemorate the double of last season. and then filled the
Londoners' cup to overflowing with a masterly first half display
that swept them to a 3-0 victory which might well have read 7-3
at the finish had every chance to both sides been faithfully slotted.
It was that sort of match.
"There are two reservations, however, to be made
on Leeds. Once regarded as suffocatingly defensive, they now seem
so totally committed to fancy attacking patterns that every now
and then they tend to lower their guard at the back. Certainly,
it was a healthy and welcome attitude, yet in two brief counter
strokes before the interval, Arsenal almost made them pay for
their intoxication as George and Ball struck the woodwork with
scarcely a defender in sight. True, Leeds could have been four
or five up by then, but there is a latent danger in all their
"The second point at issue is the new image being
painfully nailed to them by a public relations man. Some of this
showbiz razamataz is harmless enough. But the limbering up antics
Leeds perform in unison before the kick off is somehow embarrassing
and lowers their dignity. They are not trained animals under some
Barnum & Bailey big top. If they want to be loved, let their exciting
football work the oracle.
"Already home and dry by the interval through goals
by Clarke, Jones and Lorimer, and doubtless with thoughts of matches
against Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Derby this week, Leeds
went off the boil in the second half. They coasted comfortably
with passages of possession football, one of which saw a succession
of some 14 passes taunt Arsenal.
Each touch brought an arrogant roar from the 45,000 crowd like
the Ole's of a bull ring.
"By then Arsenal had learned a bitter lesson and
rectified faulty team structure... To face Ajax and Leeds within
four days would be a test for anyone. Arsenal, knocked out of
Europe last Wednesday, now said farewell to their League title.
Into the bargain, they saw the limitations of Nelson at left-back
cruelly exposed by Lorimer. At the same time, they came to realise
that the tragic own goal against Ajax has for the moment disturbed
Wilson's confidence as the last line of defence.
"The goalkeeper certainly had no chance when Clarke
skilfully turned in Lorimer's cross after only 12 minutes and
would not have been blamed had Leeds led by five goals at the
half. The Yorkshiremen, spreading the ball beautifully, short
and long, failed only in their own finishing. Yet goals No 2 and
3 could have been prevented. When Jones prodded home Cooper's
chip 10 minutes from the interval, Nelson and Wilson between them
opened the door. Nor should Lorimer's epic shot have found its
mark from a full 35 yards. Wilson's dive was late."
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Every adjective, not
every one complimentary of course, has been allocated to Leeds
these past few years, Most of them were relevant and justified,
but few of us ever expected 'merciful' to be applicable. For all
their superb football - Clarke particularly looks like a world
class player nowadays - Leeds still have less to show for it than
they should have. They scored seven against Southampton, and they
should have had seven apiece, if not more, against Tottenham and
Arsenal, even allowing for the magnificent work of Jennings and
Wilson, on whom Leeds themselves must have cast covetous eyes.
Sprake's moments of inspiration are outnumbered by those of indecision.
"Arsenal were shattered completely in that first
half, and their defence was in ruins from the first minute when
Jones shot horribly wide... Yet in the midst of all this chaos,
Leeds satisfied themselves with only three goals.
"In the second half, Leeds remembered that they
had a game against Nottingham Forest this evening, and they strolled
through the rest of the afternoon in response to popular demand
and sarcastic urgings."
Richard Ulyatt in the Yorkshire Post: "After Saturday's
match at Elland Road I ran over in my mind's eye all the great
soccer teams I had watched during the last 45 years or more. Were
any of them, I wondered, better than the Leeds United side whose
forward line of Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles and Gray slugged
Southampton 7-0 early this month or the line, with Madeley
in place of Gray (down with a stomach complaint) which carved
Arsenal to pieces in the first half on Saturday?
"Was the great Huddersfield line of Jackson, Kelly,
Brown, Stephenson and Billy Smith in the late 20s any better,
or Arsenal's famous attack of Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James, Bastin
of about the same time? Did Manchester City's wizard forwards,
Toseland, Marshall, Tilson, Herd and Brook, or for that matter
the Derby line of about that time in the early 30s
with Dally Duncan and Sammy Crookes on the wings play more exciting
football than the present Leeds United line?
"I doubt it, the football was different, but quality
in whatever context, cannot be totally hidden and there has been
high quality about many of the Leeds displays recently, not, perhaps,
maintained at Leicester last Wednesday or in the second half on
"The point of similarity about all those great teams
I have mentioned is that the forwards were sustained by equally
skilful players behind them. Madeley would stand comparison with
all but a handful of players either as a forward or as a back,
Bremner, Cooper, Reaney, as he played against Arsenal, would not
be out of their company whatever the age or style of football
"This Leeds United team seldom fails now to provide
pleasure and excitement. Most of it on Saturday was confined to
the first half, when from the kick off they were strictly down
to the business of winning.
"After presenting Arsenal with a tankard to mark
last season's double, the Leeds players gave them nothing for
45 minutes, not even the ball at the first throw in, and by half
time Clarke, Jones and Lorimer had completed the scoring.
"They had demolished Arsenal's slight remaining
hope of the championship and thereafter ceased to be as brilliantly
ebullient, partly because several of them did not want to aggravate
injuries sustained in the first half and partly, possibly, because
they were pacing themselves for the busy days ahead this week
"In the second half Arsenal came almost into the
match as an attacking force. They might have scored several goals
through George and Ball, who hit the woodwork of the goal, shot
just over, caused Reaney to kick off the line and Sprake to make
the game's best save.
Video highlights of the
Best and Marsh talk about Don Revie's Leeds United
"On the other hand, Leeds could, had they been on
target, have turned round with six or seven goals behind them.
"Arsenal, in that fascinating first half, were impotent
to check wave after wave of attack. Giles and Bremner took the
ball it seemed at will, varying the obvious pass with the improbable.
Madeley bored through the defence with the inevitability of a
tank. Lorimer shrugged and dummied past Nelson almost whenever
he wanted to. Arsenal's defence has seldom, since before Herbert
Chapman's days, been seen to look so ineffective.
"They tended, as beaten teams do, to blame European
football from which they had recently been dismissed by Ajax of
Amsterdam. 'It drained us completely,' McLintock said. 'But while
we were weary after such a hard season Leeds played like a great
side - the best in England.' Whatever Leeds United's rating in
the long history of football they are perfectionists at interpreting
the modern methods and Arsenal's faults of covering only stressed