17 August 1971: West Ham 0 Arsenal 0

Match 2 from the first Double season thus making it played 2, drawn 2, showing that one should never draw too many conclusions from the opening games.

Although Arsenal entered 1970/71 season on a high having won a European competition for the first time, they were still often reminded by a belligerent press that they had not won any major domestic competition since the league trophy of 1953.  Worse, they were the nearly men, the team that “bottled it” at the last minute, due to the League Cup final defeats to Leeds (the league’s new stellar team, according to the press) and Swindon (the biggest shock of the century, also according to the press) in the two previous seasons.

But if the media thought that their raging negativity could goad Arsenal into making new major signings to bolster the team at the start of the season, they were not there.

David Court was sold to Luton Town having missed out on the Fairs Cup final games through injury.  He had played 168 league games league games for Arsenal, and in 1996 he returned to Arsenal as head of youth development.  

But in terms of transfers, nothing else was happening even though in those days transfers were allowed until the last six weeks of the season..  

Pre-season had been ok with mostly wins against lesser teams (Kungsbacka BI 0 Arsenal 5 was the highlight)

And so the season began…  On 15 August there was a 2-2 away draw with Everton.  Charlie George broke his ankle, and the press called the game “trench warfare,” which was pretty much the going rate for comments on Arsenal games.  It was almost as if the journalists were out to get their own back at the club for having the temerity of winning the Fairs Cup last season.

The team for this first game, in numerical order was Wilson, Rice, McNab, Kelly, McLintock, Roberts, Armstrong, Storey, Radford, George, Graham.  When Charlie George was injured Marinello came on as a substitute (only one sub per game being allowed).

For the second match on 17 August, Marinello took over Charlie George’s number 10 shirt and Ray Kennedy came on to partner Radford up front.   Storey dropped back to right back to replace the injured Pat Rice.  

The game ended West Ham United 0 Arsenal 0 thus making it played 2, drawn 2, showing that one should never draw too many conclusions from the opening games – but lessons were learned.  Marinello (Arsenal’s record signing at the time) returned to the subs bench for the next game, but was then seen no more, until he got a brief run of eight league matches in 1971-72 and thirteen in 1972-73.  

The reason for his demise was a combination of knee injuries, and a lifestyle that did not enhance his ability to play, and certainly did not meet with the approval of the austere club management. Bertie Mee was a disciplinarian who focussed on the players’ health.  Marinello did not fit the bill and eventually left Arsenal in July 1973 for Portsmouth.  

Ray Kennedy on the other hand was a revelation, and perhaps we can contrast the life of Marinello who had it all on a plate, and Kennedy who was told by none other than Sir Stanley Matthews when manager of Port Vale that he was not good enough to play as a professional (and who thus went back to working in a sweet factory).    Now  Ray Kennedy took over the number 10 shirt and stayed as the second centre forward through the rest of the season, becoming one of eight (yes eight!) players to play 40 or more league games out of 42.  An astonishing record.   Kennedy ended the season with 19 goals from his 41 games. 

But at this stage it was two games played, and no wins.  Fortunately the natives were not as restless as they are these days.