Next weekend Leeds face one of the teams they regularly battled for cups and Division One Championships in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
There has been many great games and a few forgettable ones, so I thought I’d look back on a few before ‘The Gooners’ turn up at Elland Road next Sunday
The first time Leeds played Arsenal was way back in 1924 with the hosts winning 6-1 at Highbury in the return game of the 1924/25 season United claimed a 1-0 win. In the 1930’s Arsenal won the first game of the decade with a 3-1 win and Leeds had to wait until December 1932 to register their first win a Highbury with a 2-1 win.
Leeds didn’t play Arsenal from 1939 to 1946 because of the 1939-45 armed conflict so when the teams met in 1946 at Highbury it was no surprise when the hosts won the game 4-2 and United only played them twice in the forties, the return fixture ended in a 1-1 draw.
The fifties started with a narrow 1-0 win for Arsenal in the FA Cup and the next game was six years later in a Division One game was at Elland Riad where the teams shared six goals in a 3-3 thriller. The last games of the decade saw Leeds win 3-2 at ER and the game at Highbury ended in a 1-1 draw.
The ‘swinging’ sixties is the decade when the two teams became fierce rivals. Leeds had been promoted in 1964 and in their first encounter they beat Arsenal 3-1 at ER and did the ‘double’ over them with a 2-1 at Highbury. The biggest game during this decade was staged at Wembley. United win their first major cup 1-0 with a goal from left back Terry Cooper.
The seventies Leeds and Arsenal usually challenged every season for the Division One title. Arsenal won the ‘double’ in 1971 beating their rivals for the title but one year United would have their revenge when the teams would once again lock horns at Wembley for the Centenary FA Cup Final.
The game was a tense affair with Paul Reaney clearing a goal bound shot off the goal line before Mick Jones put across the ball for ‘Sniffer’ Clarke to head the ball into the net for the only goal of the game. Leeds could also have done the ‘double’ a few days later but having to play a weakened and tired team they unfortunately lost 2-1 to Wolves and the title went to Derby County.
The decade ended with both teams going in different directions, Leeds had lost the European Cup in 1975 controversially to Bayern Munich in Paris and had lost most of ‘Revie’s’ team and were on a downward spiral. The last meeting of the decade was a humiliating 7-0 defeat for United in the League Cup at Highbury.
Unfortunately the eighties were a dark time for Leeds, they were relegated to Division Two in 1982. The last game United played Arsenal was in the FA Cup in 1983, the tie lasted three games, the first at Highbury ended 1-1 as did the second game at ER. Arsenal eventually went through 2-1, Rix and Woodcock getting the ‘Gunners’ goals.
After their promotion in 1990 Leeds faced Arsenal for the first time in seven years. Leeds and Arsenal shared four goals in a 2-2 draw. In 1991, the FA Cup tie went one game longer than the one in 1983. The first game ended 0-0, the replay at ER 1-1, the second replay was a scoreless draw. Arsenal won the 3rd replay 2-1 at ER.
The teams also met in 1993 with Arsenal also winning the replay 3-2 at ER. The last meeting in the 90’s was also a 2-0 victory for Arsenal in the final days of 1999 at Highbury. Some might say this was revenge for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink headed winner that denied Arsenal the Championship at Elland Road only a season prior.
In the ‘naughties’ one of the saddest occasions the two teams met was very soon after the murder of Kevin Speight and Chris Loftus. Arsenal arrived with flowers and gave them to the Leeds players on the pitch at Elland Road before the game.
A rampant Arsenal won 4-0 but the occasion was bigger than the game as the emotion of the day got to players and supporters. A very sad day.
Three years later Mark’The Duke’ Viduka scored a late goal in a 3-2 win to keep Leeds in the Premier League and also deny Arsenal the title. The Gunners got their revenge by beating United 5-0 the season after, Leeds were relegated that sesson after losing to Bolton Wanderers 4-1 on the penultimate game of the 2003/04 season.
Leeds had to wait seven years to meet their London rivals. Leeds led their FA Cup tie at Highbury 1-0 with a penalty from Robert Snograss but unfortunately in the replay Arsenal won 3-1 but the game is remembered because of a proper ‘thuderb#%t#%d’ by Bradley Johnson.
A year later Leeds travelled to London for another FA Cup tie, the tie was the first game of Thiery Henry’s return from New York Red Bulls on loan and he got the winning goal after coming on as a second half substitute.
It was said it was written in the stars that the superstar and Arsenal legend would return and score.
The last time Leeds played our Sunday opponents was another FA Cup tie last season.
United had shown the football world how good they were with a feast of football in the first half of the tie, unfortunately the chances were not taken and in the second half Arsenal won the tie 1-0 with a goal from Reiss Nelson.
Both teams are well regarded, Arsenal have been Champions League finalists and won a bevy of titles and cups under the reign of Arsene Wenger. The Gunners are managed by ex Arsenal favourite Mikal Arteta who has said the like many managers he’s a big fan of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds team.
For the first game after the international break it is a renewal of a rivalry that goes back nearly 100 years. It should well be worth a watch. A classic North v South encounter sadly without the fans unfortunately.
By Keith Ingham