by Tony Attwood
This article updated 4 April 2017. The full series is currently undergoing a revision, as well as having new articles on individual players added. A full list of the articles covering the whole of the 1930s is at the end of the article.
Here is how the table looked at the end of the year…
In the 1930s January 1 in England was a regular working day, not a public holiday, and the news on the day showed how desperate the economic situation was. With the miners in Scotland already out, the latest news was that 150,000 coal miners were on strike in South Wales as well.
One new piece of legislation that came into force on the day was the Road Traffic Act. In 1926 there had been 4,886 fatalities in some 124,000 crashes on Britain’s roads, and in response the new Act amazingly and incredibly removed all speed limits from the roads on the grounds that the previous speed limit “was so universally disobeyed that its maintenance brought the law into contempt.” The roads now became a free for all.
However the Act did introduce driving offences f0r dangerous, reckless and careless driving and driving whilst being unfit and under the influence of drink or drugs, as well as requiring drivers to have third party insurance.
On Saturday 3 January Arsenal were scheduled to play at Leeds, on a day on which there was a full schedule of first division games. However the match did not happen and was in fact played as a midweek game on March 11.
Quite why the match was postponed I am not sure. On 1 January Leeds played Manchester Utd away (in front of just 9,875), but they like Arsenal now had no other game until 10 January. It is of course possible that the ground was considered unfit, although I can find no mention of particularly bad weather, and every other match went ahead, including nearby Bradford City v Barnsley.
Indeed the only possible reason I can find in the news reports is that on 3 January there was a terrible rail accident on the lines of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in which 3 people died and 35 were seriously injured near Carlisle. Now, I do realise that Carlisle is not on the journey between London and Leeds, but it is just possible that the accident had a knock on effect of disrupting the railway system and perhaps causing a delay in the train carrying the Arsenal men to Leeds. It’s a long shot, but I can’t find any other reason. If you know one please do say.
However all the other matches went ahead on that day and the results included West Ham 5 Aston Villa 5.
That was an interesting score since the following weekend was the one designated for round 3 of the FA Cup and there was no doubt that the match of the round was Arsenal v Aston Villa. Perhaps surprisingly only 40,864 turned up at Highbury, although this was I suspect due in part to the fact that just along the Seven Sisters Road, Tottenham were playing Preston (it ended 3-1) and to the east West Ham were playing Chelsea (1-3). Brentford, Palace and Fulham were also all at home, playing in the third round.
For this game Cliff Jones dropped out and Seddon came back in – otherwise it was the regular team. The result was a 2-2 draw, with Lambert and Jack getting the goals.
Thus on the afternoon of 14 January the replay was held at Villa Park, this time with 73,668 in attendance (an amazing number for a mid-week afternoon game) and Arsenal won 3-1, with Brain joining the team to replace Jack Lambert, (David Jack moving to centre forward). It showed that when there was an interest people could and would take time off work (although some would have had a half day).
Thus it wasn’t until half way through the month that Arsenal resumed their league campaign, and indeed such were the vagaries of the league fixture list and the need to fit in the previously abandoned Grimsby game, Arsenal found themselves playing three consecutive league games at Highbury.
However it didn’t all go too well, at least at first for on 17 January Arsenal lost at home to Sunderland 1-3. Sunderland had only won one away game all season up to this point and only won one of their last six matches, sitting 18th in the league before the game. True Lambert was still out injured, but then he had been missing for the match against Blackpool but Arsenal had won that easily. Jones was also out, as he was for the two games against Villa in the Cup. There were however questions raised surrounding the performance of Bill Harper in goal.
But football always moves on, and having beaten Villa in the FA Cup Arsenal had another cup tie against a first division team – away to Chelsea on 24 January, where in front of 62,945 Arsenal lost 2-1, Bastin getting the Arsenal goal.
Harper retained his place in goal, but in fact that turned out to be his last game until late March for after this match Arsenal turned to their third keeper of the season: Preedy, who had won the Cup with the club last April, but then been dropped first for Keyser and then Harper. Now he was to be given another chance. Lambert was back however, and although he didn’t score, that fact alone boded well for the future.
Thus the Cup holders were out of the Cup, and had just lost at home in the league to a rather unimpressive mid-table team. The press were, as ever, ready to put them down. It was going to be downhill all the way for the pretentious north London team who thought they could score their way to the title.
All eyes now turned to the re-arranged Grimsby game – the match that had been abandoned due to fog with Arsenal winning 1-0.
With the game played as an afternoon match (kick off 2.15pm) on a Wednesday, the crowd was expected to be poor, and indeed it was Highbury’s lowest of the season at 15,751 (London folk it seems were less likely to take an afternoon off work for football than their fellows in Birmingham, where much of the city had an early closing day.
And that low crowd was a shame because not only was this Arsenal’s biggest win of the season, it was the biggest league win ever at Highbury, at 9-1.
Going into the game Grimsby were in 20th spot, outside the two relegation positions only on goal average, having won two, drawn two and lost ten of their away games so far in the season, scoring 15 conceding 33 away from home.
Indeed in their last eight games they had lost five and drawn three, losing their last eight away games, letting in 11 goals in the last three away games alone.
This was not only Arsenal’s biggest league win, but Grimsby’s biggest league defeat. Arsenal were 4-1 up at half time, and were perhaps tempted to ease up, but after the exit from the Cup and the slippage back to second in the league, Chapman was having none of it. At half time he clearly ordered the troops to keep firing.
Here is the line up for that memorable day…
Parker Roberts Hapgood
Hulme Jack Lambert James Bastin
Jack (4), Lambert (3) Bastin and Hulme got the goals
So how could the team match that scoreline? 30,193 came to the game the following saturday, perhaps expecting more of the same. The BBC ran a radio commentary on the second half of the match on the National Programme with George Allison taking the lead commentator’s role with the numbers representing the position of the ball in the pitch being recited in the background.
Birmingham were 19th without a single away win all season but on 31 January the result against Birmingham was a 1-1 draw, Lambert obliging with yet another goal.
Worse, Aston Villa emphasised their intention of catching and indeed matching Arsenal with an 8-1 win over Middlesbrough.
Here are the results for the month’s league and cup games in summary
- *With 3 games in hand
- Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game
- Pos is Arsenal’s position after the game
- AC is the average crowd for the home team through the season, providing a comparison between the crowd on that day and and the norm expected by the home side.
The table at the end of the month looked like this…
|6||West Ham United||27||12||6||9||63||60||1.05||30|
Arsenal in the 30s
- 1: Life in 1930 and winning the first major trophy.
- 2: The cup winners who dropped out and the players who came in
- 3: How Chapman put his triumphant 1931 team together.
- 4: September 1930; played 8 won 7 drawn 1.
- 5: October 1930: A stumble, Villa are close behind, Man U have 12 defeats in a row.
- 6: November 1930: Scoring 5 in three games in one month.
- 7: December 1930: 3 games in 3 days and 14 goals scored.
- 8: January 1931: the biggest league win ever at Highbury
- 9: February 1931: the goals just won’t stop coming.
- 10: March 1931: hope, defeat, hope
- 11: April 1931: Arsenal win the league for the very first time.
- 12: Arsenal in the summer of 1931, the records and the Scandinavian tour
- 13: Arsenal in shock – July and August 1931
- 14: September 1931; the champions recover from a poor start.
- 15: October 1931: Arsenal lose to Grimsby
- 16: November 1931: Chapman’s exasperation with goal keepers
- 17: December 1931: A scoring sensation but a dreadful month
- 18: January 1932: A return to form and a record score
- 19: February 1932: From a faltering start to nine wins in a row
- 20: March 1932: Huge crowds, an emergency signing, better results, another semi-final
- 21: April 1932: Film of Arsenal in the Cup Final, and attempts to win the league.
- 22: Arsenal in the summer of 1932. Arsenal runners up in league and cup, Man U’s average gate drops below Plymouth’s, Stanley Matthews first game, and the greatest run in Arsenal’s entire history is about to begin.
- 23: August 1932 – preparing for the ultimate greatness.
- 24: September 1932: Arsenal’s first steps into immortality
- 25: October 1932: The rise to the stars
- 26: November 1932: Records fall, greatness beckons.
- 27: December 1932: Greatness and supremacy
- 28: January 1933: Top of the league and defeated by Walsall.
- 29: February 1933: New shirts, awful weather, a record score
- 30: March 1933: Top of the league but a month to forget
- 31: April/May 1933: Champions for the second time
- 32: 1929/33: All the men who played in the League for Arsenal.
- 33: Arsenal in the summer 1933: Champions and water shortages
- 34: August/September 1933 – the start of the new season.
- 35: October 1933 – a return to progress
- 36: November 1933 – displacing Tottenham.
- 37: December 1933: Chapman’s last month; Arsenal triumphant
- 38: January 1934: The death of Chapman
- 39: February 1934. Chapman is gone, but the club moves on.
- 40: March 1934. Chapman’s two teams fight for the title
- 41: April 1934. Joe Shaw wins the league for Chapman
- 42: 1933/34 League players, and how the goals declined but the crowds went up.
- 43: Arsenal in the summer 1934: Allison takes over from Shaw and Chapman.
- 44: August/Sep 1934: Allison starts with a bang
- 45: October 1934 – Arsenal finally blow away the north London curse
- 46: November 1934: vying for the top of the league, and the Battle of Highbury
- 47: Arsenal in December 1934: two steps forward, two steps back.
- 48: January 1935: Suddenly Arsenal’s form turns upside down
- 49: February 1935. Despite one slip, Arsenal remain top.
- 50: March 1935: Beating Tottenham by a record score
- 51: April/May 1935: Winning the league for the third time in succession.
- 52: Arsenal in the Summer 1935 after three championships in a row
- 53: September 1935: After three successive championships things get sticky
- 54: October 1935: Ok but not good enough
- 55: November 1935; Drake starts scoring again.
- 56: December 1935: beating the record, and record confusions. Ted Drake before and after the magnificent seven.
- 57: January 1936: the league won’t be won, but what about the FA Cup…
- 58: February 1936: an early example of rotational selection
- 59: March 1936: Wembley again but player rotation starts affecting the crowds
- 60: April/May 1936; Arsenal win the Cup. A match report and season’s end
- 61: Arsenal in the Summer of 1936
- 62: Arsenal players 1934/5 and 1935/36: the fundamental problem with the team
- 63: August / Sept 1936: 20 different players used in the first seven league games
- 64: October 1936: Arsenal in free fall
- 65: November 1936: Arsenal reborn, TV starts, the king demands, the palace burns down.
- 66: December 1936: Top of the league as the king steps down.
- 67: January 1937: Arsenal unbeaten as the goalkeepers change (again).
- 68: February 1937: Seven in the cup, and all to play for in the league
- 69: March 1937: Arsenal top but Man City close in
- 70: April / May 1937: Arsenal slip back and Man City triumph – for the moment
- 71: Arsenal players 1936/7, Arsenal crowds in the 30s, and comparisons with earlier years
- 72: Arsenal in the summer: the overseas tour of 1937
- 73: Arsenal in August and September 1937: a brilliant start and a TV first.
- 74: Arsenal in October 1937: Allison decides it is time for a total change.
- 75: Arsenal in Nov 1937; a tactical signing changes the game
- 76: Arsenal in December 1937; a settled team and a revival
- 77: Arsenal in January 1938: two steps backwards but a new genius emerges.
- 78: Arsenal in February 1938: a true resurgence takes us top of the league.
- 79: March 1938: Arsenal at the top and a fifth title looks possible
- 80: April/May 1938: from no titles to five in one decade – and the most amazing title of them all.
- 81: Arsenal in the summer: the Nazi salute, Bastin as the symbol, Whittaker for England, the world record signing.
- 82: August/September 1938. The start of the end.
- 83: Arsenal in October 1938: the champions stagnating in mid-table
- 84: November 1938: facing relegation?
- 85: December 1938: the manager makes changes and a new hero is found
- 86: Arsenal in January 1939: some signs of recovery.
- 87: February 1939: Arsenal struggle to make a continuing impact.
- 88: March 1939: goalscoring and away form are the key problems
- 89: April / May 1939: Arsenal clamber back to 5th, and achieve film stardom
- 90: Arsenal in the summer 1939
- 91: The players and the crowds: Arsenal 1938/9 – and the players who returned
- 92: Arsenal in the 30s: Arsenal at the start of the 2nd world war (autumn 1939)