By Tony Attwood
This is the 12th article in the series Arsenal in the 1930s. The index to all the articles in the series can be seen at the foot of the article.
On 2 May 1931 Arsenal ended their first ever League Championship season beating Bolton 5-0 to set up a record 66 point league total. Jack Lambert scored two to make it 38 goals in 34 games (also a new record). David Jack scored two to make it 31 goals in 35 games.
The team for this match was identical to the team for the first match of the season, except for the goalkeeper – William Harper retaining his place. The final league table looked like this
|18||West Ham United||42||14||8||20||79||94||0.840||36|
The success of Arsenal’s now-perfected counter attacking style can be seen by considering Arsenal’s home and away records for the season.
At home Arsenal were four points behind Villa.
Away however Arsenal more than made up for the difference at home…
Meanwhile, Tottenham’s huge downturn towards the end of the season meant that they could look forward to a fourth consecutive season in the second division.
|2||West Bromwich Albion||42||22||10||10||83||49||1.694||34||54|
The records show that the Arsenal squad for the season contained three Scotsmen (Harper, James and Johnstone, two Welshmen John and Jones, and Indian goalkeeper (Preedy) and a Dutch Keeper (Keyser). The remainder of the squad were English…
|1||Alf Baker||Right back/Right half||1|
|2||Cliff Bastin||Outside Left||45||29|
|3||James Brain||Inside right||17||4|
|4||Horace Cope||Left back||1|
|5||Eddie Hapgood||Left back||41|
|7||Alfred Edward Haynes||Half back||2|
|8||Joe Hulme||Outside right||35||16|
|9||David Jack||Inside forward||38||33|
|10||Alex James||Inside left||43||5|
|11||Bob John||Half Back||43||2|
|12||William S Johnstone||Inside forward||2||1|
|13||Charles Jones||Outside left||24||1|
|14||Gerard Pieter Keyser||Goalkeeper||12||–|
|15||Jack Lambert||Centre forward||36||39|
|16||George Male||Full back||3|
|17||Tom Parker||Full back||44|
|19||Herbie Roberts||Centre half||43||1|
|20||Bill Seddon||Half back||21|
|21||Leonard Thompson||Inside left||2|
Arsenal played 42 league games and three FA Cup games in this league winning season. Of the 22 players used the number of appearances breaks down as
- 10 or fewer games: 7 players.
- 11 to 20 games: 3 players
- 21 to 30 games: 3 players
- 31 to 40 games: 3 players
- 41 to 45 games: 6 players
But perhaps it is in the goalscoring that we should focus most attention. Arsenal scored 127 league goals and six FA Cup goals – 133 in total. Here is what the four main goalscorers got…
|Player||Games||Goals||Goals/game||% of total|
In short these four men scored 88% of Arsenal’s goals. Bastin, amazingly, played in every single league and cup game in his first full season with Arsenal (he had joined in, in the second half of the previous season and played in the FA Cup final). Undoubtedly Arsenal were aided by all four men staying fit for most of the season – and the fact that they had behind them the amazing Alex James, the most perfect inside right, who himself missed only three games.
Before the end of the season, Arsenal had already arranged a series of friendly matches, given their new high profile of having become FA Cup winners the season before.
The first game was on 4 May 1931: Northampton 0 Arsenal 1. Chapman returned to his earlier days as manager, in the second in a series of three friendlies at Northampton, set up in order to help Northampton recover from a devastating fire at their ground. 7503 attended the game, which saw an appearance for Bert Diaper a nephew of Tom Parker. He had played for Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and played in the Combination team. He gained one other game in the tour, but after that vanished from the club although we do know he played for Fulham between 1933 and 1935. Lambert got the Arsenal goal.
On 9 May 1931 Dan Lewis was transferred to Gillingham. He is forever remember as the Welsh goalkeeper who spilled the ball in Arsenal’s first FA Cup final, to allow Cardiff to score.
After this Arsenal went on a 20 day seven match tour of Denmark and Sweden. Throughout the tour the team was pretty much the league winning side with just occasional games for the less regular players
14 May: Danish XI 0 Arsenal 2 (15,000). Williams and Thompson got games; Jack and Bastin got the goals.
17 May: Danish XI 1 Arsenal 5 (10,000). Haynes, who had played two league games in the season, got a run out, and Brain, Parkin, Thompson and Bastin got the goals, with one own goal. Ray Parkin was at the club from 1928 to 1936 but only got 25 league games. He did however, in those 25 games, score 11 goals!
19 May: Copenhagen Combination 1 Arsenal 1 (20,000). Lambert got the goal.
22 May: Stockholm Combined XI 1 Arsenal 5 (6,000). Williams, Parkin (2), Sidey and Bastin scored. Norman Sidey was at the club from 1929 to his retirement in 1939 and played 40 league games for the club during those ten years.
27 May: Swedish National XI 1 Arsenal 6 (12,000). Lambert got four, Williams and Jones one each
29 May: AIK Sweden 0 Arsenal 5. Jack (3), Lambert and Brain got the goals
3 June: Gothenburg Combination 2 Arsenal 3. Jack, Lambert and Bastin scored. This was the last senior appearance of Jimmy Brain and in September 1931 he moved to Tottenham for a transfer fee of £2,500. He had played 204 league games for Arsenal and scored 125 goals including what was, at the time, a club record 34 goals in the 1925/6 season. For Tottenham and played 47 games for Tottenham and scored 10.
And with that, Arsenal FC, Champions of England for the first time ever, went on holiday.
There was one other piece of transfer activity however, although one that is rarely recalled. On 4 July 1931 Tommy Black joined Arsenal from Strathclyde. He played 16 reserve games in 1932/3 before playing in the notorious defeat to Walsall in the FA Cup. He was transferred to Plymouth Argyle six days after the Walsall game.
- 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.