By Tony Attwood
Arsenal played a month of friendlies after the end of the season – eight games in all back in England around 4 June. Whether that made a difference to the way the team opened the 1931/2 season can’t be ascertained, but one thing is certain – they didn’t repeat the escapade at the end of the next season.
There being no transfer windows of the type that we know today (merely a restriction on buying players during the last two months of the season) there was no great rush to make purchases during the summer, and Arsenal were quiet on the transfer front once the tour had ended.
Meanwhile matters in the economic world continued to decline and on 31 July the report of the Committee on National Expenditure recommended the slashing of government spending to try to salvage the economy. This produced a political crisis as the recommendation was unacceptable to Labour.
Matters were made worse as the currency markets turned against the government, and following a run on the pound in August, the Labour government resigned and was replaced by a national government.
The new football season started on 29 August and it is fair to say all eyes were on Arsenal, having won their first league title.
The league table at the end of the previous season had looked like this…
|18||West Ham United||42||14||8||20||79||94||0.840||36|
Given 127 goals and a record 66 points it was not really surprising that 52,478 turned up for the first match of the season, a home game against West Bromwich Albion.
Arsenal put out exactly the same team as had played in the last game of the title winning season – which was the same team (save for the keeper) that had started the previous season with its run of five successive victories.
Parker Roberts Hapgood
Hulme Jack Lambert James Bastin
Only on this occasion Arsenal lost 0-1. At half time it was 0-0 and the crowd were getting restless. No one could quite believe the final result. True, West Brom had won promotion last season but Arsenal had won the first division. Here was their final position:
|2||West Bromwich Albion||42||22||10||10||83||49||1.694||54|
Worse, on the following Monday Arsenal played a 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers (an average mid-table side last season) away in front of 22,138 – again using the same team. Hulme got the club’s first goal of the season.
Things were not right, and Chapman responded as he had so often done in the past when things were not right – he changed the goalkeeper. The Blackburn game turned out to be the last game for William Harper in his second spell at Arsenal. He won a league winners’ medal in 1930/1, and overall played 63 times for the club but now moved on to Plymouth.
Meanwhile along Seven Sisters Road, Tottenham lost opening game of season 4-0 to Wolverhampton – to be bottom of the initial league table. They reversed this position by winning the second game 4-0.
In those days no newspapers published league tables at the start of the season. Had they done however it would have looked like this after that monday afternoon’s showing…
|3||West Ham United||2||2||0||0||4||1||4.000||4|
|10||West Bromwich Albion||1||1||0||0||1||0||100.0||2|
It was obvious that with Harper being dropped and Keyser no longer at the club the goalkeeping jersey would revert to Preedy who had dramatically replaced Lewis for the Cup Final of 1931 after playing in the last couple of league matches that season.
The crowds, and the journalists anxious to prove that Arsenal was a one season wonder (having proclaimed previously that no London team would ever win the league) waited to see what would happen in September.
- 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.