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GCR Books

Arsenal in shock: July and August 1931

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…

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Arsenal 42 28 10 4 127 59 2.153 66
2 Aston Villa 42 25 9 8 128 78 1.641 59
3 Sheffield Wednesday 42 22 8 12 102 75 1.360 52
4 Portsmouth 42 18 13 11 84 67 1.254 49
5 Huddersfield Town 42 18 12 12 81 65 1.246 48
6 Derby County 42 18 10 14 94 79 1.190 46
7 Middlesbrough 42 19 8 15 98 90 1.089 46
8 Manchester City 42 18 10 14 75 70 1.071 46
9 Liverpool 42 15 12 15 86 85 1.012 42
10 Blackburn Rovers 42 17 8 17 83 84 0.988 42
11 Sunderland 42 16 9 17 89 85 1.047 41
12 Chelsea 42 15 10 17 64 67 0.955 40
13 Grimsby Town 42 17 5 20 82 87 0.943 39
14 Bolton Wanderers 42 15 9 18 68 81 0.840 39
15 Sheffield United 42 14 10 18 78 84 0.929 38
16 Leicester City 42 16 6 20 80 95 0.842 38
17 Newcastle United 42 15 6 21 78 87 0.897 36
18 West Ham United 42 14 8 20 79 94 0.840 36
19 Birmingham City 42 13 10 19 55 70 0.786 36
20 Blackpool 42 11 10 21 71 125 0.568 32
21 Leeds United 42 12 7 23 68 81 0.840 31
22 Manchester United 42 7 8 27 53 115 0.461 22

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.

Harper,

Parker Roberts Hapgood

Jones John

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:

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Everton 42 28 5 9 121 66 1.833 61
2 West Bromwich Albion 42 22 10 10 83 49 1.694 54
3 Tottenham Hotspur 42 22 7 13 88 55 1.600 51
4 Wolverhampton Wand 42 21 5 16 84 67 1.254 47
5 Port Vale 42 21 5 16 67 61 1.098 47

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…

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Sheffield Wednesday 2 2 0 0 10 2 5.000 4
2 Blackpool 2 2 0 0 4 1 4.000 4
3 West Ham United 2 2 0 0 4 1 4.000 4
4 Aston Villa 2 1 1 0 4 3 1.333 3
5 Portsmouth 1 1 0 0 2 1 2.000 2
6 Everton 1 1 0 0 3 2 1.500 2
7 Chelsea 2 1 0 1 3 3 1.000 2
8 Huddersfield Town 2 0 2 0 2 2 1.000 2
9 Liverpool 1 1 0 0 1 0 100.0 2
10 West Bromwich Albion 1 1 0 0 1 0 100.0 2
11 Manchester City 1 0 1 0 1 1 1.000 1
12 Sunderland 1 0 1 0 1 1 1.000 1
13 Leicester City 2 0 1 1 4 5 0.800 1
14 Middlesbrough 2 0 1 1 2 4 0.500 1
15 Arsenal 2 0 1 1 1 2 0.500 1
16 Grimsby Town 2 0 1 1 2 5 0.400 1
17 Blackburn Rovers 2 0 1 1 2 7 0.286 1
18 Birmingham City 1 0 0 1 2 3 0.667 0
19 Derby County 1 0 0 1 1 2 0.500 0
20 Sheffield United 2 0 0 2 1 4 0.250 0
21 Bolton Wanderers 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1.000 0
22 Newcastle United 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1.000 0

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.

 

 

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