By Tony Attwood
The year of 1931 ended with the league table looking like this…
|2||West Bromwich Albion||23||11||5||7||43||24||1.79||27|
Arsenal had picked up, but slipped again over Christmas. But because of Everton’s own difficulties, Arsenal were still only five points behind. So after two consecutive defeats on Christmas Day and Boxing Day Arsenal were keen to pick up the pieces.
West Brom, their first opponents of the new year had fared poorly themselves over Christmas with two defeats and a draw, but it was they who picked the pieces more successfully up beating Arsenal 1-0 on the second day of 1932.
For this game, Arsenal, like many teams, were having to use a few reserve players following the intensity of two games in two days over Christmas. And for Arsenal it showed.
The result meant that Arsenal had lost three in a row, scoring just one goal. The last time Arsenal had lost three in a row was in exactly the same period (Christmas and New Year) 1929, when the club lost twice to Portsmouth and then again to Sheffield Wednesday. But then went on to win their first ever major trophy: the FA Cup.
And at least there was to be a break at this point as up next was the FA Cup third round, with Arsenal drawn at home to Darwen to be played on 9 January 1932
Darwen, in getting to Highbury, beat non-leaguers Peterborough and Pletton United 4-1 in the first round, and Chester 2-1 in the second round. (Unfortunately I don’t have records of the qualifying rounds, but Darwen would have played in at least one of these to move on to the First Round Proper).
The result was Arsenal 11 Darwen 1 and it was the first time since 1893 that Arsenal had hit double figures in the FA Cup – this time en route to the final and a record score for the club in the 20th century. Bastin (3), Jack (3), Lambert (2) and Hulme (2) got the goals. The crowd was 37,486 which would have helped Darwen’s coffers considerably.
Afterwards it was reported that Arsenal gave Darwen a set of their kit, and that Darwen continued to play in the Arsenal colours. However Wikipedia has both the old and new Darwen playing in an all-red strip, so something in the story or Wiki’s reporting of club colours, is not right.
Having successfully moved on to the next round of the Cup on 16 January 1932 Arsenal returned to the League, well aware that they were following a run of three successive defeats. Birmingham their next opponents had just won three in a row without conceding a single goal.
Given that background the resultant 3-0 home win over Birmingham was indeed a great relief and it started a run of five consecutive victories for Arsenal in which they scored 16 letting in one. Overall the run stretched to nine wins and one defeat in the next ten.
Jones, having returned from injury to play against West Brom, had been injured again, and so once more dropped out, but this time was replaced by Haynes, not Sneddon, and that certainly helped. Hulme and Bastin scored, the third being an own goal. Arsenal climbed one place up the table to sixth.
On 23 January Arsenal then played in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and once again were at home, this time against Plymouth Argyle who were riding high in the second division (and actually went on to score 100 goals in the division that season).
Plymouth had already beaten Manchester United 4-0 in the third round of the cup and so were not to be taken as easy opponents – which explains the crowd of 65,386.
As in the third round Arsenal put out their first choice XI – and this time won 4-2, with Lambert (2), and Hulme scoring, plus once again an own goal.
Over the next few days however the nation was shocked to hear that inmates in the notorious and isolate Dartmoor Prison had rioted and taken over the establishment. The prison held an almost mystical attraction for the public at the time, as a place so remote that it could have been on the moon, and with inmates whose crimes were so awful that their perpetrators were hardly considered human. It left many people feeling deeply shocked and worried. Tales of marauding criminals circulated widely.
Two days later the British submarine HMS M2 sank off the Dorset coast with all fifty hands lost. It added to the sense of doom and foreboding.
But football continued, and on 30 January Arsenal secured their fourth win of the month and second consecutive win in the league, 4-0 over Manchester City. This was perhaps the most surprising (to the naysayers) and most enjoyable (to the positive fans) as Man City had just won three in a row scoring 11 goals. Winning was good news, but the score against such a solid opposition suggested that all parts of the team were now back in working order.
However the most extraordinary part of the whole game was the hattrick for Parkin who came in to replace Lambert. He had played four games already in the season at inside right but this was his first venture out as a number nine. James for the other goal.
Here’s the regular table on the month’s games for Arsenal…
- 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 (in the previous column) and and the norm expected by the home side.
In the league Everton won two and lost two in January, but went out of the FA Cup in the third round 1-2 to Liverpool. Tottenham also went out in the third round of the FA Cup (to Sheffield Wednesday) and ended the month in 13th place in the second division.
In the Cup itself, while no one could emulate Arsenal’s 11 goals in the third round, there were several big scores, the largest of which was in the replay between Southport and Newcastle. The clubs had drawn 1-1 at Southport’s ground, but Newcastle won the replay 9-0. Arsenal would come across Newcastle themselves in the Cup a little later.
Here’s the league table for the end of the month
|3||West Bromwich Albion||27||13||5||9||46||28||1.64||31|
- And the story so far…
- 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