By Tony Attwood
Arsenal ended February top of the league by four points, although having played a game more than their rivals. But February had been a month of three draws and two wins and there were still worries about Villa and Wednesday catching up. It was time for Arsenal to show their strengths.
|6||West Bromwich Albion||29||14||6||9||58||48||1.21||34|
So, a more regular return to winning ways was what was needed, and Arsenal might have thought that they had weathered the storm of February by playing out those draws and staying top of the league, but they hadn’t banked on what March could offer. It was truly the worst month of the campaign.
It started badly on 4 March with Arsenal 0 Liverpool 1. Liverpool were 13th with a modest away record of three wins out of 15. In this match played their first game with the white sleeved shirts based on an idea by Tom Webster – having delayed the appearance until now to get the kit made and open with it at home. 42,868 were present, bemused perhaps by the fact that in the previous match Arsenal had beaten Blackburn 8-0. There was talk of Arsenal immediately ditching their white sleeved shirts because they were unlucky.
The team selection was hard to fault – David Jack returned replacing Stockill and so this was the current first team:
Male Roberts Hapgood
Hulme Jack Coleman James Bastin
Meanwhile Wednesday beat Wolverhampton 2-0. Villa didn’t play. Things were looking a little tighter.
Then on 8 March there were two interesting developments. Aston Villa lost away to Birmingham which eased their threat slightly, and also on 8 March The Islington Gazette reported that Charlie Jones had been replaced by Alex James as captain – something virtually every Arsenal history book since then has missed (thanks to Andrew Kelly for this snippet).
Next up, on 11 March, we had Leicester 1 Arsenal 1, James getting the goal. Arsenal had beaten Leicester 8-2 earlier in the season and Leicester were bottom of the league with a home record of just four wins and seven draws. To say Leicester played for a draw is putting it mildly, but they did and they got it. It was the same team as for the last match, and it wasn’t at this moment working.
But although Villa beat WBA, Wednesday lost to Newcastle leaving the table to look…
On 14 March 1933 Ray Bowden joined from Plymouth. This I believe was the final signing by Herbert Chapman before his untimely death. Ray went on to play for George Allison as the inside forward behind Ted Drake – who signed one year later to the day.
The next match on 18 March was Ray Bowden’s first game within days of his signing and it ended Arsenal 1 Wolverhampton 2; Bowden got the goal on his debut. Jack was still not 100% fit, and indeed this latter part of the season saw him coming in and out of the team, and it was he who made way for Bowden.
What made this result even worse however was the fact that Arsenal had beaten Wolverhampton away 7-1 earlier in the season. Wolverhampton were also one from bottom with an away form of one win before this match. Arsenal had now just played the bottom two clubs in quick succession, and lost one and drawn one.
At least both their rivals could still not take continuing advantage of Arsenal’s slippage. Villa lost 6-2 to Blackpool but more menacingly Wednesday beat Leicester 4-1, leaving the table looking:
Now the Wednesday’s challenge was there for all to see. Win the game in hand and they would be top.
And so we came to the last match of a dreadful month – and as it ultimately turned out the last match in a dreadful run. On 25 March we had Newcastle 2 Arsenal 1. Newcastle were fourth and the feeling was with Arsenal unable to beat the no hopers at the foot of the league, this match would be lost – and so it was.
Hill came in at number six to replace John, and indeed Hill kept his place in the side (although subsequently swapping to the right midfield) for the rest of the season. Jack returned at inside right and Hulme got the goal.
Villa beat Everton 2-1, but the closest of the rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, who would have gone top with a win, lost to Portsmouth 3-0. Arsenal were thus still one point clear but Wednesday still had a game in hand. Villa had two games in hand and were three points behind. If either of those teams won their game/s in hand Arsenal would drop out of top position. If both won their games Arsenal would slip to third.
Here’s the regular table of results etc with a guide to the abbreviations below
|11.03.1933||Leicester City||22||A||D 1-1||1||47||32,228||16,822|
|18.03.1933||Wolverhampton W||21||H||L 1-2||1||47||44,711||41,958|
|25.03.1933||Newcastle United||4||A||L 1-2||1||47||51,215||25,992|
- 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 the norm expected by the home side.
And here’s how the league table looked at the end of a dismal month for the club.
|5||West Bromwich Albion||33||17||6||10||69||56||1.23||40|
As for Tottenham they continued their unbeaten run with two wins and two draws to remain second in the second division, and hopeful of promotion alongside the big boys.
The current series being researched and published is Arsenal in the 1930s.
- 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