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GCR Books

Arsenal in April/May 1933, Champions for the second time.

By Tony Attwood

Coming into April Arsenal had won only one game in their last eight.  Here was the record…

Game Date Against Venue Result Pos Pts
28 04.02.1933 Everton away D1-1 1 42
29 11.02.1933 Blackpool home D1-1 1 43
30 22.02.1933 Derby County away D2-2 1 44
31 25.02.1933 Blackburn Rovers home W8-0 1 46
32 04.03.1933 Liverpool home L0-1 1 46
33 11.03.1933 Leicester City away D1-1 1 47
34 18.03.1933 Wolverhampton Wndrs home L1-2 1 47
35 25.03.1933 Newcastle United away L1-2 1 47

But Arsenal had help from their rivals in maintaining their position at the top of the league, for during this same spell Villa won four and lost four, while Wednesday won five and lost three.  Thus they had kept closer to Arsenal (who had the record won one, drew four, lost three), but could not overtake them.  Better form for either Villa or Wednesday would have seem them draw ahead.

As a result the top of the league after the Newcastle game looked like this

But clearly Arsenal could not rely on their rivals to continue their modest form.  And indeed April was certainly going to be the deciding month since Arsenal had to play both of their challengers at the top of the league, and with the results Arsenal had been getting, no one was very certain how this would pan out.

On April 1 it was Aston Villa at home.  Villa had won three of their last seven and had suffered a 2-6 away defeat to Blackpool.  Being only three points behind Arsenal and with two games in hand, they knew they had a chance to climb above Arsenal, and take advantage of any Wednesday slippage.  But their away form was middling: won 5 drawn 6 lost 5.

This turned out to be a monumental day as Sheffield Wednesday played out a 2-2 draw with lowly Chelsea as Arsenal finally got their act back together.

In Arsenal’s forward line James and Bastin had played at 10 and 11 in every single league match thus far.  Bowden now started a run to the end of the season at insight right, Jack moved to outside right and at last Lambert came back to centre forward.  Hill moved across to right half, and indeed Lambert and Hill played through to the end of the campaign.

Joe Hulme was missing as on this day he got his 9th and last England cap.

Lambert (2) Jack, Bowden and James, knocked in the goals, Arsenal won 5-0 in front of 54,265.  Arsenal were back and firing on all cylinders.  The third goal took Arsenal’s season total to 100, and they ended the day having scored 29 more goals than Wednesday while letting in two fewer.

Before Arsenal played again Sheffield Wednesday played their game in hand once more drawing at home this time 1-1 to Birmingham City.

Meanwhile on 4 April 1933 the Derby Daily Telegraph published a report on Arsenal’s new shirts with the white sleeves – showing just how much fascination there was with the idea of a club changing its shirts, across the whole country.

On 8 April Middlesbrough entertained Arsenal.  Middlesbrough were 18th in the league only two points above the relegation places.  But this was primarily due to a terrible start to the season – they had only lost two in the last 18, so the game was not an utterly forgone conclusion.

1-2 up at half time, Arsenal were always in control and won 3-4.  Hulme got three and Bastin the other.    Sheffield Wednesday however had a catastrophe of a day losing 4-0 at Huddersfield.  Aston Villa drew 1-1 with Manchester City.  Newcastle who were putting in a late challenge for the title, were however stuttering, winning one, drawing one and losing one of their opening three games in April.  The table now looked like this…

And so on Good Friday, 14 April, came the game that the press decided would be the title decider.  Arsenal played Sheffield Wednesday (who had been the challengers all the way through the season) at Highbury, and won 4-2.  Hulme scored two, Lambert and Bastin the others.  Arsenal had now scored 13 goals in three games, including games against two of their main rivals, having scored just three goals in the previous four.  The game was the only time Highbury saw over 60,000 for a match in the season.

After game on the 14th everyone believed Arsenal were nearly home and dry.  Aston Villa had not played, but they had a game the following day – against of all teams, Sheffield Wednesday.  Although Villa could still go on and win the league by winning their games in hand, their recent run of three defeats and a draw in the last six, made it seem unlikely.

So, one day after being beaten by Arsenal, Sheffield Wednesday had to play Aston Villa, while Arsenal played 7th placed Portsmouth at Highbury.  The Hillsborough result was Sheffield Wednesday 0 Aston Villa 2.  At Highbury it was the reverse: 2-0 with Lambert and Bastin scoring.

As a result of that game the table now looked like this…

Villa now needed to start winning their matches in hand – but even then Arsenal would still have the upper hand and an uncatchable goal average.  Arsenal’s maximum possible total was 61 points, Villa’s was 59 points, so Villa needed not only to win four and draw one to overtake Arsenal, they had to do better hope for a major Arsenal collapse.

Having played Portsmouth on 15 April Arsenal did not have another game until April 22, but Villa had one of those impossible series of fixtures which regularly turned up on the 1930s: three games in four days.   And having beaten Sheffield Wednesday on Easter Saturday, they then lost 3-1 to Newcastle on Easter Monday.

This meant…

  • Arsenal: 3 games to play, 55 points
  • Villa: 5 games to play 47 points.  Max points possible 57.

Arsenal needed one more win, or a Villa defeat to win the league (given the huge difference in goal averages between the clubs).  The newspapers were full of it.

On 18 April Villa beat Newcastle at Villa Park 3-0 to keep their faint hopes alive, and so on 22 April everyone waited for news of both Arsenal’s away game at Chelsea, and Villa’s home game against Leeds – both of course played simultaneously at 3pm.  Chelsea were 17th in the league on the day of the game, with a very mixed bag of results of late with three wins in the last six matches.

Just to emphasise the point, an Arsenal win, and they would be there.

There was little trouble for Arsenal in front of 72,260, easily the largest crowd to watch Arsenal through the season.  For while the result from Birmingham was Aston Villa 0 Leeds Utd 0, at Stamford Bridge it was Chelsea 1 Arsenal 3 with goals from Bastin (2) and Jack.  Arsenal had won the league.

Villa had three games to play but could only reach 56 points; goal average wasn’t going to be a factor.  Arsenal had won with two games left to play and with a suitably large crowd to see the game.

Arsenal now had three games left – the two league games and a friendly.   On 29 April came the first of the league matches – this against Huddersfield Town who were in 6th.  It was a game played on the same day as the FA Cup final, 29 April 1933. Everton won the Cup for the second time in their history, the previous time coming in 1906, beating on this day, Manchester City.

As for the champions, the result was Arsenal 2 Huddersfield 2.  Two goals for Bastin gave him 33 goals in 42 games to make him top scorer for the season, scored almost totally from the left wing. 

On the same day Aston Villa finally recovered their form and beat Blackburn Rovers 5-0 away but of course it was now far too late.

After game on the 29th the table read…

Arsenal, having won the league had one league game to play in May – away to Sheffield United on May 6.  For the most part it was the regular team, but there was now of course no reason for them to try particularly hard, especially with a crowd of just 18,620, having played in front of crowds in the 50, 60 and once 70,000 level.  Arsenal lost 1-3.  Hill scored.

Next up, on 3 May Arsenal played a friendly against Cliftonville away and won 0-4, the crowd is not recorded.  The team included most of the regular squad but with Leslie Compton getting a game at left back (he did in his career play left and right back), Haynes coming in for Roberts, John for Jones, Parkin for Lambert and Beasley for Bastin.  Beasley was to make his impact on the team midway through the next season.

Whether the game was arranged before the final outcome of the league title chase was known I can’t say, but I suspect it was pencilled in and only confirmed once Arsenal knew that they would not be fighting for the title on the final day of the season.

The very last game of the season was the final league fixture on 6 May – away to 11th placed Sheffield United.  Arsenal secure in their second title success, lost 1-3 in front of 18,620.

41 29.04.1933 Huddersfield Town home D2-2 1 58
42 06.05.1933 Sheffield United away L1-3 1 58

Sehff U in 11th

36 01.04.1933 Aston Villa home W5-0 1 49
37 08.04.1933 Middlesbrough away W4-3 1 51
38 14.04.1933 Sheffield Wednesday home W4-2 1 53
39 15.04.1933 Portsmouth home W2-0 1 55
40 22.04.1933 Chelsea away W3-1 1 57
41 29.04.1933 Huddersfield Town home D2-2 1 58

Here’s the regular table of results etc with a guide to the abbreviations below

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
 01.04.1933 Aston Villa  3  H  W5-0 1  49  54,265  41,598
 08.04.1933 Middlesbrough  18 A  W4-3 1 51 22,137 12,157
14.04.1933 Sheffield Wednesday 2 H W4-2 1 53 61,945 41,598
 15.04.1933 Portsmouth  7 H W2-0 1 55 42,809 41,598
 22.04.1933  Chelsea  17 A W3-1 1 57 72,260 31,485
29.04.1933 Huddersfield Town 6 H D2-2 1 58 30,799 41,598
03.05.1933 Cliftonville  — A  W4-0
 06.05.1933 Sheffield United  11 A L1-3 1 58 18,620 14,296
  • 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 the season.

Arsenal had suffered a defeat at the hands of Watford using untried reserves, but had recovered and gone on to win the league for the second time.   Chapman’s record in the last four years had been

  • 1930: FA Cup
  • 1931: League title
  • 1932: FA Cup runners up, league runners up
  • 1933: League title.

As for the neighbours, Tottenham won promotion from the second division

Tottenham

Tottenham’s average home attendance was nearly 50% up on the previous year at 33,205, making them the second most supported club in the league.  The top average attendance was, of course, Arsenal.

Here’s the top 35 in the country, which incorporates all the 1st division teams, courtesy of European Football Statistics.

We can see two 3rd Division (South) clubs appearing in the list above Middlesbrough.

No. Club Div Average  % increase or decrease over last season
1 Arsenal 1 41.958 3,5%
2 Tottenham Hotspur 2 33.205 45,6%
3 Aston Villa 1 32.249 2,3%
4 Chelsea 1 31.485 -2,3%
5 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 27.104 27,6%
6 Everton 1 26.412 -25,5%
7 Newcastle United 1 25.992 -14,4%
8 Manchester City 1 24.254 0,3%
9 Liverpool 1 23.382 2,8%
10 West Bromwich Albion 1 22.792 -6,8%
11 Fulham 2 21.336 20,9%
12 Manchester United 2 20.149 54,9%
13 Portsmouth 1 18.102 3,6%
14 Plymouth Argyle 2 17.465 -10,5%
15 Sunderland 1 17.254 -25,4%
16 Leeds United 1 17.114 21,6%
17 Birmingham City 1 16.894 -13,9%
18 Leicester City 1 16.822 3,6%
19 Sheffield Wednesday 1 16.704 -2,6%
20 Blackpool 1 16.324 -6,6%
21 West Ham United 2 16.244 -15,6%
22 Stoke City 2 15.858 29,2%
23 Derby County 1 15.047 14,5%
24 Bradford City 2 14.622 4,0%
25 Sheffield United 1 14.296 -31,3%
26 Millwall 2 13.807 -8,1%
27 Brentford 3S 13.300 17,2%
28 Bolton Wanderers 1 13.203 -16,7%
29 Blackburn Rovers 1 12.944 -1,8%
30 Charlton Athletic 2 12.938 8,5%
31 Coventry City 3S 12.479 2,0%
32 Middlesbrough 1 12.157 -12,5%
33 Huddersfield Town 1 11.965 -8,0%

The current series being researched and published is Arsenal in the 1930s.

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