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GCR Books

The nine Arsenal players who played in all three of the consecutive championship seasons

1934-35 season statistics and a comparison with the previous seasons

By Tony Attwood

The quote is oft repeated that George Allison was the luckiest football manager that ever lived – for he inherited the Chapman team, and just had to watch them play.

To see how reasonable an analysis this is, or to consider whether it is an unworthy slur I’ve compared the 1934/5 season with 1933/4 and also added in the players who played in 1932/3 – the three seasons in which Arsenal won the league consecutively.

The first thing to note in relation to Allison’s management is that the 1934/5 season included five players who did not play in the previous season.  Of these Copping and Crayston became mainstays of the squad. Also we might include Ted Drake, was the sensation of the season with 42 goals in 41 games.  He only joined at the end of the previous season – and was a player that Chapman had hall marked and pursued with a vigour prior to his death.  Indeed it seems the essence of the transfer was already in place in January 1933, although Drake did not move until March.

So in many ways this was still the team of the previous year – a season that Chapman had managed until his untimely death halfway through the season.  Ten players who had played 20+ games in 1933/4 were still playing for Arsenal in 1934/5, and of these only Jimmy Dunne really dropped out of the limelight.

But what of the season before – the championship winning season of 1932/3.

The table below lists all the players who played in 1934/5, the third consecutive championship team, and then in the subsequent columns includes the performances of those in the two previous championship winning teams.  (Full details of the squads for 1933/4 and 1932/3 – along with previous seasons – are given in earlier articles.)

Player Position Pld 34/5 Goals 34/5 Pld 33/4 Goals 33/4 Pld 32/3 Goals 32/3
Cliff Bastin Outside Left 36 20  38 13 43 33
Pat Beasley Wing half 20 6  23 10
Ralph Birkett Outside rt. 4 2  15 5
Ray Bowden Inside right 24 14  32 13 7 2
Les Compton Full back 5 1 4
Wilf Copping Left half 31
Jack Crayston Right half 37 3
Robert Davidson Inside f’wd 11 2
Peter Dougall Inside left 8 1  5
Ted Drake Centre f’wd 41 42  10 7
Jimmy Dunne Centre f’wd 1  21 9
Eddie Hapgood  Left back 34 1  40   38
Frank Hill Wing half 15 3  25   27 1
Joe Hulme Outside rt 16 8  8 5
Alex James Inside left 30 4  22 3 41 3
Bob John Half Back 9    31 1 37
Alf Kirchen Winger 7 2
George Male Full back 39  42
James Marshall Inside f’wd 4
Frank Moss Goalkeeper 33 1  37   42
Herbie Roberts Centre half 36    30 1 37
Tim Rogers Outside rt 5 2
Norman Sidey Centre half 6    12   3
Reg Trim Full back 1
Alex Wilson Goalkeeper 9  5
George Cox Centre f’wd * 2
Ray Parkin Inside f’wd * 5 5

*Only involved in friendly games.

The nine players shown in red played in all three seasons – and this perhaps is the figure that most of all shows just how much of a legacy Chapman created.  Not just a league winning team (twice) but a team of which nine players would still be playing in a league winning team the following season, and the season after.

However even if we do see Allison as inheriting a wonderful team, he still had to manage the team and get the results.  And most certainly one thing he did do was get the goals flowing again.  In winning the league in 1933/4 the Arsenal goal scoring machine had slipped as this comparison across the Chapman years and beyond shows…

 
Season Manager Pos P W D L F A Pts Top scorer/gls
1925–26 Chapman 2 42 22 8 12 87 63 52 Jimmy Brain 43
1926–27 Chapman 11 42 17 9 16 77 86 43 Jimmy Brain 34
1927–28 Chapman 10 42 13 15 14 82 86 41 Jimmy Brain 29
1928–29 Chapman 9 42 16 13 13 77 72 45 David Jack 26
1929–30 Chapman 14 42 14 11 17 78 66 39 Jack Lambert 23
1930–31 Chapman 1 42 28 10 4 127 59 66 Jack Lambert 39
1931–32 Chapman 2 42 22 10 10 90 48 54 Jack Lambert 26
1932–33 Chapman 1 42 25 8 9 118 61 58 Cliff Bastin 33
1933–34 Chp/Shaw 1 42 25 9 8 75 47 59 Cliff Bastin 15
1934–35 Allison 1 42 23 12 7 115 46 58 Ted Drake 43

In 1934/5 Allison gained one fewer point than the league winners’ of the previous season, but the same as the season before – so his achievement was on a part with that of Chapman’s.

The goal scoring of 1934/5 was the third highest in the club’s history – and a very significant improvement on 1933/4.

But (and this is generally ignored, and yet is incredibly important) this was the best defensive record of Arsenal in the first division, except for 1904/5 when the club only played 34 games and let in 40 goals.

Indeed the defence was what Allison changed, bringing in Copping and Crayston as the defensive mid-field pairing.  So yes, Allison did benefit from all the groundwork laid by Chapman but he put his own mark on the club.

Even better than that however, and perhaps reflecting his previous role as an administrator of the club, he kept the gate receipts rising.

The highest divisional average ever achieved for the first division was 1919/20 as the troops returned from war.  Chelsea gained an average gate of 42,615 but since then the top club’s gate had declined to 1924/5 when 29,485 was the top average gate in the first division.

Gates had gone up and down in the following years until Arsenal took over as the club with the highest average league attendances in 1930:

  • 1928/29: Manchester City – 31,715
  • 1929/30: Arsenal – 35,537
  • 1930/31: Arsenal – 37,106
  • 1931/32: Arsenal – 40,507
  • 1932/33: Arsenal – 41,958
  • 1933/34: Arsenal – 40,750
  • 1934/35: Arsenal – 46,252

And there is nothing to suggest that somehow the competition was easier one year than the other.   Here is the top of the final table for 1933/4:

And for 1934/5

There is a remarkable similarity in terms of most of these figures – except Arsenal scored 40 more goals in Allison’s season.  The third and fifth teams each time scored identical points totals.

In terms of players Arsenal used 22 players in the league in 1932/3, 24 in 1933/34,  and 25 in 1934/5.  A tiny increase across the seasons.

But of course it is in goalscoring that the big difference can be seen.

Season Top scorer Goals 2nd scorer Goals 3rd scorer Goals
1932/3 Bastin 33 Coleman 24 Hulme 20
1933/4 Bastin 13 Bowden 13 Beasley 10
1934/5 Drake 42 Bastin 20 Bowden 14

What Allison had was Ted Drake, a goal scoring machine equal to Jack Lambert in 1930/31 (38 goals in 34 games) and Bastin in 1932/3.

Indeed, we keep coming back to the same two points.  What Allison was given was Ted Drake.  What he added was a much tighter pair of midfield enforcers.

All he had to do now was to keep the trophies coming.

Arsenal in the 30s

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