By Tony Attwood
Arsenal began November 1937 languishing in 9th place, with the football world was awash with rumours of the biggest shake up in Allison’s career as a manager about to happen.
Chapman had been known to be ruthless in his treatment of players, dropping them the moment they did not meet his expectations, and paying previously unheard of sums to bring in the player he wanted. Allison it was said, was about to do the same. Two wins in ten was not acceptable to Arsenal at any time, especially in the 1930s.
Here is how the table looked at the start of the month.
|4||Preston North End||13||6||4||3||26||16||1.62||16|
Despite lying ninth, Arsenal were only four points off the top of the league, and still with a very promising goal average. Although they were still the bottom London club in the top league. I’ve continued the table down to 12th to incorporate last season’s champions who were also languishing.
I noted at the end of last month that three players played their last game for Arsenal in the defeat to Middlesbrough. On 4 November 1937 we were able to see why. Leslie Jones signed from Coventry for whom he had scored 70 goals in 138 games . Tottenham had made an offer of £7,000 for him, but were outbid by Arsenal who included the Tottenham money and Bobby Davidson. Jones played his first game just two days later in the 2-1 defeat to Grimsby – so just like Reg Cumner, he scored on his debut.
Part of the reason for Davidson’s departure was that he seemed to be constantly in trouble with refs – something that the Arsenal board and management did not like – it did not fit with the Arsenal image; so the deal suited both sides.
On 5 November 1937 Ray Bowden transferred to Newcastle for £5000 – an interesting profit for a player who was moving down a league and was starting to have injury problems with his ankle. In all he played 138 matches for Arsenal and scored 43 goals. It was a week of excellent business for Arsenal.
Then as the first game for Jones in an Arsenal shirt approached the issue of where he was going to play became the topic of the day. He was known as a goal scorer – but where players had played before did not mean anything to Chapman – nor it seemed to Allison, who had after all learned from the master. Jones most certainly was not going to replace Ted Drake, nor, it appeared, take Drake’s position when Drake was injured – as he still was when Jones arrived. Besides, tucked away in the reserves Arsenal had a player who was already marked down as Drake’s replacement – Reg Lewis. He hadn’t played for the club yet – still being too young, but Arsenal knew a prospect when they saw one.
For this reason Arsenal were happy to continue with Hunt as the replacement for Ted Drake for the moment, expecting to bring in Reg Lewis later in the season if need be. Which means that from the very date of signing Les Jones was marked down as an inside forward – which is exactly where he played throughout the season – along with a few games even further back as left half. His job was to get the ball forward perfectly to the on-running three front men as it came out of midfield, not to rush forward and score goals. It is the misunderstanding of this positional issue that has led many historians to suggest that Jones’ transfer was a failure – I think this is quite wrong, as the rest of the season will show.
His arrival also had another impact that is ignored in most books that write about Jones. It allowed Bastin to return to by far his most effective position – left wing, from which he had in the past been the club’s top scorer on occasion.
So yes, Jones’ transfer was about goals, but not about goals by Jones. Allison wanted to use him in a way that allowed the talents of Bastin and Drake to be maximised.
For the first game things did not work out too well. On 6 November 1937 it was Grimsby 2 Arsenal 1. It was the début for Leslie Jones who (contrary to all I have said above) scored the Arsenal goal. But it was the fifth consecutive league game without a win and it might well have been that Jones was having trouble adjusting to his new role. The team was…
L Compton Joy Hapgood
Milne Jones Hunt Bastin D Compton
On 13 November the result was Arsenal 1 WBA 1 – it was Arsenal’s sixth consecutive game without a win with just five goals scored in the last five games. Worse, WBA were a very average team who had already let in 33 goals. Leslie Compton scored in front of just 24,324 spectators.
But hidden within this was more experimentation, for here the forward line ran
Milne Biggs Kirchen Jones Boulton
Now Arsenal were away to Charlton who had only lost one home game and were sitting in seventh position. For this game Boulton came back in goal, Male returned at full back after seven games out, and most important of all Drake returned at centre forward with Bastin on the left wing – his first game in that position in a year and a half. So the forward line now looked like this:
Kirchen Hunt Drake Jones Bastin
The idea was simple – the defence would have no idea who to mark, and it worked a dream. Bastin got the first, Drake the second and the third was an own goal from Ford as the defence turned itself inside out trying to solve the conundrum. It was Arsenal’s first win in seven.
The following weekend Arsenal were at home to Leeds, but still the crowds were not induced to return despite the fact that Leeds were fifth and were undefeated in the last four, Arsenal had a new player and had just returned to goal scoring ways – and were still only four off the top. For once the team remained unchanged and Arsenal won again – this time 4-1. Drake got two, Bastin a penalty and Kirchin the other.
The following day Arsenal flew to Paris for the annual game against Racing Club de Paris, the result being Racing 0 Arsenal 2. Drake so recently back from injury was given the day off but Jones played, as the club practised with him in his new role. Collett and Cartwright got outings as the half backs with a forward line of Kirchen, Hunt, Lewis, Jones, and Milne. Hunt and Lewis got the goals. Lewis’ reputation as the next best thing at number 9 was once more enhanced – as were his chances of getting a league game this season.
Here is the summary table for the month…
|Date||Opposition||Op pos||Venue||Result||Pos||Pts||Crowd||Av crowd|
|13.11.1937||West Bromwich Albion||14||home||D1-1||10||15||34,324||44,045|
|28.11.1937||Racing Club de Paris||away||W2-0|
The abbreviations, as always…
- Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game. Chesterfield’s position is obviously in relation to Division 2.
- Pos is Arsenal’s position after the game
- AC is the average crowd in league matches 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.
As a result of the two wins in late November Arsenal’s position had recovered significantly and they were back to sixth, still four points off the leaders Brentford. Once again the goal average stood out. If the league remained this tight, that could be crucial.
|3||Preston North End||17||7||6||4||31||20||1.55||20|
Arsenal History on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available: Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football (Kindle Edition) For full details please see here.
For an index of the various series on this site please see the home page.
Here is the 1930s series to date…
- 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
- 30: March 1933: Top of the league but a month to forget
- 31: April/May 1933: Champions for the second time
- 32: 1929/33: All the men who played in the League for Arsenal.
- 33: Arsenal in the summer 1933: Champions and water shortages
- 34: August/September 1933 – the start of the new season.
- 35: October 1933 – a return to progress
- 36: November 1933 – displacing Tottenham.
- 37: December 1933: Chapman’s last month; Arsenal triumphant
- 38: January 1934: The death of Chapman
- 39: February 1934. Chapman is gone, but the club moves on.
- 40: March 1934. Chapman’s two teams fight for the title
- 41: April 1934. Joe Shaw wins the league for Chapman
- 42: 1933/34 League players, and how the goals declined but the crowds went up.
- 43: Arsenal in the summer 1934: Allison takes over from Shaw and Chapman.
- 44: August/Sep 1934: Allison starts with a bang
- 45: October 1934 – Arsenal finally blow away the north London curse
- 46: November 1934: vying for the top of the league, and the Battle of Highbury
- 47: Arsenal in December 1934: two steps forward, two steps back.
- 48: January 1935: Suddenly Arsenal’s form turns upside down
- 49: February 1935. Despite one slip, Arsenal remain top.
- 50: March 1935: Beating Tottenham by a record score
- 51: April/May 1935: Winning the league for the third time in succession.
- 52: Arsenal in the Summer 1935 after three championships in a row
- 53: September 1935: After three successive championships things get sticky
- 54: October 1935: Ok but not good enough
- 55: November 1935; Drake starts scoring again.
- 56: December 1935: beating the record, and record confusions. Ted Drake before and after the magnificent seven.
- 57: January 1936: the league won’t be won, but what about the FA Cup…
- 58: February 1936: an early example of rotational selection
- 59: March 1936: Wembley again but player rotation starts affecting the crowds
- 60: April/May 1936; Arsenal win the Cup. A match report and season’s end
- 61: Arsenal in the Summer of 1936
- 62: Arsenal players 1934/5 and 1935/36: the fundamental problem with the team
- 63: August / Sept 1936: 20 different players used in the first seven league games
- 64: October 1936: Arsenal in free fall
- 65: November 1936: Arsenal reborn, TV starts, the king demands, the palace burns down.
- 66: December 1936: Top of the league as the king steps down.
- 67: January 1937: Arsenal unbeaten as the goalkeepers change (again).
- 68: February 1937: Seven in the cup, and all to play for in the league
- 69: March 1937: Arsenal top but Man City close in
- 70: April / May 1937: Arsenal slip back and Man City triumph – for the moment
- 71: Arsenal players 1936/7, Arsenal crowds in the 30s, and comparisons with earlier years
- 72: Arsenal in the summer: the overseas tour of 1937
- 73: Arsenal in August and September 1937: a brilliant start and a TV first.
- 74: Arsenal in October 1937: Allison decides it is time for a total change.