by Tony Attwood
This is part of a series of articles covering every aspect of Arsenal FC throughout the 1930s. Details of all the other articles in the series are given below.
At the end of November 1937 Arsenal were in 6th place in the league – just four points off the top of the table with one game in hand, and a better goal average than any of the teams above them. If the league remained this tight, that goal average could be crucial by the end of the season and Arsenal had taken steps to keep the goals rolling on by rearranging the forward line to maximise the effect.
Last season’s champions Manchester City were in 10th, five points off the top. Here is the table for the start of the month.
|3||Preston North End||17||7||6||4||31||20||1.55||20|
December as always in the 1930s was the cruellest month as the clubs sought to cope with multiple games (generally five or even six) and often two games on successive days and grounds that were already in a dreadful state.
This year the demands on players were slightly less than normal as Christmas Day was on a Saturday and thus no games could be arranged for Boxing Day. Therefore the games total was reduced to more manageable proportions.
The first game was away to Birmingham who were in 15th and who despite that position were still undefeated at home (but had yet to win away). To achieve this home feat they were regularly scoring two or more goals at home and so Arsenal needed not only to keep its new scoring approach with the deep-lying Jones feeding Bastin and Drake, but also have the defence in full working order.
Taking a 2-0 lead at half time Arsenal let one slip in the second half but otherwise were secure and took the points – taking them up to second in the league. There had however been a worry about the defence. Joy had settled in as centre half now that Roberts had gone, but now the regular half back partnership of Crayston and Copping was disrupted as Cartwright and Collett (who had played together in Paris) took over. Neither player went on to make more than 20 appearances for Arsenal, and they took over temporarily from a very solid long term partnership.
Ernie Collett had signed in May 1933 and had made his debut in the match against Stoke in October. Sid Cartwright had played seven games before this season since joining in 1931.
But the forward line was now solid and established: Kirchen, Hunt, Drake, Jones and Bastin. Kirchen and Cartwright got the goals. It was one of only two first team goals that Syd scored in his Arsenal career.
However the next test was harder: Preston who were second in the league and who had only lost one of their last nine league games. Copping returned to replace Collett, and Milne replaced Kirchen, but otherwise the team was the same as for the Birmingham game, and once more Arsenal won. Milne and Bastin got the goals.
Onto the last game before Christmas, and life was looking so much better for Arsenal, second in the league, and new forward line and a settled team. What could possible go wrong against Liverpool who had just won three of their last 12? Liverpool were 19th with four home wins and six defeats. Hulme replaced Milne, but otherwise it was the regular line up… but of course football can throw anything at you, and often does.
On this occasion Arsenal lost 0-2 but much of this could be put down to the fact that Boulton who had taken over in goal from Wilson with Arsenal 10th in the league back in November, was injured during the match. He struggled on, but after the goals went in he came off and Hapgood went into goal. The result was a shock after four successive wins, but at least the word was that Crayston would be back on Christmas Day and Swindin was ready to step into the goalkeeping breach.
So we came to the traditional double header – the same team being played in successive matches. This year it started with lowly placed Blackpool on Christmas Day on the west coast. Crayston came back, but it looked like a foolish decision, and he did not complete the match. Arsenal surrendered a 1-0 lead and lost 2-1, Bastin scoring a penalty. Brentford and Leeds at the top both won. It was not good news for Arsenal.
Then the return game which was a total reversal of the score – Arsenal winning 2-1 at Highbury. Cartright came back into the side instead of Crayston and got one goal, Bastin the other.
Thus over the all-important three Christmas games Arsenal had lost two and only won one. Of the clubs above, Brentford had drawn one, but then beaten champions Man City twice, Leeds had also beaten Man City, won the second game but then lost to Middlesbrough, while Wolverhampton had beaten early pacemakers Chelsea, and drawn with WBA, their third game being postponed.
Arsenal’s results were not of the best, but others had a bit of slippage too. There was however one oddity in Arsenal’s results. Drake, the master goalscorer, had not scored in six games.
And you will have noticed the oddity elsewhere: Man City, the champions lost all three of their Christmas games.
Here’s the Arsenal summary for the month…
|Date||Opposition||Op pos||Venue||Result||Pos||Pts||Crowd||Av crowd|
|11.12.1937||Preston North End||2||home||W2-0||2||23||35,679||44,045|
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.
Looking at the last six games at the end of the year, Arsenal were still the form team with four wins and two defeats. No one else in the top ten had won more than two of their last six, which explains why Arsenal had now climbed up to third in the league. Last season’s champions are in bold.
|5||Preston North End||22||8||8||6||36||26||1.39||24|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||20||8||3||9||36||41||0.88||19|
Chelsea and Charlton, who had pushed Arsenal down into the unknown position of being fourth London club early on, themselves now were having a poor run. But quite a lot of eyesbrows were raised over the decline of last year’s champions Man City, now two points above relegation having won just one of the last seven.
Arsenal were three points off Brentford with a game in hand, although the position of Wolverhampton below with three games in hand over Brentford looked ominous.
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.
- 75: Arsenal in Nov 1937; a tactical signing changes the game