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March 2017
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Arsenal players in the 1937/38 title winning side, and comparisons with earlier seasons

By Tony Attwood

Having completed the month by month review of Arsenal’s 1937/8 title winning season (for a full index of the series please see the foot of this article) here is the list of all the league players involved in the 1937/8 season with links to articles about them on this site, plus in the final column a comparison with the player’s games for the previous season.

Player Position 1937/8 Games 1937/8 Goals 1936/7 games
Cliff Bastin Outside Left 41 17 37
Arthur Biggs Inside forward 2 1
Frank Boulton Goalkeeper 17 25
Ray Bowden Inside right 10 1 30
Gordon Bremner Inside forward 2 1
Edward Carr Centre forward 11 7
Sidney Cartwright Half back 6 2 2
Ernest Collett Wing half 5
Denis Compton Outside Left 7 2 14
Les Compton Centre half 9
Wilf Copping Left half 41 42
Jack Crayston Right half 34 4 32
Robert Davidson Inside forward 5 2 30
Ted Drake Centre forward 30 18 29
George Drury Inside forward 11
Mal Griffiths Outside right 9 5
EddieHapgood Left back 34 34
Joe Hulme Outside right 7 2 3
George Hunt Forward 21 3
Leslie Jones Inside forward 31 3
Bernard Joy Centre half 29 6
Alfred Kirchen Winger 22 8 37
Reg Lewis Centre forward 4 2
George Male Full back 37 41
John Vance Milne Winger 16 4 22
Herbie Roberts Centre half 13 34
Norman Sidey Centre half 3 6
George Swindin Goalkeeper 18 19
Alex Wilson Goalkeeper 10 2

If we take a player who played 10 or more games (ie approx 25% of the league season) or more as being established members of the first team squad we can see that Arsenal had a basic squad of 18 players of whom 12 had matched the same criteria (10 plus league games) the year before.

The six newcomers were Carr, Drury, Hunt, Jones, Joy, and Wilson.   Such a division between established players and newcomers to the 10+ group seems about right to me – players were being given a chance to establish themselves, but not too many got to come through, for fear of unbalancing the whole team.

As for the goalscorers there were basically two: Drake and Bastin with 18 and 17 respectively.  However Carr getting 7 in 11 games, and Griffiths getting 5 in 9 games were both certainly showing encouraging progress.

If we look at how Arsenal had recovered from the drop to sixth place in 1935/6 (after the three successive title winning seasons) the comparative final table gives us a bit of a clue.

Season P W D L F A Pts Pos FAC Top scorer Goals
1935–36 42 15 15 12 78 48 45 6 W Ted Drake 27
1936–37 42 18 16 8 80 49 52 3 QF Ted Drake 27
1937–38 42 21 10 11 77 44 52 1 R5 Ted Drake 18

The title winning year of 1937/8 had the same number of points as the year before, and three fewer goals scored – which reflects the level of competition between half a dozen clubs up to the end of the season.

But what really stands out here is that the injury prone Ted Drake was now not the regular goal scorer that he was before. It suggested that the new up and coming forwards would be needed to supplement the team.

Of course comparative seasonal analyses can be misleading, because as noted above, the level of competition changes, as do styles of play but it is interesting to compare the five title winning sets of results at this point.

Season P W D L F A Pts Top scorer Goals
1930–31 42 28 10 4 127 59 66 Jack Lambert 39
1932–33 42 25 8 9 118 61 58 Cliff Bastin 33
1933–34 42 25 9 8 75 47 59 Cliff Bastin 15
1934–35 42 23 12 7 115 46 58 Ted Drake 44
1937–38 42 21 10 11 77 44 52 Ted Drake 18

We can see from this that there was no “Arsenal way” through the 1930s in terms of winning the league.  In virtually every column we have variance – for example…

The number of games won in a league winning season ranged between 21 and 28 out of 42 (or put another way, between a half and a third – a huge variance).

The number of goals scored varied between 75 and 127.  The number conceded between 44 and 61.  Again both huge variations.

Indeed we can’t even say that Arsenal needed a top scoring centre forward in order to win the league.  Bastin was a winger, and the top scorer ranged from 15 and 18 at one end to 39 and 44 at the other end.  But each time the league was won.

For all these reasons I think that we need to be careful about drawing too many conclusions from the figures, for it was not just Arsenal that changed of course, so did all the other teams around Arsenal and so did the meaningful level of competition.

I have recorded the demise of Manchester City from champions to relegation in one season in the series of articles just completed – but they were not the only team to suffer a dramatic change in fortunes, although their turnaround was perhaps the most dramatic of all.

Aston Villa were second in 1931 and relegated in 1936.  Sheffield Wednesday, having been third for four seasons out of five at the start of the decade ended up bottom of the league in 1937.  Tottenham promoted from the second division in 1933 came third in 1934 and were relegated back from whence they came, in 1935.

And then we have Everton.   Promoted in 1931, they won the first division in 1932 but in 1936 missed relegation by just four points.   Or Charlton, promoted from the third division in 1935, and from the second in 1936, they came second in the first division 1937 and as we have seen, challenged again in 1938.

My point is that these were volatile times with clubs rising and declining at great speed… except Arsenal.   Not only did they win the league five times and the FA Cup twice in these years, they were never lower than sixth in the league from 1930/31 onwards.

Finally, an update on the crowds situation.  In each of these seasons Arsenal had the highest average crowd in the entire Football League.  (Figures from EFS Attendances)

Season League average Arsenal average 1st division average
1937/8 15.094 44.045 25.160
1936/7 14.308 43.353 24.605
1935/6 13.350 41.960 24.624
1934/5 12.502 46.252 23.386
1933/4 12.159 40.750 22.596
1932/3 11.669 41.958 20.175
1931/2 11.986 40.547 21.529
1930/1 11.373 37.106 20.462
1929/30 12.417 35.537 22.647
Here’s one thought to sum up the crowd situation.  In 1932/3 Arsenal’s average crowd was more than double the average crowd of the league as a whole.  A remarkable achievement.

Arsenal in the 30s

1930s: the players, the crowds, the tactics


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