By Tony Attwood
Arsenal ended October 1938 in a rather unappealing 10th position, eight points behind the leaders, with a game in hand.
Here is the league table at the end of that month.
Arsenal went into the first game of November – a home game against Leeds on Guy Fawkes Day – with a record that showed just two wins in the last six – but both at home, so there was a feeling that things could pick up. Leeds themselves were seventh, having just had a 4-0 defeat to Everton and a 2-2 draw with Portsmouth, but prior to this they had been showing some serious form including an 8-2 thrashing of Leicester City.
Arsenal took the lead through Drake and Bastin (just like the old days) and went in at half time 2-1 up, but after the interval Leeds piled on the pressure to win 3-2 and take Arsenal down to 12th. It was the last league game of the season for Walsh at outside right, although he did accompany Arsenal on their end of season Scandinavian tour. However he left Arsenal in June for Derby – the three games he played this autumn were all he got with the club.
But most of all Arsenal missed Hapgood. Leslie Compton was a good backup, but still not as fine a player as Hapgood and with every injury he was ever more missed.
Arsenal were now looking at a set of results that showed just two wins in the last eight league games, and 12th position in the league. Not where the Champions expected to be.
In midweek on 9 November 1938: Les Jones scored his only goal for Wales in his 11th and last appearance for the principality.
For the next Arsenal game, away to Liverpool on 12 November, Bastin moved to inside left, allowing Cumner to come in at outside left, while Walsh was replaced by Kirchen. The good news was that Drake scored for the second game running, for the first time this season that he had scored in consecutive matches. The bad news was that Liverpool got two, to make it a 2-2 draw. It was the fourth draw in a row, for the club who came into the game in 3rd place. After the game Arsenal were now 13th.
The third game of the month was another home match – this with 11th placed Leicester who had just beaten Portsmouth 5-0. For once the Arsenal team was the same for two games running, and in fact the result was the same: another draw, this time 0-0. Arsenal’s position also remained the same: 13th.
The last league match of what had been an uninspiring month so far was against Middlesbrough away. Sixth in the league and with just one defeat in the last seven games (and that to Everton) Middlesbrough were looking to continue developing their reputation as the top club in the north east, and they were probably happier than Arsenal with the 1-1 draw.
Leslie Compton crossed sides at full back taking over from Male, while Les Jones and Drury replaced Bryn Jones and Bastin, but it was still to little avail. Drury got the goal and Arsenal got their third draw in a row staying once more at the same point in the league and now boasting a set of results that showed no wins in the last five games.
That left the table looking like this… only Portsmouth in 17th had had a worse month than Arsenal, winning no games at all. Arsenal were now just three points above the relegation zone, and there were a lot of commentators around who remembered that last season the champions had been relegated from just such a position. Only Manchester United, bottom of the league, had won fewer games.
|9||Preston North End||16||6||4||6||23||23||1.00||16|
The next morning the team took to the skies for the flight to Paris for the annual match against Racing Club. This was the occasion of the worst journey ever as on 27 November 1938 the landing of the planes going to France for the Remembrance match was affected by fog and the two planes carrying the Arsenal players missed each other and one went on to miss a hanger by a matter of feet.
30,000 turned up to watch the match – more than the crowd for the game at Middlesbrough, and in keeping with Arsenal’s current run of form it was, of course, a draw. Details of all the series of games against Racing can be found in “Too dearly loved to be forgotten,” and full details of this remarkable book and details of how to obtain it are included in the Untold-Arsenal review here.
There was only one new comer for the game – Curtis who came in at outside left. Drury playing at outside right scored the goal.
So what was going wrong with the champions? Most obviously Drake was not scoring – he had got three goals in 15. Previously three goals in a game seemed to be his norm. Likewise Bastin was back on the wing, from whence he had scored so many goals in the past, but again he wasn’t scoring. Only one from him so far.
All told the club had used 19 players in 16 league games, but the level of chopping and changing showed that Allison was not really sure how to make the team tick. He had invested heavily in Bryn Jones but without a superb centre forward ahead of him, he could not deliver the killer passes. Drake had been that superb number nine, but the injuries had taken their toll. What Arsenal needed at the very least was a centre forward who would at least score one goal every couple of games, and a winger who could knock in a few as well.
Also mumblings could be heard about Swindin in goal. Chapman had always had no hesitation in changing his keeper in midstream. Sometimes even twice in one season. Maybe Allison should do the same.
Here is the chart of the November fixtures…
|Date||Opponents||Venue||Op pos||Result||Pos||Pts||Crowd||Av crowd|
Here are the abbreviations as always…
- 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 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.
Arsenal in the 30s
- 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
- 76: Arsenal in December 1937; a settled team and a revival
- 77: Arsenal in January 1938: two steps backwards but a new genius emerges.
- 78: Arsenal in February 1938: a true resurgence takes us top of the league.
- 79: March 1938: Arsenal at the top and a fifth title looks possible
- 80: April/May 1938: from no titles to five in one decade – and the most amazing title of them all.
- 81: Arsenal in the summer: the Nazi salute, Bastin as the symbol, Whittaker for England, the world record signing.
- 82: August/September 1938. The start of the end.
- 83: Arsenal in October 1938: the champions stagnating in mid-table