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January 1920: Arsenal’s solid start as a 1st division team falters

1920

Arsenal entered 1920 in a healthier position than had seemed likely earlier in the season

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GAvg Pts
1 West Bromwich Albion 21 16 0 5 61 25 2.440 32
2 Burnley 23 13 5 5 37 30 1.233 31
3 Newcastle United 22 11 5 6 29 20 1.450 27
4 Sunderland 22 12 2 8 38 31 1.226 26
5 Chelsea 22 11 3 8 33 27 1.222 25
6 Bolton Wanderers 23 9 7 7 42 35 1.200 25
7 Arsenal 22 8 8 6 35 33 1.061 24

There was also an interesting debate growing between the London FA and Arsenal over the London Professional Charity Fund matches that the club was involved in.  Arsenal wanted the money to be spent in the capital whereas the London FA stated that they would decide where, when and how any money collected would be distributed.   The argument rumbled all through the winter and spring and eventually Arsenal announced in May 1920 that they would no longer be involved in the fund raising initiative.

The first match of the new year was on 3 January a 2-2 draw with Manchester City.  It meant Arsenal had suffered just two defeats in the last 12 games.  However Manchester City were 10th in the table before the game and had a poor away form, having won just two games so far, so more might have been expected.  White and Lewis got the goals, with a pleasing 32,000 in the crowd.

The following weekend was the first round of the FA Cup at which point the teams from the Football League joined in.  And for the second season running the match was played at Highbury even though it was drawn as an away game.

This time the opposition was Rochdale.  They were formed in 1907 and had applied to join the League the previous summer but without success.  However they would join the Third Division (North) in 18 months time, and at the time of playing Arsenal were preparing to move into their new stadium, the following summer.  Arsenal won 4-2 with Rutherford, Groves, Graham and Pagnam scoring the goals

Next up on 17 January Arsenal played Manchester City again – this time away, and this time things went very wrong Arsenal losing 1-4.  Man City had suddenly found their form, winning three and losing one of their last four games, and they were the highest scores in the League at home having knocked in 38 in 13 games.

A major part of the reason came from the need to rearrange the team because of injuries.  For the second time in the season Williamson was absent as goalkeeper, his place being taken once more by Dunn while Rutherford, Baker and Buckley all dropped out.  Arsenal’s goal was a penalty from Graham.

After the game it was arranged that Leslie Knighton who had joined Arsenal from Manchester City, and William Hall would attend a post-match dinner in recognition of Knighton’s years as assistant manager at City.

The following day the newspapers announced the start of liquidation of Leeds City FC in the high court.  By putting the company that owned the club into voluntary liquidation the owners were able to wash their hands of the club that had been ejected from the League, make a bid to buy the ground from the liquidators for a knock down sum (on the basis that hardly anyone else was likely to want it) and bid to open a new club the following season – which is exactly what they did.

My guess is that the League had already given the nod to Leeds’ directors that they would welcome a new club in Leeds into the league for 1920/12, particularly as further expansion of the League was anticipated in the coming couple of years.

The following week there was a further defeat – this time 0-1 at home to Aston Villa.  But there was a compensation 55,000 turned up for the game, exceeding the previous record set against Chelsea the previous month.  In terms of pulling in the crowds, Arsenal in the first division was looking a significant success.

Part of the attraction of Villa at this match was that they had only lost one of the last 11 games.  But also, Villa were one of the big teams of the pre-war era, having won the Double in 1912/13 and the League for the second consecutive year in 1913/14.  Indeed they had already won the FA Cup six times (they went on to win it again this season), and the Football League six times.  As for Arsenal who had never one a major trophy, the mix-and-match nature of the line up continued.

The last game of the month on the final day of the month was a second round cup tie away to Bristol City, and Arsenal players spent part of the week preparing for the game by training at Weston Super Mare.  But the result was a disappointment with Arsenal losing 1-0.   Indeed this was more than a disappointment, for it was something of a shock as Bristol City were a Division 2 side at the time, ending the season in 8th position.  Arsenal had been expecting to do better.

And so the month, in terms of a football was a disaster

Match Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd Pos
23 03/01/1920 Manchester City H D 2-2 32,000 7
FAC1 10/01/1920 Rochdale H W 4-2 26,596
24 17/01/1920 Manchester City A L 1-4 25,000 11
25 24/01/1920 Aston Villa H L 0-1 55,000 12
FAC2 31/01/1920 Bristol City A L 0-1 25,900

The league table now looked like this…

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GAvg GD Pts
1 West Bromwich Albion 25 19 0 6 74 33 2.242 41 38
2 Burnley 27 13 7 7 40 39 1.026 1 33
3 Sunderland 26 15 2 9 48 36 1.333 12 32
4 Bolton Wanderers 27 11 8 8 47 40 1.175 7 30
5 Chelsea 26 13 3 10 37 31 1.194 6 29
6 Newcastle United 26 12 5 9 31 26 1.192 5 29
7 Manchester City 26 11 6 9 53 46 1.152 7 28
8 Liverpool 26 11 5 10 36 32 1.125 4 27
9 Aston Villa 25 12 3 10 45 41 1.098 4 27
10 Everton 25 9 7 9 47 40 1.175 7 25
11 Bradford Park Avenue 24 9 7 8 40 36 1.111 4 25
12 Arsenal 25 8 9 8 38 40 0.950 -2 25

Arsenal had slipped but there was a lot of the season left and they still had a chance to rise up the table once again.  This was after all their first season back in the first division.

The Henry Norris Files Section 1 – 1910.

Section 2 – 1911

Section 3 – 1912

Section 4 – 1913

Section 5 – 1914

Section 6 – 1915

Section 7: – 1916

Section 8: 1917

Section 9: 1918 and the end of the war

Section 10: 1919, the reform of football, the promotion of The Arsenal.

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