By Tony Attwood
January 1932 finished with Arsenal still lagging five points behind Everton and with a worse goal average, but now at least Arsenal sat there with the bonus of one game in hand. Something that Sheffield Wednesday in second position did not have. Newcastle however were still looking like challengers after a run of five wins in seven.
|3||West Bromwich Albion||27||13||5||9||46||28||1.64||31|
During the month of February Arsenal’s attentions were divided between three league matches and two cup ties – and one of the the league games (against league leaders Everton away) and one of the cup ties (against Chapman’s old club and Arsenal’s opposition in the cup final of 1930, which gave Arsenal their first major trophy) were very high profile indeed. It was a time for the holding of nerves.
Thus Arsenal commenced the month with the monumental must win game against Everton away on 6 February 1932. Arsenal as we can see above were in fifth and Everton, of course, top. However of their most recent games Everton had won just two and lost three. So Arsenal were hopeful. But they travelled to Merseyside aware that Everton’s home record was awesome, having won 11 out of the 12 games played.
So Arsenal’s 3-1 away win on 6 February was undoubtedly the highlight of the season thus far. It didn’t take Arsenal any higher up the table but it closed the gap.
Better still, Sheffield Utd lost 1-0 to Sunderland and Newcastle lost 2-0 to Sheffield Wednesday, making Arsenal and West Brom (who beat Portsmouth) the two winners out of the top five. Aston Villa also lost, but Huddersfield beat Bolton 1-2 away.
In the Everton game, as in all the games in February, Arsenal used their classic outfield team of last season and this, with one exception. The injured Lambert at centre forward was now out of the XI for the month and in his place came Parkin who had scored a hattrick against Manchester City at the end of January.
For the Everton game, in front of a crowd of 56,698, it was Bastin, Hume and John who got the goals, and it meant Arsenal had done the double over the league leaders, having won 3-2 at Highbury in September.
Then we had the FA Cup fifth round with Arsenal playing Portsmouth away. Portsmouth went into the game in 18th position in the league, but with a decent-ish home record of eight wins, one draw and four defeats. But they had only won one and lost three of their last four games before the match. Bastin and Hulme got the goals, meaning that Bastin now had five cup goals to his name this season, and Hulme four. It also meant that Bastin now had scored seven goals in 1932.
On 17 February Arsenal were back in League action against Grimsby who had just gone three unbeaten; the two wins and a draw best run of the season. Indeed their last match before facing Arsenal was a 5-1 win against Liverpool.
But it is was Arsenal’s form that was maintained with a 4-0 victory which took the club up to third place. Sheffield Utd had moved top of the league with 36 points from 29, Everton were second with 35 from 28, and Arsenal had 34 from 27. For the first time, Arsenal retaining their title looked like a possibility.
Everton’s problem was that while Arsenal were playing Portsmouth in the cup, they (Everton) were playing Blackpool away in the league. And they had lost 2-0.
With the Arsenal team now totally settled, the issue was simply who (other than the Boy Bastin as the press loved to call him) would actually score against Grimsby in the game postponed because of the FA Cup. The answer was that they shared the goals around. Bastin scored first, followed by Jack, Parkin and James. Arsenal won 4-0.
That Wednesday afternoon game against Grimsby only gained a crowd of 20,980, but the crowd came back for the following match against Blackpool on 20 February.
Blackpool before this match had won two out of nine, but their last match was a home 2-0 against Everton, so victory was not considered a foregone conclusion. But a victory it was, by 2-0 with Jack and Parkin (the replacement number 9) getting the goals.
It was a result that took Arsenal up to second in the league – the first time they had reached this position all season. But although the London press noted Arsenal’s progress, elsewhere all attention was drawn to Everton, who, having slipped back in recent games now beat their nearest challengers Sheffield Utd 5-1. With Newcastle losing to north east neighbours Middlesbrough, the league table was starting to sort itself out a little.
Arsenal now had one week to prepare themselves for the FA Cup, and suddenly there was the question of which competition should be focussed upon – or could Arsenal seriously do the Double (something not achieved since the 19th century)? The general view was no, they could not.
However Arsenal’s run in the FA Cup of late was quite reasonable:
- 1927: Losing finalists (the first Arsenal final)
- 1928: Losing semi-finalists (the fourth semi-final)
- 1929: Knocked out in the sixth round
- 1930: Winners for the first time ever, beating Huddersfield Town.
- 1931: Knocked out in the fourth round.
and so thinking of Arsenal as finalists and maybe winners was not impossible, no matter what the press said.
But Huddersfield had history. They had won the league three times running (1924 to 1926) and then in the subsequent two years had come second each time. Having slipped back at the end of the decade the club had regained some of its momentum coming 5th in 1931. And of course they would always be associated with Herbert Chapman. They had been defeated cup finalists in 1928 and 1930, and with that defeat to Arsenal in 1930 they were now ready for revenge.
Thus it was that on 27 February 1932 Huddersfield Town’s largest ever crowd of 67,037 saw Arsenal win in the FA Cup 6th round tie 1-0. Over 100 fans were treated for injuries due to poor to non-existent crowd control. Herbie Roberts scored. Arsenal were through.
And for anyone who cared to look at what was happening at the other end of Seven Sisters Road Tottenham in February won 2 drew 1 lost 1 and were 10th. In the Second Division.
Everton, however, having been knocked out of the Cup had a League game while Arsenal were dealing with Huddersfield. They beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 away. They were not giving in easily.
Here’s the regular table on the month’s games for Arsenal…
- Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game
- Pos is Arsenal’s position after the game
- AC is the average league crowd for the home team through the season, providing a comparison between the crowd on that day (in the previous column) and and the norm expected by the home side.
|4||West Bromwich Albion||30||15||5||10||53||33||1.61||35|
Arsenal were in the semi-finals of the Cup for the sixth time, and indeed the fourth time in six years. And were just three points behind Everton, with two games in hand and (for the first time) a better goal average.
There is one other point to notice in this league table. Aston Villa who had run Arsenal close in the previous season, were maintaining their goal scoring momentum, and Everton were on course to break the 100 goal barrier, but Arsenal had slipped right back to 66 goals. After 28 goals last season, they had scored 93.
But on the other hand, Arsenal had just won nine league and cup matches in a row. It was quite a turn around.
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