By Tony Attwood
As Arsenal prepared for 1932/3 season there was no doubting that their fortunes were on the up.
* Up to 1924/25 there were no third division clubs and thus all league clubs entered in the FA Cup in the first round in January. The equivalent position in modern terminology can be seen simply by adding two to each number. Thus in 1920 Arsenal went out in what today would be called the fourth round. In 1921, they exited at the first hurdle – the third round.
The key issue of course was for Arsenal not to slip back in the league at this point as they had in 1925/6, where having come second in the table for the first time ever, the next four years were all mid-table affairs.
An analysis of the home and away results showed what Arsenal got so right in 1930/31 – it was the away form. Indeed the table shows that in no previous season had they come anywhere near to this.
What we can also see is that the home form in the championship winning year of 1930/31 and in the runners’ up year of 1931/32 was identical in terms of results. The decline in away form was responsible for the decline from winners’ to second.
The other factor that was on everyone’s minds was the impossibility of trying to win the FA Cup and the Football League at the same time. It wasn’t so much the number of games that had to be played but instead the proximity of those games in March and April. That was when the league was won (by a team going out in the early rounds – Everton) and lost (by Arsenal who went through to the final).
I believe that it was this experience that showed Chapman that if he wanted to survive the rigours of both the FA Cup and the League he needed a bigger squad, so that he could rotate players a little more. The rules were very exacting in terms of the League – the clubs were punished if they ever dared to leave out a key player from a game in order to rest him.
But one way to find that squad was to give them experience when possible in the early rounds of the Cup against lesser opposition. And that is what he did this season, although not with the hoped for result.
However, to return to August…
Arsenal played two games in the month – away to Birmingham and at home to WBA winning the first 1-0 and losing the second 1-2, and immediately there were comparisons with the opening the season before…
|1||29.08.1931||West Bromwich Albion||home||L0-1||19||0|
which had left Arsenal play catch up for much of the campaign.
West Brom had ended the season in sixth and Birmingham 9th, so neither were considered to be walk overs.
For much of the last two seasons Arsenal had had a core squad with only the keeper changing repeatedly (as was Chapman’s wont). But Moss had finally got the position of a trusted keeper and the team regularly looked like this
Parker Roberts Hapgood
Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James Bastin
The new season saw a couple of changes for the opening games. Here was the line up used for both matches
Compton Roberts Hapgood
Hulme Jack Stockill James Bastin
Here are the changes
Compton for Parker. Leslie Compton had played the last four games of last season and four at the start of this, but he never got to hold the place as his own, and ultimately it was Male who dropped back to full back.
Male for Jones. Jones did have one more season in him (1933/4) but this season he was reduced to three runs of games before injury took its toll.
Stockill for Lambert. Lambert was reaching the end of an amazing career as a goalscorer – one of the greatest of all time for Arsenal, and he had managed 22 in 36, last year but he now dropped back to third choice behind Stockhill and Coleman. He still went on to score 14 in 12 games however.
This new line up was kept for the first two games of this season – in which Stockhill scored both goals. But once September arrived the changes started.
Here’s the regular table of results etc as used throughout this series – although perhaps we might note that there was a partial eclipse of the sun on 31 August in London which might have distracted play a little!
|31.08.32||West Bromwich Albion||7||H||L1-2||9||2||37,748||41,948|
- 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 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.
Everton, who for so much of the season before looked like runaway winners, had Arsenal’s problem as champions from the season before – they lost their opening match 3-1 away to West Brom. So with West Brom’s win against Arsenal on the last day of August, they had managed to beat last season’s top two in the first two games of the season.
Liverpool won 5-1 against Wolverhampton on the opening day, but then two days later lost 6-2 away to Sheffield Utd.
WBA’s achievements in the opening week however did not grant them top spot. That went to Arsenal’s challengers of two year’s previously: Aston Villa.
As ever, Chapman saw what was going on, gave everyone a chance, and after two games started to make changes. We’ll see what he did, in the next edition. Meanwhile, here was the league table after two games.
|4||West Bromwich Albion||2||2||0||0||5||2||2.50||4|
In the second division Tottenham gained a 4-1 win over Charlton on the opening day but then lost 3-1 away to Nottingham Forest.
Elsewhere on 22 August the first experimental television broadcast by the BBC was conducted.
The current series being researched and published is Arsenal in the 1930s. Here’s the story so far
- 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.