By Tony Attwood
The 1936/7 season had ended in disappointment for Arsenal who had for a long time looked capable of winning the league. Instead Man City made a late rush to win the league for the first time.
As the table above shows, Arsenal were a fair distance behind Man City (with two points for a win) but had a goal average that was not too far behind the champions. Other than that the slippage was both in home and away games – when Arsenal had done well in the 30s it was with a home and away set of results that were similar. Too many home draws, too many away defeats had let the title slip.
And so the new season came around. (For details of Arsenal in the summer please see 1936: From winning the Cup to an attempt on the life of the king.
Although we don’t have details of the game, it is more than likely that as per usual Arsenal strarted the season by playing a first team v reserves (sometimes called Reds against Whites) game at 3pm on 21 August as a warm up match. However I have just one hesitation in suggesting this, because of the events on 16 September – which we will come to in a moment.
The season proper opened in fine style for Arsenal with the result 28 August Everton 1 Arsenal 4. The team was
Male Roberts Hapgood
Kirchen Bowden Drake Bastin Milne
We might note the way Arsenal started the previous season
Male Roberts Hapgood
Hulme Bowden Drake James Bastin
Alex James had now gone of course, but for the most part continuity was the name of the game.
The good news for Arsenal, other than the score was that Ted Drake got a hattrick. Ted Drake, fit and form was the key for Arsenal’s success. Bastin scored the fourth.
Highlight of the day was Liverpool’s defeat by Chelsea 6-1, and the champions defeat 3-1 away to Wolverhampton. In the second division it seemed to be business as usual as Tottenham drew 0-0 at home.
On the following Wednesday Arsenal had their first home game of the season, and a second fine win, 3-1 against Huddersfield. Not surprisingly the team was mostly kept the same, just Hulme replacing Birchin. Drake, Bastin and Crayston (having fun by creeping up the field, with no one really fancying having a face to boot confrontation with him) getting the other.
This was followed with a 5-0 hammering of Wolverhampton on the second saturday of the new campaign. Drake got two making it six in three games, Bastin scored a penalty to make it three goals in three, Crayston improbably scored for the second week running, and Hulme got the fifth.
The results of the day meant that Arsenal were now the only team in the league with a 100% record. What’s more Arsenal had yet to be behind in a match, Bolton were one point below with two wins and a draw, and third placed Leeds were on four points. Everton were bottom with three straight defeats.
The habit of taking the lead in each match continued in the next game with Bowden giving Arsenal the lead at half time in the next mid-week away game at Huddersfield and at 1-0 up at half time things were looking good. But Arsenal lost the match 1-2 away and this against a Huddersfield team who had thus far won their only home match but lost both away games. Bolton on the same day won their fourth game to go one place above Arsenal.
For Arsenal to keep up their pressure at the top they needed a quick response but could manage no more than a draw against Leicester in the next game. A third change was made at outside right – Milne moving across wings allowing Dennis Compton to play on the left, with Bastin staying in his deeper playmaker role. Also the tinkering with the goalkeeper position returned, with Wilson now dropping out and Boulton coming back in.
Following this came the third successive away game in a row, this against early leaders Bolton and for this Arthur Biggs came in at outside left – his second game for the club. The other change saw Leslie Compton appear for the first time this season replacing the injured Male.
After three wins and a draw in the first four Bolton had been beaten by Huddersfield away but they regained their form to beat Arsenal 1-0 and jump from fourth spot back to the top leaving Arsenal, the early leaders down in 5th.
And then, the following day, Thursday 16 September 1937 Arsenal played Arsenal Reserves in one of the most famous Highbury matches of all time.
I’ve speculated above that this self same fixture was played on the Saturday before the season began. That is quite possible because it was the tradition at the time, but this game was something else. It was the first live game ever on TV, and there was a certain logic in the choice. BBC TV was run at the time from Alexandra Palace which is just three miles from Avenell Road (the location of Highbury Stadium).
And there was a further logic in choosing Arsenal since only a small number of locations had a TV that could pick up the Alexandra Palace signal, which only reached maybe 10 miles in each direction. Arsenal was the logical choice on all grounds.
This historic TV and footballing event lasted around a quarter of an hour and it has been suggested on one web site that it included an introduction to the team as well as a little bit of the game. If that is so it was something that Arsenal were going to repeat with the Arsenal Stadium Mystery in two years later.
The recording of the game itself has been lost but it is claimed on one site that the recording of Chapman and Whittaker as shown below was prior to this televised match. Yet it also looks to me like the introducing of the team used in the Arsenal Stadium Mystery. Because I am away from home at the moment of writing this I can’t be sure but there is something odd going on here. Certainly this first TV match was most on the date I am saying, by which time Herbert Chapman had been in his grave for three and a half years. Therefore this can’t possibly be right.
Decipher as you can, but I’ll try and come back with a clearer idea of what is going on where. But anyway, its a nice clip so here it is…
It was the second time Arsenal had been used for a trial run; the first live football radio broadcast was their 1927 league match against Sheffield United. (As we have recorded elsewhere Arsenal were deliberately chosen by the BBC to be in the first broadcast of Match of the Day in order to maintain the tradition.)
The experiment was deemed to be a success and preparations were made to take the idea further. The next televised game was England v Scotland on 9 April 1938.
Two days later Arsenal played Sunderland at home. After climbing to 5th with successive victories Sunderland had slipped back down the league following a 4-0 defeat to the fast improving Wolverhampton and approached the game in 9th.
Male returned, Bastin moved across to insight right, Davidson came in at inside left and Milne returned. It worked as Arsenal were 4-1 up by half time, and then eased off, deciding that they had punished their visitors enough. Hulme, Drake, Davidson, Milne got the goals.
The final game of the month was away to Derby, which should have been an easier match. Derby had just lost 6-1 to champions Manchester City just a week after losing 8-1 to Stoke. Indeed they had only won one game all season – a 2-1 victory over Everton. But the Man City defeat had left them in 20th – a sorry state for a club that had come second in 1936 and 4th in 1937 – and indeed the club which had been top of the league at the end of September one year before.
Arsenal kept the same team that had won so well in the last match, and although it was goalless at half time the game went against Arsenal and the unexpected 2-0 defeat knocked Arsenal down to 7th having made the sensational start of three successive wins. They had only won one game since and as a result of this defeat dropped from 2nd the 7th in the space of one match.
Here is the regular summary table…
|Date||Opposition||Op pos||Venue||Result||Pos||Pts||Crowd||Av crowd|
*Position at the end of the previous season
The Arsenal ability to attract the crowds however had not diminished. With the highest home average crowd in the league Arsenal were also adding hugely to the crowds of the clubs they visited with clubs such as Derby and Leicester seeing their home average crowd for the season almost double when the Arsenal were in town.
The abbreviations, as always…
- Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game. Chesterfield’s position is obviously in relation to Division 2.
- 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.
The league table now looked like this
|9||Preston North End||8||3||1||1||11||5||0||2||1||2||3||1.62||9|
Manchester City, the champions, had a perfect home record but were no longer a frightening force away from home, and seemed to be having difficulty in adjusting to their position. And overall away wins were looking to be hard to come by.
It was as if the approach of Sunderland in recent years had been noted and was now being copied everywhere. This was the antithesis of the Chapman approach in which the counter attacking game was set up so that it could work as well at home as it could work away.
Meanwhile, after a dodgy start, Tottenham had won three games in a row and pulled themselves up to 7th in the second division.
Here is the rest of this series 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, 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