By Tony Attwood
Arsenal entered December in the unfamiliar position of being in the bottom half of the table without even the consolation that they had found last year of having all the teams bunched together near the top. They were a full 11 points off the leaders, with just one game in hand. Put another way, they were only three points off the relegation position.
Given that Arsenal had not finished lower than 6th since 1929/30 when they finished 14th (but won the FA Cup – their first ever trophy) this was something of a shock.
|9||Preston North End||16||6||4||6||23||23||1.00||16|
December was not quite the usual crowded month for football with Arsenal booked to play six games. Given that they had only won 25% of their games thus far, the thought must have been that if they could just win their three home games during the month that would at least be a huge improvement on what had happened thus far.
And with the first game of the month it looked like Arsenal might be moving in the right direction as they secured a 3-1 home win over Birmingham which took them up to 10th position. True Birmingham were 20th in the league, and had been (and indeed continued to be) in the bottom places of the table through the season, but they had won three and lost three of their last six, which was more mid-table form, than bottom of the league.
Leslie Compton was still in for Male, Nelson came back in at outside right, but Bastin was back at outside left. Drake, Crayston and Nelson got the goals.
If this was encouraging, then it was not just because Arsenal had won, but because the next match was against bottom of the table Manchester United. For this game Les Jones dropped out, Bryn Jones came back, Bastin dropped out and Cumnor took over on the wing, but the shuffling around was to no avail. Arsenal lost 1-0 to the bottom team. Results elsewhere meant that Arsenal stayed 10th, but Man U climbed off the foot of the table. The 42,008 crowd could scarcely believe it – Man U had previously won just one of their last ten games.
Arsenal returned to Highbury in urgent need of a good win to rebuild their morale and keep their supporters, who were used to table topping success not mid-table mediocrity, on side. The chance came one week on, against another of the more modest teams in the league – Stoke City who were 14th.
Now Allison did make changes – at both ends of the pitch. Wilson came back in as goalkeeper for the first time in just over a year, and Reg Lewis finally got his chance. He had played four times the previous season and scored twice – not bad for a rookie.
Male continued to be out so Compton continued to deputise, Bastin returned and Les Jones again took over from Bryn. Stoke were unbeaten in their last three games, and had had some success on the road including beating Huddersfield away, 4-1, at the start of the month.
But this was to be the newly revitalised Arsenal’s day. Two goals from Lewis, one from Bastin and one from Drury, gave Arsenal their first game with four goals for the club. Since the victory over Birmingham had been the first in which Arsenal had scored three this season, it did seem that things were looking up.
The result only took Arsenal up one place to 9th, but it certainly felt as if a revival were now possible.
The next match was on Christmas Eve, which this year fell on a Saturday, away to Portsmouth, meaning that no matches were played on Christmas Day itself.
Portsmouth were just behind Arsenal in the table, having slipped away after a bright start to the season. They were unbeaten in the last three, but the win against Chelsea on 17 December had been their first since October 8.
Not surprisingly for Arsenal the same team was chosen, but Lewis couldn’t repeat his heroics and the result was a goalless draw. It was however only the second time in an away game Arsenal had kept a clean sheet – so that too was something to be pleased about.
Boxing Day saw an away London derby against Charlton, one of four London clubs in the league this season (Brentford and Chelsea being the others). Drury and Bryn Jones returned, as did Ted Drake, but instead of displacing Lewis at number nine, Drake took up a place on the right wing, meaning the attacking forward line was made up of Drake, Lewis and Bastin – three men who all knew how to score. And they …. didn’t . For the second match running Arsenal failed to score, and lost 0-1. It was Charlton’s third consecutive win.
With the new forward line having failed to score in the last two games, there were questions as to whether the manager would stick with the format, or whether he might move Drake back into the middle. The answer was that he would stick with the new approach, and Male returned at full back. Bremner replaced Jones. Arsenal finished the month with a 1-0 victory, the goal coming from Drake, taking the club back to 9th.
Here’s the table of games, which shows just how much the December programme was tilted towards games against clubs in the lower part of the league. Arsenal had made progress with three wins and a draw, but even better performances were required if Arsenal were to climb to a more respectable position in the table by the end of the season.
|Date||Opposition||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.
And the league table at the end of the year.
The extraordinary thing about the month was however the fact that Arsenal with three wins and a draw were one of the teams in form. Obviously they were aided by playing teams from the lower reaches, but even so it must have added a little confidence.
But there was a most noteable problem with the away form. Since beating Wolverhampton in September Arsenal had not had an away win – and that was not acceptable for the club. The only consolation locally was that Tottenham in division 2 was also having a very ordinary season and were currently in 10th position having ended the year with a 4-0 away defeat to Coventry.
- 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
- 84: Arsenal in November 1938: facing relegation, avoiding collisions