By Tony Attwood
On 2 January – postponed for one day since 1 January was a Sunday, Rangers and Celtic played their traditional year opener. This time however the match was of particular significance since it is recorded as having the highest attendance for a U.K. football match ever at 118,730.
Back in England the league table at the end of 1938 had an unfamiliar ring to it, but it was certainly not the worst it had been during this season.
And at least it could be said that Arsenal had a break from what had been a most disappointing league programme thus far, for at the start of January 1939 we had the traditional third round of the FA Cup. Arsenal were drawn against Chelsea – which was not too horrifying, as they were lying 18th in the league at the time.
Before the game could be played, on 5 January 1939 Ted Platt, the man who became our wartime keeper, signed for Arsenal, aged 17. Arsenal had an obvious regular first choice goalkeeper in George Swindin, and an alternative between the posts in Alex Wilson who had joined the club in 1933 – and who at this time had taken over as number 1. Ted Platt was spoken of as one for the future, but of course the future of football was postponed.
On 7 January the Cup tie was played at Chelsea who over Christmas had had two draws with Leeds and a defeat to Leicester. Arsenal made only one change – bringing in Bryn Jones for Bremner. It was 1-1 at half time thanks to a Bastin goal, but Chelsea got the winner, and Arsenal now only had the league to look forward to.
Worse Tottenham managed to beat Watford 7-1, to give themselves some cheer. However the biggest shock of the day was Chelmsford City in their first season as a semi-professional club in the Southern League beating Southampton of the 2nd division 4-1. (The name “Chelmsford City” was incidentally a misnomer as the urban area was a town and remained so until 2012).
The away form thus continued to provide problems for Arsenal, and matters were not helped by the fact that the next league game was away to Everton.
Having had a brilliant start to the season with six straight wins, Everton had had a wobble in October, and an even greater problem post-Christmas when they failed to win any of their next three games, drawing one and losing two.
As a result they were now second, five points behind the leaders Derby, with a game in hand. But their home form was awesome: ten wins, one draw and one defeat, while Arsenal’s away form was woeful (one win, six draws and four defeats) – although one should also note that woeful away form had become the style of the league. Liverpool, currently fifth in the league had an even worse record than Arsenal, while three teams in the lower half of the league had yet to win a single away match.
For this game Carr dropped out and Bryn Jones returned, but it was to no avail. Everton did as was expected, and won 2-0. Arsenal sank to 14th.
On 21 January Arsenal had their one home game of the month – welcoming Charlton who were currently having a decent season, and were lying in sixth place. The two teams had mirror images of each other’s record: Arsenal at home had won 6 drawn 2 lost 3, while Charlton away had won 3 drawn 2 lost 6.
The result went with the form book and Arsenal won 2-0 to bounce back to ninth. Bastin was out with an injury meaning Kirchen came in, but on the left wing. Crayston scored the first goal and Reg Lewis showed that Allison was right to stand by him, getting his third goal in six games for the club this season.
But now Arsenal were back away from home for the final match of the month this time facing Aston Villa. Villa had been as high as third in late October, but then a run of five successive autumn defeats had left them languishing in 18th. However a recovery including four wins in five during December had taken them back to 9th ahead of this game.
But unlike most teams in the upper half of the table Villa were vulnerable at home – despite them getting record crowds through the season – with six wins, one draw, and five defeats. For once, Arsenal got the away tactics just right, as sticking with the same team as for the home game against Charlton, Arsenal ran out winners 3-1. Two of the goals came from Lewis, the other from Kirchen. This meant Lewis had five goals in seven starts. True, Drake wasn’t scoring on the wing, but his ability to drag defenders with him, was giving Lewis all the space he needed.
Here’s the month’s table of results…
|Date||Opponent||Venue||Op pos||Result||Pos||Pts||Crowd||Av crowd|
*League matches only
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.
Arsenal had now won three of their last four league games. Only Wolverhampton had matched them and only Stoke had won all four. Arsenal were still 10th, but suddenly a more respectable higher league place looked possible if this form continued, and a few away wins popped up en route.
They also had two games in hand over the middle clutch of teams in the upper part of the table, which gave hope for February.
- 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
- 85: December 1938: the manager makes changes and a new hero is found