At the end of March 1935 Arsenal were top of the league – a position most people had got used to them occupying. They had been league champions for the previous two seasons, managed first by Herbert Chapman, then Joe Shaw, and now George Allison. The question was could Arsenal not only win the title for the third time in a row (and the fourth in five years) but do it under three different managers.
Arsenal had seven games to play – meaning a total of 14 points available, and if Sunderland won their game in hand Arsenal would potentially have to win all of those games to secure the title. But of course title run ins are always about points being dropped, and this one was no exception.
The first game of the month was against Chelsea – who were sitting 11th, having won five of their 17 away games thus far. Arsenal had won 13, drawn 3 and lost one of their home games, scoring 63 and conceding 14.
It should have been a walkover – but it wasn’t, it was a 2-2 draw. The first point of the run in had been dropped. However elsewhere however results were kind. Sunderland also drew (away to West Brom) while Manchester City and Everton did the same – drawing 2-2. Tottenham at the bottom, lost 4-0 away to Sheffield Wednesday.
Arsenal’s side for the Chelsea match was certainly makeshift, and it showed just how far they had been stretched. Moss was playing his third game of the season in goal, Compton his third game at right back, and Bob John his seventh, coming in at left back. Even the normally reliable Bastin was missing as only five of the players who opened for Arsenal back in August were still present. Drake scored, and Compton stepped up to take a penalty, which made it 2-2.
But with Sunderland also drawing, nothing had changed at the top. However there was still danger for the following Wednesday, as Sunderland played their game in hand away to Manchester City… but they lost 1-0. This meant that all eyes were even more keenly focussed on the top of the table.
On 13 April Arsenal were away to Wolverhampton – currently sitting in 17th. Arsenal’s away form had improved of late so that it now read won 6 drawn 7 and lost 5 – not the championship winning form of Chapman’s teams which focussed on having away form running at the same level as home form, but a significant improvement on the first half of the season.
The team was much the same as the previous game, but with Male returning at right back and the ever obliging Compton moving to left back. The result was a 1-1 draw, Hill scoring Arsenal’s 100th league goal of the season.
The feeling was Arsenal should be winning these games against lowly placed opposition, but once again Arsenal were saved by the results elsewhere…
- Grimsby 1 Manchester City 1
- Sunderland 2 Sheffield Wednesday 2
The top of the table now looked like this, with five games to go. Sunderland could make 57 points meaning that four wins out of five would give Arsenal the title no matter what.
But this was not Arsenal’s current form… of the last eight games Arsenal had won three and drawn five. True there was only one defeat in the last 15 league games, but even so, it only needed an improvement of Sunderland’s form, and Arsenal could be looking over their shoulder far more nervously.
The only bit of light relief was Tottenham. They were now five points from safety having played one more game than their rivals at the foot of the table. Tottenham had now played 16 games without a victory and had sunk from 6th at the end of September to this parlous position.
But on 19 April (Good Friday) Arsenal returned to form big time. 3-0 up at half time they were in no mood to hold back and went on to win 8-0 against 19th placed Middlesborough (the clubs in 21st and 22nd position being relegated.) They had only won once away, and Arsenal had just gone nine without defeat, so a win was predicted – but not a win of this size.
The reason for the size of the victory was not difficult to see as some of the regulars returned and in particular we had Hapgood and Male at full back. At outside right however there was a new name Tim Rogers – who stayed in place to play the remaining games of the season. He had signed in January from Wrexham and remained with the club until June 1936.
Amazingly it was the third time Arsenal had scored eight. Drake scored four, Rogers two, Bastin and Beasley one each. It was a result that helped the goal average, and on this date Manchester City completely slipped away from contention, losing 2-4 at home to Portsmouth. Sunderland however beat Preston 3-1 to keep up the pressure.
The following day Arsenal were at home again, this time taking on Huddersfield, and beating them 1-0, Beasley getting the goal Not another eight, but with Arsenal winning, all eyes were on the other results….
- Birmingham City 2 Sunderland 2
- Manchester City 1 Preston NE 2
- Sheffield Wednesday 1 Leicester City 1
and at the bottom…
- Stoke City 4 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Now the table looked like this
|7||West Bromwich Albion||39||17||8||14||82||79||1.04||42|
|10||Preston North End||39||15||10||14||61||64||0.95||40|
Sunderland could still reach 56, which meant that one more win for Arsenal from the last three games would be enough, given the advantage Arsenal had in terms of goal average. For the absolute Championship without any questions as to potential goal average Arsenal needed a draw and a win from the three remaining games.
As for Tottenham they were now in dire trouble – they could still escape but they needed Middlesbrough and Leicester to perform badly and BOTH of them to lose ALL their remaining matches.
By chance the Easter Monday day included Middlesbrough v Arsenal – a match which could help relegate Tottenham or take Arsenal to the very edge of their third successive Championship. Since Arsenal were undefeated in the last 12 games, it seemed quite likely.
The result was Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 1 with Drake getting the only goal of the game in the first half. Sunderland were away to Preston and drew 1-1; a result that meant that Arsenal had now, beyond any doubt, won the league.
Tottenham didn’t play on Easter Monday but the win for Leicester meant that Tottenham could only save themselves by not only winning, but winning big time, and hope that both Leicester and Middlesbrough each lost both their remaining games. All it needed was a win for Middlesbrough or a draw for Leicester in those two remaining games, for Tottenham to say farewell to the league that their near neighbours had just won.
|7||West Bromwich Albion||40||17||9||14||83||80||1.04||43|
|10||Preston North End||40||15||11||14||62||65||0.95||41|
Having given Tottenham a helping hand by defeating Middlesbrough, Arsenal were now able to do it again by defeating Leicester, which they did 3-5 on 27 April 1935. Beasley (2), Crayston (2) and Davidson got the goals. Tottenham also played their part by beating Liverpool 5-1. But…
Leicester City got the single point they needed to take them to 33 points, out of Tottenham’s reach. Tottenham would thus end either 21st or 22nd and go down.
4 May saw the final round of games. Arsenal, secure having won the league title three times in a row, were at home to Derby. They introduced one new player – Reg Trim who had signed in April 1933 from Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic. With Eddie Hapgood out again, Compton was rested and Trim given his chance, but he clearly did not impress. Arsenal lost 1-0, and Trim did not play for the club again. Leicester could only draw, and so joined Tottenham in the second division.
The following monday Arsenal played their one end of season friendly, against Norwich City away, in front of 15,500. Parkin, Cartwright and Cox were the new faces in the team and Parkin it was who got the goal.
Here is, as always, the summary of the games of the month.
*Norwich ended up 14th in Division 2. The crowd figure is their average for league games in the season.
The abbreviations, as always mean…
- 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 the norm expected by the home side.
Arsenal thus ended the season with an improved away record of eight wins, eight draws and five defeats – something that seemed out of their reach at the turn of the year. What’s more in the 19 games between 29 December 1934 and 27 April 1935, Arsenal lost just one. In the same period, the near neighbours Tottenham, won just two.
|9||West Bromwich Albion||42||17||10||15||83||83||1.00||44|
|11||Preston North End||42||15||12||15||62||67||0.93||42|
Finally a word on attendances for the season. This was a season in which attendances rose. Indeed even Tottenham, who had such an awful season, saw a 2% rise in their attendance figures (although rumour had it, a fair percentage of the number was Arsenal fans popping along to have a laugh).
|9||West Ham United||2||23.734||28,5%|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||1||22.277||10,8%|
|15||Preston North End||1||21.472||43,4%|
Brentford and Bolton won promotion to the first division.
Statistics from Statto.com and european-football-statistics.co.uk/