October 1931: Arsenal lose to Grimsby.

By Tony Attwood

There was a positive feeling around Highbury by the end of September 1931 – that opening run without a win was now well and truly behind the club, and although the early league leaders Everton were marching ahead, they had been a second division team last season, and a very poor first division team the season before that.  They would, it was felt, start to feel the heat sooner or later.

Besides Arsenal had just beaten Everton 3-2 in the last game of September and next up was Grimsby.

Grimsby had won two and lost four of their last six, and had suffered the humiliation of being on the receiving end of Arsenal’s greatest league victory ever on 28 January 1931 as Arsenal won 9-1 – a record that still stands.  Indeed the were only outside the relegation spots by virtue of a goal average of 0.01 better than Portsmouth’s.

Clearly nothing could be easier, except perhaps to beat Chelsea.   And yet in one of the biggest upsets of the season on 3 October Arsenal lost to Grimsby 3-1.

This wasn’t even a “Walsall” situation in which key players were rested.  It was the normal full strength team – an outfield that had been operating as a unit since the start of the previous season, and with Preedy in goal.  Such was the level of the upset it was only the second time in 13 league matches that Grimsby had beaten Arsenal.

If there was an explanation such as food poisoning or a train arriving late, the papers didn’t mention it.  Grimsby seemed to have beaten Arsenal without there being any excuses available.

Lambert got Arsenal’s goal and 17,840 turned up to witness the event.  It was the second lowest crowd of the season to watch an Arsenal match as Arsenal slipped back down to fifth.  The only relief for Arsenal fans was that Tottenham lost 4-2 to Chesterfield.

Goodness knows what Chapman said to the team after the game, but whatever he said and whatever he thought, the games continued and on Wednesday 7 October Arsenal played West Brom in the Charity Shield at Villa Park.

It was the regular first team with the exception of Haynes who came in for John.  Haynes made seven league appearances in the season, most at the end of the campaign when Roberts was injured.  21,276 turned up for the game which Arsenal won 1-0, Bastin scoring.

On the following Saturday, 10 October, Arsenal returned to league duty with another away game, this against Blackpool who although 15th in the league remained undefeated at home.  Despite the single change for the Charity Shield game Arsenal were now back to the regular XI, and they ran out easy victors 5-1.  Bastin got a hat trick, Hulme and Lambert the other two.  One of Bastin’s goals was a penalty – Arsenal’s first of the season.  The result took them back to third.

Now Arsenal were back at Highbury – for a match against Bolton – another midtable team, but one that didn’t travel well, having so far achieved one draw and five defeats away from home.  And on 17 October Bolton got their second away point – in a 1-1 draw.  A pattern of a most unwelcome kind was starting to emerge.  Hulme scored.

What was also unnerving was the result from Goodison that filtered through that evening.  Everton had beaten Sheffield Wednesday 9-3.

Yet despite Arsenal’s drawn games, and the defeat to Grimsby, Chapman appeared certain that there was nothing wrong with his team and he stuck with the same XI for the next game – away to Leicester on 24 October.  This time it worked out ok, as Arsenal won 2-1 with a goal from Jack and an own goal from Osbourne.

Before the final game of the month the country turned its attention to the little matter of a general election on 27 October which saw an overwhelming victory for the National Government that had been formed two months previously after the collapse of the previous Labour government.

The bulk of the National Government’s support came from the Conservative Party; they won 470 seats. The Labour party suffered its greatest defeat, losing 80% of the seats it held at  the previous election. The Liberal Party, split into three factions, continued to lose seats.

This was the last election where one party received an absolute majority of the votes cast.  The people were voting for austerity.

The final game of the month was back at Highbury, against last season’s great rivals, Aston Villa.  And it was another draw 1-1.  Villa entered the game in ninth position, but for reasons I can’t explain (not being a Villa historian) they had only played 10 games to everyone else’s 12, and a couple of victories would have taken them up to second place.

So the month’s return showed two wins, two draws and a defeat, and what was particularly interesting was the problem with the home form.  Arsenal had won two, drawn three and lost one at home so far in the season.  Away they had won four drawn two and lost one.  The counter attacking approach was working better away – except at Grimsby!

Meanwhile Everton still showed no sign of falling away chalking up five straights wins – the last of which was another monster victory – 8-1 at home to Newcastle.  West Bromwich however who were still sitting in second position were showing signs that they were not used to such a position, having no wins in the last four games.

Here’s the regular table on the month’s games for Arsenal, using the same table as each month through this seies.

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
 3.10.31 Grimsby  20  A  1-3  5  11 26,810  11,968
10.10.31 Blackburn  18 A 5-1 3 13 25,403  13,176
17.10.31 Bolton  13 H  1-1 4 14 22,926 40,547
24.10.31 Leicester  11 A 2-1 4 16 22,977  16,241
31.10.31 Aston Villa  9 H 1-1 3 17 46,756 40,547
  • 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 and and the norm expected by the home side.

Here was the league able at the end of the month.  As can be seen Grimsby were bottom, which made the defeat of Arsenal all the more galling.

Meanwhile, second division Tottenham were continuing to struggle.  Their month continued the downward spiral taking them from 8th in the second division down to 16th after a home defeat to Plymouth Argyle.  Their last six games to the end of October had involved four defeats and two draws.  The third division beckoned.

The series so far…

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