Arsenal in the 30s. November 1931: Chapman’s exasperation with keepers

By Tony Attwood

This is the 16th episode in our series on Arsenal in the 1930s.  There is a full index of the previous articles at the end of this piece.

Having won the FA Cup in 1930 and the League in 1931 with a record number of points, Arsenal had entered the 1931/2 season with the solid feeling that this was the team of the 1930s.   And yet by the end of October it was looking more as if recently promoted Everton were that team.

Arsenal’s November started with a match against Newcastle in 13th place, a team that had lost their game on the last day of October, 8-1 away to Everton. There was a feeling in the air that Arsenal needed to be matching the club that had already scored 17 more goals than Arsenal in just 13 games.

In fact Arsenal lost to Newcastle on 7 November 3-2.  Parkin made one of his rare appearances stepping in for Jones, but otherwise the team was the standard XI. However both Roberts at centre half and Jones playing in the right half position sustained injures which totally disrupted the team.

In the formation that was being used Roberts would command the central area of the goal, and when breaking up an attack would make the short pass to Jones, who had the rare ability of immediately being able to pick out the forward pass to launch another counter movement.  With both of them struggling, Arsenal were indeed hampered.

Lambert and Jack scored, but the result was a real blow to visions of Arsenal retaining the title as the club dropped to 5th in the league.

On 11 November Arsenal flew to Paris for the match against Racing Club to Paris which Arsenal won 3-2.  The first team was used except for Lambert, Roberts and John.  This was the second in the long running series of games against Racing.

Away from football there was one interesting moment on 12th November, when the Abbey Road recording studios were opened by Sir Edward Elgar.  I wonder what he might have thought of what happened there later.

Back with the football what was absolutely necessary after that was a strong performance against West Ham on 14 November at home, and this at least was duly delivered, with a 4-1 win in front of 41,028.   Haynes and Male came in at 5 and 6 replacing  Roberts and John.  Jack got a hattrick and Hulme the other.

However the score was still only considered as the least Arsenal could do as West Ham themselves had just lost their last two games (away to Derby and at home to West Brom) by 5-1 each time, and languished in 18th.

Also it was duly noted that there was no letting up by the remarkable goal scoring machine that Everton had now become, for although on 7 November Everton had only managed a 0-0 draw with Huddersfield on 14 November they bashed Chelsea 7-2.

So on to the Arsenal match against Chelsea, and it was the Newcastle story all over again.  Everton had thumped Newcastle, and then Arsenal lost.  Then Everton smashed Chelsea, and Arsenal … lost.  This time 1-2 at Stamford Bridge.  It was only Chelsea’s fourth win of the season.

The major change to the Arsenal line up was in goal.  Harper who had started the season had now left for Plymouth, and Chapman had become increasing unhappy with Preedy through the defeats at Newcastle and Grimsby.  So out he went and in came Frank Moss, the third keeper of the season.

Frank Moss had just arrived from Oldham on 20 November, having played for them just 29 times over an 18 month spell, having been with Preston for a season before that.  And straight into the team he went one day after signing.

With no preparation for being in the team and not even knowing who everyone was, it was always bound to be difficult, not least because Haynes and Male were dropped, Seddon came in at centre half and John returned at left half.

Indeed there was not any relief elsewhere for distraught Arsenal fans.  Everton had won yet again (although this time only by 2-1 at Grimsby) and Tottenham in the second division had beaten Port Vale 9-3.

So onto the last game of the month – Liverpool at home.  Liverpool were on a good run having had victories in five of the last six games scoring 16 goals along the way and rising up to fifth – one place above Arsenal.  Their last match was a 4-3 win over Manchester City.

And with Arsenal seemingly having difficult beating some lower teams Arsenal duly thrashed Liverpool 6-0 in front of a very modest 29,220.   Jack got two, Lambert three and Hulme the other.

Noticeably the team was back to its original eleven, save for the replacement of the keeper.  It was exactly what had happened the season before.  And it was the same ten outfield players.

Unfortunately any joy that might have been felt around Highbury was short lived as news of yet another extraordinary Everton win came in as they beat Leicester 9-2.   Tottenham won away 1-2 at Millwall.

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

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
 7.11.31 Newcastle Utd 13 A  2-3 5 17 28,949 30,366
14.11.31 West Ham Utd 18 H 4-1 4 19 41,028 40,547
21.11.31 Chelsea 20 A 1-2 6 19 64,427 32,230
28.11.31 Liverpool 5 H 6-0 4 21 29,220 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.

So the month ended like this…

The current series being researched and published is Arsenal in the 1930s.  Here are the articles so far.


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