By Tony Attwood
This is episode 21 in our series on Arsenal in the 1930s. An index to the articles so far is at the foot of this piece.
Arsenal had played 7 games in March and now found themselves playing 8 games in 29 days in April – including during this two month period the FA Cup semi-final and final, while throughout challenging to win the league.
15 games in 60 days – one in every four. They did it using 19 players – not because of rotation (which at the time was unknown) but because of injury. Indeed the cup final at the time (although now long forgotten) was known as an extraordinarily violent affair. Sadly we don’t get any evidence of that in the film of the cup final (see below).
March had ended with the top of the table looking thus:
|5||West Bromwich Albion||37||18||6||13||67||45||1.49||42|
Winning the game in hand, and picking up a win while Everton had a draw, would put Arsenal on top of the league due to their goal average.
Meanwhile the month saw several new social developments in the UK. The first “cat’s eyes” were put in the middle of British roads, while the Ministry of Health stepped up its efforts to get local councils to engage in widespread slum clearance programmes. There were protests against the fact that vast areas of rural England were still owned by the aristocracy with access forbidden for those who wanted to walk the countryside. And in Stratford the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was opened – the first Shakespeare theatre in the country, and the first major work by a woman architect.
Unfortunately from the off the results did not go Arsenal’s way, for while Arsenal could only draw at home with Chelsea on 2 April, Everton beat Grimsby 4-2 to extend their lead to four points. This was a disappointment but perhaps expected since prior to this game Chelsea had won one and drawn one, drawing the other four. They were sitting 12th in the league, and so there was hope of a win, but their previous game was a draw with Everton.
On this day Bob John broke the club appearance record held by Percy Sands of 327 games and went on to set his own record of 421 league games and 46 FA Cup games. For this game John played inside left, with Male taking over John’s normal left half shirt.
This was an attempt to cope with Alex James absence – which continued to the end of the season. In the last match in March against Derby, Jack had played at inside left. In the remaining games of the season Bastin took the shirt for four games before Jones took it for the last three. In the cup final it was Bastin.
So Arsenal now had three draws in a row and needed to improve matters urgently but 6 April 1932 did not offer that as the result was Sunderland 2 Arsenal 0. This was the last game for Ted Pat Beasley after 79 league games and 19 league goals. before moving on to Huddersfield.
The league table after the Sunderland game read:
|4||West Bromwich Albion||38||19||6||13||69||46||1.50||44|
Next came Liverpool away on 9 April. With three draws in a row followed by a defeat the club was in danger not just of slipping out of the championship race, but also of slipping away from the runners’ up spot – a position that club had only held once before – in Chapman’s first season at Arsenal.
After a run of three defeats in March, Liverpool had beaten Manchester City and Chelsea in their two April games thus far each by a single goal, and found themselves ready to do the same thing again.
Arsenal had no John, Hulme or James replacing them with Male, Coleman and Beasley, Bastin continuing at inside left. Only seven of the classic 11 who had won last season and started both last and this season were now playing, and one of those (Bastin) was out of position.
Lambert scored Arsenal’s goal making it five goals in the last six games, and Lambert scoring five goals of the last six Arsenal had scored. The team, quite clearly, was not functioning at its old level. Everton meanwhile beat Leicester City 0-1 away.
The results left the league table looking like this…
|5||West Bromwich Albion||39||19||6||14||69||47||1.47||44|
Everton were unbeaten in their last six, as were Sheffield Wednesday who actually had the best record of all over those games – winning five drawing one. Arsenal, and Sheffield Utd., had one win in six and WBA two. Any thought of the championship was now gone, although it was technically possible for any of the top six to win it. What Arsenal had to do was to pull themselves together for the cup final.
But before Wembley there was one more match – at home on 16 April to third placed Sheffield Wednesday and for the first time in six games, Arsenal won. What made it all the more surprising is that Wednesday had won five and drawn one of the last six, and themselves looked to be making a very solid run to second place
The reason was not hard to find. All the outfield players apart from James were back. John moved to outside left with Bastin continuing to play inside left, where Chapman clearly thought that he had possibilities. Male continued at left half. John got two and Jack the third.
Thus Arsenal went into the cup final on 23 April sitting second in the league on 47 points, six behind Everton and with a worse goal average. With each team having four games to play it was still technically possible for Arsenal to win the title, but it would require an almighty collapse by Everton. The Cup was clearly Arsenal’s chance of back to back trophies.
And so we came to the 1932 Cup Final – Newcastle v Arsenal. There is a news film of the event here – mostly of the king, the singing of Abide with Me and the national anthem. But you do get to see the players coming onto the pitch. The accent of the commentator is something to be believed.
You get to see the goals (including in slow mo and the wrongly given Newcastle equaliser).
The team was
Parker Roberts Hapgood
Hulme Jack Lambert Bastin John
Thus Arsenal’s Cup record from 1927 to 1932 ran: Won 1 final, Lost 2 finals, Lost 1 semi-final. Not bad for a team that had never won anything prior to 1927.
But this was not the later era with the Cup final being played away from the rigours of the League, and the League continued. Having played the final on the saturday Arsenal now had another league game on the monday – against last season’s challengers Aston Villa.
Everton needed one win and a draw from their last three games to be utterly certain of winning the league. Arsenal needed three wins and a draw, and the hope that Everton lost their nerve. Given that Arsenal had won one of the last six league games, it seemed an impossible call.
Yet there was a tiny, tiny ray of hope, for on the day of the cup final Everton lost 0-1 to Middlesbrough. It was their first defeat in 11 games.
So to the monday game against Aston Villa. Only five of the regular first XI were available. Tom Parker and Herbie Roberts and David Jack were all injured in the cup final and missed the rest of the season – which tells us something about the bits of the cup final we can’t see from the movie, while John now turned up at outside left. Compton, Beasley, Male, Haynes and Parkin came in. It was a patchwork Arsenal and a 1-1 draw at Villa Park was probably more than hoped for.
25 April 1932 was Leslie Compton’s first game. He had just turned professional and was played at right back but then moved back to the reserves before later moving to the centre of defence. Compton had been transferred from Hampstead Town and went on to play 253 league games for Arsenal in a 20 year career with the club. His brother Dennis also played for Arsenal, and both were also cricketers of some renown.
But even now there was no rest, for having played the Cup Final on the saturday, Villa on the monday, Arsenal then had Huddersfield on the Wednesday – again away. And amazingly Arsenal won 2-1.
Huddersfield were sitting sixth before this game. After a strong run of victories around Easter, they had slipped and won only one out of five. Coleman and Lambert got the goals for Arsenal.
Extraordinarily Arsenal were still technically in the race to win the league, despite winning two out of their last six.
Two more wins for Arsenal would be enough if (and this was extraordinarily unlikely) Everton lost three in a row.
On 30 April, Arsenal were at home to Middlesbrough (who were 16th) while Everton were at home to Bolton (who were 18th). Arsenal won 5-0, but then the news came through, Everton had won 1-0. Everton were home and dry with two matches to play.
|5||West Bromwich Albion||42||20||6||16||77||55||1.40||46|
April was over, the League title won the season before was lost, and Arsenal had lost in their third cup final.
Here’s the regular table on the month’s games for Arsenal…
- Op pos, is the league position of the opposition before the game
- Pos is Arsenal’s position after the game
- AC is the average league 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.
The current series is Arsenal in the 1930s.
- 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