Arsenal in the 30s: November 1933, displacing Tottenham.

By Tony Attwood

The month opened with Tottenham top of the league and Arsenal one point behind:

Tottenham came into November with four wins and a draw in the their last five games while Arsenal had just won three in a row.   There was also interest in the position of Wolverhampton who last season had finished just one above the relegation places and had now suddenly risen up the ranks.

Arsenal started with a home game against 6th position Portsmouth and gained a 1-1 draw, Bastin getting the goal.   The team at least had stabilised, it was the same XI as had played the week before with a forward line of Hill, Bowden, Dunne, James, Bastin.    Tottenham meanwhile gained an away win at West Brom, to take themselves two points ahead of Arsenal.

On 11 November Arsenal went to Wolverhampton currently in 8th place (slipping from their position at the start of the month) and gained a 1-0 away win.  Alex James dropped out and Bowden returned, and scored the goal – otherwise the team was the same.   But Tottenham once again edged beyond Arsenal not only winning but also pushing their goal average further ahead with a 4-0 home win against Newcastle.

On 18 November Arsenal had lowly Stoke City at home and won 3-0 (Hulme, Dunne and John getting the goals) while Tottenham could only manage a goalless draw with Leeds away, thus reducing the gap back to one point once more.  For Hulme who played at outside right it was only his second game of the season, Hill dropping out.   Hulme had in fact played in the first match of the campaign – before being injured.

There was then a pause from the league games as Arsenal, very oddly it seems to me, went to France on the Sunday – the day after the Stoke game and played Racing Club de Paris.

The games against Racing Club were set up to commemorate Armistice Day and raise money for injured soldiers and their families, but the date of the games varied year by year and it was mostly not played on Armistice Day – 11 November.  So quite why the club agreed to fly to France for the game on the Sunday I don’t know, and I can find no explanation.

However we must remember that playing two games in two days and indeed three games in four days, with the same team, was a normal event at this time over Christmas and Easter periods, so it is possible that no one thought much of it, particularly as the game in Paris was a friendly.

The team was mostly the same as the team that played the day before except for Hill and Dougal replacing Coleman and Dunne.  Beasley came on as a substitute for Hulme.  The result was a 1-0 win with Bowden scoring.

This now left one game to be played in November – on Saturday 25th.  Arsenal had a tricky looking fixture away to title chasing Huddersfield, but used the same team as for the last league game except that inside left and inside right (Bowden and Coleman) swapped positions.  Arsenal won 1-0 with a first half goal from Dunne.

At last the team was getting a more settled look:


Male Sidey Hapgood

Jones  John

Hulme Bowden Donne James Bastin

It was an important victory over the team in third, but made all the more important by the news coming through that Tottenham had faltered.  They had had a run of six wins and two draws in the last eight games, conceding just three goals in those eight games, and scoring 17.  It was a run that raised expectations and fuelled the “London against the north” debate, but now they lost – to Derby County who as a result rose to fourth.

That combination of results saw Tottenham drop to second, and started a run of 15 games in which they lost seven – a total reversal of form.  Throughout the rest of the season they were never again rivals to Arsenal for the championship – that honour passing instead to Huddersfield.

But again looking at Huddersfield’s crowd average for the season we can see why Chapman wanted to move away from Huddersfield to Arsenal when he did.  Gate receipts were the income of clubs by and large in the 1930s and as we can see from the chart below, Huddersfield’s average gate – even in a season in which they came second, was under 12,000.  Arsenal’s was over 40,000.

Even though the game was second against third, and involving the current league champions and the club now managed by Huddersfield’s previous manager the crowd was still only 29,407, in a ground that could hold 60,000.

Here’s the regular summary of the month’s games.

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
4.11.1933 Portsmouth 6 H D1-1 2 17  51,765  41,958
11.11.1933 Wolverhampton Wand. 8 A W1-0 2 10 37,210  27,104
18.11.1933 Stoke City 17 H W3-0 2 21 32,972 41,958
19.11.1933 Racing Club de Paris  — A W1-0 25,000  —
25.11.1933 Huddersfield Town 3 A W1-0 1 23 29,407  11,965
  • 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.

By the end of the month it was clear that Arsenal were the team in form with five wins and a draw in the last six.  Tottenham and Huddersfield had identical runs to each other: three wins, two draws one defeat.

It might be noted that at the start of the month Wolverhampton were surprisingly in fourth, but it didn’t last as they faded dramatically and dropped out of the top ten.

Arsenal in the 1930s…

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