October 1934: Arsenal finally throw off the North London curse

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal had finished September in third place in the league, in a frantic month which included seven league matches (following the one at the end of August) as well as two high profile friendlies.

Following such a start to the season October represented calmer times with four league games all played on Saturday afternoons.

On 6 October Arsenal took on Stoke City in an away game, with Bowden and Hapgood returning for the game.  Stoke had just won their two previous games without conceding a goal, and they were fifth in the league, just one point behind Arsenal, having won all three home games thus far scoring 12 and conceding one.  With Arsenal not yet having won away from home, it looked like a tough outing.

Indeed although Arsenal’s position had improved since mid-September when they were fifth in the league, the fact was that this result meant that Arsenal had only won one of the last four.   The result – a 2-2 draw, in front of a crowd that was more than double the average for Stoke, and in such a partisan atmosphere against a team near the top, this was seen as acceptable.  Bastin got both the goals taking his league total to seven in ten.

On 13 October 1934: 68,145 turned up for the home game with top of the table Manchester City.  City were two points ahead of Arsenal who were in third place, but City had an inferior goal difference.  This meant that for Arsenal to hit the top of the league for the first time this season, Arsenal not only had to win, but also had to look out for the result of Sunderland who were in second place.

Beasley returned at outside right replacing Hulme, and the team was now what was becoming seen as the regular preferred line up


Male Roberts Hapgood

Crayston  Copping

Beasley Bowden Drake James Bastin

Arsenal won 3-0 (Bowden 2, Bastin).

Surprisingly Sunderland lost 1-2 at home to Tottenham. Surprising because not only were Sunderland second in the league before the game, but they had a strong home record, and Tottenham were currently sitting 18th, having scored just four away goals before the match.  They say just three points above the relegation zone (currently occupied by Chelsea and Huddersfield).

Not only was that a favour that took Arsenal top of the league, but also it was especially interesting because the following game for Arsenal was at home to Tottenham. 

And so on 20 October we had the first north London derby of the season.  What made this game even more interesting was that Arsenal’s record across recent years against Tottenham had been fairly awful.

Of course there had been no north London derby since between 1929/30 and 1932/3 between of Tottenham residing in the second division.  Other results showed an interesting balance of north London power…

Date Game AFC result Score
30 Sep 1922 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur L 0-2
17 Nov 1923 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur D 1-1
24 Nov 1923 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal L 3-0
25 Oct 1924 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur W 1-0
28 Feb 1925 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal L 2-0
29 Aug 1925 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur L 0-1
02 Jan 1926 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal D 1-1
18 Dec 1926 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur L 2-4
07 May 1927 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal W 0-4
02 Jan 1928 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur D 1-1
07 Apr 1928 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal L 2-0
16 Sep 1933 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal D 1-1
31 Jan 1934 Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur L 1-3

That made 13 games against Tottenham with two Arsenal wins, four draws and six Arsenal defeats.  Even last season in Arsenal’s title winning year, Tottenham managed to win at Highbury and draw at WHL.

But now Tottenham were struggling, sitting in 14th.  They had jumped up the table as a result of the win the previous Saturday but even so were still only three points above Chelsea in their traditional relegation threatened position for this time of year.

However Tottenham did have a better away record than they had at WHL, having completed two of their three wins so far this season on the road.  Arsenal however, at home had played five, won five, scoring 24 letting in five.  If that sort of record were to continue, Arsenal should win 5-1.  No wonder a new record crowd turned up – 70,544.

And the result was… 5-1, exactly as the stats predicted.  Ted Drake became first Arsenal player to score hat trick against Tottenham, Beasley getting the fourth and an own goal completing the rout.  It was the third time Arsenal had scored five or more goals in Allison’s opening 11 games. See also here.

The result took Arsenal top with Stoke City (who beat Aston Villa 4-1) in second place.  It left Tottenham just one point above the relegation positions.

This result of course left Arsenal utterly buoyant and ready to finish the month unbeaten and top of the league by taking on Sunderland, who had been top but now slipped to third having won only one of their last six.  The only problem was that Arsenal had still not won away from home, and Sunderland’s home scoring record thus far was 14 in favour and 8 against.

And despite another goal from Drake, Sunderland inflicted Arsenal’s second defeat of the season 2-1.

The Stoke City result, in which they beat perennial strugglers Chelsea 0-2 at the Bridge was not a surprise, but the resultant league table certainly was.  Stoke were top!!!

Stoke had been a founder of the Football League, but dropped out of the league in 1909 and gone into the Birmingham and District League.   They won the Southern League second division in the 1914/15 season before being elected back into the Football League in 1919.  They won the 3rd division (north) in 1927, and the 2nd division in 1933, coming 12th in the 1933/4 season back in the top flight.   Now with eight wins under their belt they were top of the league.

Equally surprising was the position of Grimsby in fourth.  They had dropped out of the league in 1910, but soon returned and won the 3rd division north in 1926 and gained promotion to the top division in 1929.  After a relegation in 1932 they had bounced back in 1934, and now here they were just one point behind Arsenal.

On the same day Tottenham and Huddersfield both showed signs of revival, each winning while scoring four goals.  It seemed a very topsy-turvey league.

Here is the end of month table…

And here is the usual summary of the games of the month.

Date Opponent Op Pos H/A Result Pos Pts Crowd AC
06.10.1934 Stoke City  5 away D2-2 3 12  45,348  22,349
13.10.1934 Manchester City  1 home W3-0 1 14  68,145 46,252
20.10.1934 Tottenham Hotspur  14 home W5-1 1 16  70,544 46,252
27.10.1934 Sunderland  3 away L1-2 2 16  43,744  25,397

The abbreviations, as always…

  • 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.

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