By Tony Attwood
Having completed the month by month review of Arsenal’s 1937/8 title winning season (for a full index of the series please see the foot of this article) here is the list of all the league players involved in the 1937/8 season with links to articles about them on this site, plus in the final column a comparison with the player’s games for the previous season.
|Player||Position||1937/8 Games||1937/8 Goals||1936/7 games|
|Cliff Bastin||Outside Left||41||17||37|
|Arthur Biggs||Inside forward||2||1|
|Ray Bowden||Inside right||10||1||30|
|Gordon Bremner||Inside forward||2||1|
|Edward Carr||Centre forward||11||7|
|Sidney Cartwright||Half back||6||2||2|
|Ernest Collett||Wing half||5|
|Denis Compton||Outside Left||7||2||14|
|Les Compton||Centre half||9|
|Wilf Copping||Left half||41||42|
|Jack Crayston||Right half||34||4||32|
|Robert Davidson||Inside forward||5||2||30|
|Ted Drake||Centre forward||30||18||29|
|George Drury||Inside forward||11|
|Mal Griffiths||Outside right||9||5|
|Joe Hulme||Outside right||7||2||3|
|Leslie Jones||Inside forward||31||3|
|Bernard Joy||Centre half||29||6|
|Reg Lewis||Centre forward||4||2|
|George Male||Full back||37||41|
|John Vance Milne||Winger||16||4||22|
|Herbie Roberts||Centre half||13||34|
|Norman Sidey||Centre half||3||6|
If we take a player who played 10 or more games (ie approx 25% of the league season) or more as being established members of the first team squad we can see that Arsenal had a basic squad of 18 players of whom 12 had matched the same criteria (10 plus league games) the year before.
The six newcomers were Carr, Drury, Hunt, Jones, Joy, and Wilson. Such a division between established players and newcomers to the 10+ group seems about right to me – players were being given a chance to establish themselves, but not too many got to come through, for fear of unbalancing the whole team.
As for the goalscorers there were basically two: Drake and Bastin with 18 and 17 respectively. However Carr getting 7 in 11 games, and Griffiths getting 5 in 9 games were both certainly showing encouraging progress.
If we look at how Arsenal had recovered from the drop to sixth place in 1935/6 (after the three successive title winning seasons) the comparative final table gives us a bit of a clue.
The title winning year of 1937/8 had the same number of points as the year before, and three fewer goals scored – which reflects the level of competition between half a dozen clubs up to the end of the season.
But what really stands out here is that the injury prone Ted Drake was now not the regular goal scorer that he was before. It suggested that the new up and coming forwards would be needed to supplement the team.
Of course comparative seasonal analyses can be misleading, because as noted above, the level of competition changes, as do styles of play but it is interesting to compare the five title winning sets of results at this point.
We can see from this that there was no “Arsenal way” through the 1930s in terms of winning the league. In virtually every column we have variance – for example…
The number of games won in a league winning season ranged between 21 and 28 out of 42 (or put another way, between a half and a third – a huge variance).
The number of goals scored varied between 75 and 127. The number conceded between 44 and 61. Again both huge variations.
Indeed we can’t even say that Arsenal needed a top scoring centre forward in order to win the league. Bastin was a winger, and the top scorer ranged from 15 and 18 at one end to 39 and 44 at the other end. But each time the league was won.
For all these reasons I think that we need to be careful about drawing too many conclusions from the figures, for it was not just Arsenal that changed of course, so did all the other teams around Arsenal and so did the meaningful level of competition.
I have recorded the demise of Manchester City from champions to relegation in one season in the series of articles just completed – but they were not the only team to suffer a dramatic change in fortunes, although their turnaround was perhaps the most dramatic of all.
Aston Villa were second in 1931 and relegated in 1936. Sheffield Wednesday, having been third for four seasons out of five at the start of the decade ended up bottom of the league in 1937. Tottenham promoted from the second division in 1933 came third in 1934 and were relegated back from whence they came, in 1935.
And then we have Everton. Promoted in 1931, they won the first division in 1932 but in 1936 missed relegation by just four points. Or Charlton, promoted from the third division in 1935, and from the second in 1936, they came second in the first division 1937 and as we have seen, challenged again in 1938.
My point is that these were volatile times with clubs rising and declining at great speed… except Arsenal. Not only did they win the league five times and the FA Cup twice in these years, they were never lower than sixth in the league from 1930/31 onwards.
Finally, an update on the crowds situation. In each of these seasons Arsenal had the highest average crowd in the entire Football League. (Figures from EFS Attendances)
|Season||League average||Arsenal average||1st division average|
Arsenal in the 30s
- 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
- 21: April 1932: Film of Arsenal in the Cup Final, and attempts to win the league.
- 22: Arsenal in the summer of 1932. Arsenal runners up in league and cup, Man U’s average gate drops below Plymouth’s, Stanley Matthews first game, and the greatest run in Arsenal’s entire history is about to begin.
- 23: August 1932 – preparing for the ultimate greatness.
- 24: September 1932: Arsenal’s first steps into immortality
- 25: October 1932: The rise to the stars
- 26: November 1932: Records fall, greatness beckons.
- 27: December 1932: Greatness and supremacy
- 28: January 1933: Top of the league and defeated by Walsall.
- 29: February 1933: New shirts, awful weather, a record score
- 30: March 1933: Top of the league but a month to forget
- 31: April/May 1933: Champions for the second time
- 32: 1929/33: All the men who played in the League for Arsenal.
- 33: Arsenal in the summer 1933: Champions and water shortages
- 34: August/September 1933 – the start of the new season.
- 35: October 1933 – a return to progress
- 36: November 1933 – displacing Tottenham.
- 37: December 1933: Chapman’s last month; Arsenal triumphant
- 38: January 1934: The death of Chapman
- 39: February 1934. Chapman is gone, but the club moves on.
- 40: March 1934. Chapman’s two teams fight for the title
- 41: April 1934. Joe Shaw wins the league for Chapman
- 42: 1933/34 League players, and how the goals declined but the crowds went up.
- 43: Arsenal in the summer 1934: Allison takes over from Shaw and Chapman.
- 44: August/Sep 1934: Allison starts with a bang
- 45: October 1934 – Arsenal finally blow away the north London curse
- 46: November 1934: vying for the top of the league, and the Battle of Highbury
- 47: Arsenal in December 1934: two steps forward, two steps back.
- 48: January 1935: Suddenly Arsenal’s form turns upside down
- 49: February 1935. Despite one slip, Arsenal remain top.
- 50: March 1935: Beating Tottenham by a record score
- 51: April/May 1935: Winning the league for the third time in succession.
- 52: Arsenal in the Summer 1935 after three championships in a row
- 53: September 1935: After three successive championships things get sticky
- 54: October 1935: Ok but not good enough
- 55: November 1935; Drake starts scoring again.
- 56: December 1935: beating the record, and record confusions. Ted Drake before and after the magnificent seven.
- 57: January 1936: the league won’t be won, but what about the FA Cup…
- 58: February 1936: an early example of rotational selection
- 59: March 1936: Wembley again but player rotation starts affecting the crowds
- 60: April/May 1936; Arsenal win the Cup. A match report and season’s end
- 61: Arsenal in the Summer of 1936
- 62: Arsenal players 1934/5 and 1935/36: the fundamental problem with the team
- 63: August / Sept 1936: 20 different players used in the first seven league games
- 64: October 1936: Arsenal in free fall
- 65: November 1936: Arsenal reborn, TV starts, the king demands, the palace burns down.
- 66: December 1936: Top of the league as the king steps down.
- 67: January 1937: Arsenal unbeaten as the goalkeepers change (again).
- 68: February 1937: Seven in the cup, and all to play for in the league
- 69: March 1937: Arsenal top but Man City close in
- 70: April / May 1937: Arsenal slip back and Man City triumph – for the moment
- 71: Arsenal players 1936/7, Arsenal crowds in the 30s, and comparisons with earlier years
- 72: Arsenal in the summer: the overseas tour of 1937
- 73: Arsenal in August and September 1937: a brilliant start and a TV first.
- 74: Arsenal in October 1937: Allison decides it is time for a total change.
- 75: Arsenal in Nov 1937; a tactical signing changes the game
- 76: Arsenal in December 1937; a settled team and a revival
- 77: Arsenal in January 1938: two steps backwards but a new genius emerges.
- 78: Arsenal in February 1938: a true resurgence takes us top of the league.
- 79: March 1938: Arsenal at the top and a fifth title looks possible
- 80: April/May 1938: from no titles to five in one decade – and the most amazing title of them all.