Arsenal in the 1930s, the full story as never before told

by Tony Attwood

For the past 10 months I have been writing a history of Arsenal in the 1930s.   The first draft is now finished and you can read the entire work as it stands at the moment, on this website.

But as any author will tell you, the first run through of any research project, does not give the full story, for in taking on such a mammoth task as the reviewing of an entire decade of Arsenal (and not just that, reviewing the most successful decade in Arsenal’s history) one inevitably learns things on the way.

As a result I now have to go back through the 100 or more articles that make up the series, and improve the early pieces so that they match the level of information provided later on.  The opening article has just been completely revised and now is over twice as long as it was first time around.

The Cup triumph of April 1930 was like the opening of a magic door for Arsenal.  The club had three times failed at the FA Cup semi-final stage, and had been beaten finalists three years before.  Now for the first time, they were winners.   I wanted to see how and why this happened, because it was that win that triggered this most extraordinary period in Arsenal’s history.

At the start of 1930 Arsenal had won neither the FA Cup nor the Football League Division 1.   By the end of the 1938/39 season Arsenal had won the Cup twice and the League five times.

To give a broader perspective on this, in the summer of 1930, as Arsenal were still celebrating winning the FA Cup, the top of the list of clubs that had won the League the most times read like this

  • Huddersfield Town: 3
  • Liverpool 4
  • Sheffield Wednesday (including as The Wednesday): 4
  • Newcastle United: 4
  • Sunderland: 5 (last win 1902)
  • Aston Villa 6: (last win 1910)

By the outbreak of the second world war in 1939 the list read…

  • Huddersfield Town: 3
  • Liverpool 4
  • Sheffield Wednesday (including as The Wednesday): 4
  • Newcastle United: 4
  • Arsenal: 5
  • Everton: 5
  • Sunderland: 6
  • Aston Villa 6: (last win 1910)

Arsenal had risen from nowhere to being one of the top four clubs in the country, in the course of a decade.  And although Liverpool caught them up by winning the 1946/7 season, Arsenal rose to the top of the tree the following year by winning the league again and then in 1953 won the league for the 7th time, to become the most successful League club of all time.

It was a magnificent achievement and all the basic work was done by 1930.  Which is what makes it strange that there are not too many publications that deal with that year and the subsequent era.

So that is what I have spent the last year doing – writing a history of Arsenal in the 1930s.

I shall now be going through it, article by article, adding links, correcting errors, and most of all, expanding the information by incorporating the new sources I have discovered as I have worked through this project.

I hope you find something of interest in this series of articles which tells how Arsenal moved from being just another club to the most extraordinary club in the history of English football, and indeed the most famous club in the world.

Below is a list of all the articles published in the series.   There are also many articles on the players who played during this era, and I am building links within these articles to the separate commentaries of the players.

I’ve certainly enjoyed researching and writing this series of articles, and if you get even 1% of the enjoyment from reading them as I have had from writing them then you’ll probably have thought it worthwhile.

Arsenal in the 30s

1930s: the players, the crowds, the tactics

Joseph Szabo, his visit to Arsenal, and the way it changed SC Braga’s history.



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