62 goals in 19 games but not top of the league!
It was approaching a year since Chapman had died (January 6) and Arsenal as a team had marched on as if nothing had happened. With Joe Shaw having taken over as manager upon the great man’s death, Arsenal had won the league for the second time in succession.
From all that we can make out Joe was perfectly happy then to return to being in charge of the Football Combination team and so for 1934/5 Arsenal had their third manager in three years: George Allison, the first editor of the club’s programme (in 1910 – thus a colleague of Norris), famous journalist, famous radio broadcaster, club director, now the manager.
The first 11 games of George’s reign had been a triumph. Just one defeat, 5-1 thrashings of Tottenham and Birmingham, and a staggering 8-1 win over Liverpool.
The crowds were amazing too, with 68,145 turning up for the victory over Man City at Highbury on October 13, and 70,544 seeing the Tottenham game on October 20.
Between October 27 and November 17 there had been a wobble with two defeats, a win and a draw but normal service was resumed on November 24 with a 5-2 win over Chelsea, followed on December 1 with a 7-0 win over Wolverhampton.
In those two games Drake had scored eight of the twelve goals, and more were expected on December 8 – but the result was Huddersfield 1 Arsenal 1 – the Arsenal contribution coming from an own goal. Drake, James and Bastin were all there – they just couldn’t score. The newspapers gleefully declared the bubble had burst.
And so to December 15 1934 it was Arsenal v Leicester. Arsenal had scored 39 at home and let in eight in nine games at home thus far. Away Leicester had scored 10 and let in 20.
Fun and games were expected and yet only 23,689 turned up – most of the gentlemen fans had seemingly been dragged off to the shops for Christmas shopping. (It seems there was no Amazon in those days, and what with men generally working a five and a half day week, and the shops all being shut on Sunday, the last two Saturday afternoons before Christmas was when it all happened.
Those attending however were rewarded with this table in the programme. After the Huddersfield game Arsenal sat second, and Leicester at the foot of the table. (GA is goal average – goals scored divided by goals conceded. And of course two points for a win, one for a draw).
|6||West Bromwich Albion||18||8||4||6||44||40||1.10||20|
|16||Preston North End||18||6||4||8||25||32||0.78||16|
Although one point behind Sunderland, Arsenal had scored more goals and had a better goal average than anyone else in the League. Arsenal were scoring exactly three goals a game on average.
And on this day Arsenal won 8-0 for the first, but not the last time, that season (they also beat Middlesbrough at home by the same score on April 19 1935). Drake got three, Hulme three and Bastin two.
After the game the table stayed the same, with Sunderland also winning.
And yet it must seem now a bit strange that with all these sensational score lines Arsenal were not top of the league. Why was that?
The answer comes with the away record. Overall Arsenal had won 10 drawn six and lost three by the end of the Leicester game, but away from home the record was won one, drawn six and lost two! Indeed in the game after that on December 22 matters got worse because the score was Derby 3 Arsenal 1. In the next away game on December 26 it was Preston 2 Arsenal 1.
Finally however matters turned around on the eve of the first anniversary of Chapman’s death with Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2.
By the end of the season Arsenal’s away record was a more respectable won 8 drawn 8 lost 5 including a rather wonderful sounding Tottenham 0 Arsenal 6 on 6 March 1935. We won the league by four points having scored 115 goals of which 74 were at home – the third league title in a row, with each won under a different manager.
But that away record… I wonder if as Christmas approached in 1934 there were fans on the terraces , and journalists scribbling in Fleet Street, all saying of Allison, “he’ll have to go” and noting just how no team could ever win the league with that sort of away record.
Yet we did it – for the third time running with three different managers.
For details of the videos sorted by club, and videos in the order we published them, plus our 21 golden great videos please see here.
100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.
Henry Norris at the Arsenal: There is a full index to the series here.
Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever
Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.3 December 1949