In the 1930s, the Football League, dominated as it was by northern and midlands clubs (who saw Arsenal as nothing other than southern upstarts that needed to be put in their place,) announced that Arsenal should pay a £250 fine for playing weakened teams throughout the run-up to the FA Cup Final.
On February 29 1936 Arsenal had beaten Barnsley 4-1 at Highbury in the 6th round of the FA Cup. With other clubs playing League matches that day Arsenal now had a couple of games in hand, but clearly had little chance of winning the League. However, being in the semi-final Arsenal had every chance of winning the cup. Hence the weakened team sheets for the league games.
Indeed from this point on, new names started to appear in the Arsenal team for league games – including players who had not made a single appearance before, during the season. Players like Cartwright (left half and right half), Kirchen (outside right), Cox (centre forward), Tuckett (centre half), Westcott (centre forward) and Bernard Joy, (centre half). Additionally, Dougall, who had made one earlier appearance got a run of games at inside left.
These players notched up 30 games between them during the remainder of the season – but (not surprisingly) not one of them played either in the semi-final of the Cup on 21 March against Grimsby, nor in the final on 25 April against ~Sheffield United.
On 4 March 1936 Arsenal beat Derby County away 4-0 which given Derby’s position in the league was a fair vindication of the team selection by George Allison, especially as new men Dougall, Kirchen and Cox all scored. And despite playing some reserves in the first team, and despite winning only two games in the last 14, Arsenal still came in 6th at the end of the season. But with three games to go before the end of the season Arsenal had won the cup on 25 April beating Sheffield U 1-0.
All in all it seemed Arsenal’s “weakened teams” were still a match for most of the rest of the league.
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