15 September: Arsenal slip to bottom of the league



15 September 1953: Chelsea 0 Arsenal 2.

Having won the league the previous season Arsenal had to wait until this, the 9th match of the campaign for their first win, by which time they were bottom of the league.  Both goals came from Lishman.

Indeed Arsenal were not only bottom but two points adrift from the clubs above, having suffered the sort of defeat (1-7 to Sunderland) that Arsenal become more used to dishing out to others than receiving.

Thereafter four changes were made, and away to Chelsea on September 15 we finally got a victory, 2-0, in front of 60,652 fans.  The win started an improvement change in Arsenal’s results and we won four and drew one of those next five games.

But even so there were still problems such as on October 17 with the 2-5 home defeat to Burnley and January 23 a 1-4 home defeat to Sunderland.

Although Arsenal climbed up the table and ended the season in 12th position, there was still more bad news, for on 30 January 1954 we took on Norwich City of the Third Division South in front of 55767 at Highbury in the fourth round of the cup.  And we lost 1-2.

The high scoring defeats were not done either as Arsenal lost 2-5 away to Newcastle on April 17.

Although now forgotten the defeat to Norwich was, at the time, considered to the biggest upset of the era and of the magnitude of Chapman’s Cup defeat against Walsall.  Worse the match was also notable for Alex Forbes being sent off along with Norwich’s Brennan for serious misconduct.  And that in an era when sending’s off were very rare indeed.

There was not even an excuse in terms of Arsenal having sent out a reserve team.  Every player bar the left back (Lionel Smith) played over 15 games in the league for the club that season – and Smith himself had played over 170 games for the club by that time.

Over the next few seasons Tom Whittaker did start to rebuild the team but in 1956 he died in office of a heart attack before he could complete the task.  It would be another 14 years before the club won its next trophy (that being in 1970 of course).

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