17 September 1934: even the 1930s could have surprise defeats


17 September 1934: Arsenal lost to Blackburn who had only won one game and scored just five goals all season.

Before the game Arsenal were fourth in the league with a game in hand.  A win was highly expected, and it would have taken Arsenal level on points with Sunderland at the top.

In their last game Arsenal had played West Brom who in the previous five games had gained three wins, one draw and one defeat.  The result was a 4-3 win to Arsenal, and with Sheffield Wednesday losing and Preston and Sunderland both drawing the win helped Arsenal edge up the table.

For the third league match running the team was the same and for the fifth match running (which is to say, in all five league games played thus far) Drake scored.  Bowden, James and Bastin got the other goals.

Next came this match on 17 September away to Blackburn, the only league game played on this day.   Blackburn had won just one match up to this point, and scored just five goals (while Arsenal had knocked in 20) and Arsenal had already beaten them 4-0 in the third match of the season.  It looked like an away banker but Arsenal lost 0-2.

Such a defeat today would have the media howling that Arsenal were in chaos, and that the fact of having had three managers in the past nine months (following the death of Chapman, his temporary replacement by Joe Shaw, and now with Allison in charge) meant the club was set for a fall.

But it was different in the 1930s and the reason for the defeat was acknowledged: following the previous match just two days before Arsenal had to reshuffle the team to cope with injuries sustained in that match.  Sidey came in at centre half and John was left half while Marshall replaced Alex James at inside left.  It was a reshuffling that simply couldn’t cope with what the papers called the home team’s “rumbustious” approach.

Then on 22 September, Arsenal travelled to Sheffield for their match against Wednesday who were currently lying eighth in the league.

Amazingly, the team that had earlier in the month been unable to stop scoring goals, now failed to score for the second match running – the result was a goalless draw.  There was a bit of muttering, but wisely not much, which showed a bit of foresight.  Arsenal went on to win the league by four points.

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