Iconic moments in Arsenal’s History: Joe Shaw wins the league and signs a genius.


Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.  Have your name in the book as an official sponsor.  Updated information here


By Tony Attwood

It is not unknown for Arsenal fans not fully versed in the club’s history to believe that Herbert Chapman won three consecutive championships with Arsenal, having done the same with Huddersfield.

Of course a very quick look at the reference books shows that Mr Chapman won the league in 1931 and 1933.   Our triple came in 1933/4/5, and the second of these victories was in the season that Herbert Chapman died – on 6th January 1934.  Joe Shaw took over as caretaker manager for the rest of the season.

I have written at length about Joe Shaw before but here’s a couple of pointers that relate to why this victory in the league is iconic.  It is not just because of winning the league, it is because it was part of a lifetime’s service to the club, and because he had the nerve to introduce to the team one of the greatest players we have ever had in an Arsenal shirt.

Joe had played 309 league games as a full back for Woolwich Arsenal and then Arsenal never scoring a goal.  He was Arsenal’s captain, and only the third player to clock up 300 games, and his career ended on March 11, 1922, a couple of months short of his 38th birthday.

He was therefore was there when Woolwich Arsenal were in the first division, was there when we were relegated (and in fact had his testimonial game as the final game of the relegation season), was there for the move to Highbury, and was made captain when we return to the top division.  He is also one of those players who would have played many more games and possibly held our record number of appearances, had it not been for the four war years when no official football was played.

When he finished playing for Arsenal (after 326 games including the FA Cup matches) he became manager of Arsenal Reserves, and taking over the club as manager in the second week of January 1934 must have been impossible.

Arsenal were top of the league having lost two of their 24 league games that season when Mr Chapman passed away and although Joe Shaw started with a cup win in the 3rd round 1-0 against Luton Town the league form collapsed losing in turn to Manchester City, Tottenham H, and Everton.  Joe’s first three league games as manager resulted in more defeats than Mr Chapman had registered all season.

Three successive wins against Derby, Huddersfield and Liverpool helped steady the ship, not least because the goals started to return.   The three defeats had brought in 3 goals – but the three wins gave us five goals – not much better, but enough to give faith.  However we beat Crystal Palace of the third division south in the cup 7-0 in front of 56,000, and Derby County in front of 66,905 in the fifth round.

But despite this return to form, there were still wobbles.  The first two games of March were defeats – in the cup to Villa (again at home and this time in front of 67,366) and away in the league to Leicester in the league 1-4.

Yet in the end everything turned out ok.   Of the remaining league games we won 8, drew 2 and lost 1, to win the title for the second successive year.  Amazingly we did it with one more point that the previous year under Herbert Chapman.

In fact the record in this hybrid year with its wobble after the death of Herbert Chapman compares well with Chapman’s last season.

In 1932/3 we won 25, drew 8 and lost 9.  In the hybrid year we won 25 drew 9 and lost 8.  The attack was less strong in the second year (75 goals instead of 118) but the defence was better (47 let in rather than 61).  In 1932/3 we ended up four points clear of Villa, while in 1933/4 we ended up three points clear of Huddersfield.

And here’s the other point that is often forgotten about this championship victory: on 24 March Joe Shaw brought in a new number 9.  Coleman, Bowden, Lambert, Dunne and Cox had all occupied the centre forward slot in the 1933/4 season before Ted Drake arrived in March 1934 from Southampton of the second division for £6,500.  He scored on his league debut and played the last 10 games of the season and scored 7.

(Incidentally Joe Shaw also had to cope with the loss of Frank Moss in goal, and brought in Wilson for his first games – he played in five of the last ten matches.)

Joe stayed on at the club during the second world war and then became assistant manager to Tom Whittaker, before being a “club ambassador”.   He retired in 1956 after an amazing 49 years working for Arsenal.

Current Series: The 10 iconic moments that defined Arsenal’s history

Part 1: Opening the club to all comers

Part 2: The Great Conspiracy – when they tried to shut Arsenal down

Part 3: Death and rebirth in 1910

Part 4: 100 years since moving to Highbury – our next anniversary and our fourth iconic moment

Part 5: Gaining promotion in 1919

Part 6: The appointment of Chapman


3 Replies to “Iconic moments in Arsenal’s History: Joe Shaw wins the league and signs a genius.”

  1. You mention that Drake was signed in March. When was the January transfer window established — and why? Was it this deal, or some other too-close-to-the-end-of-the-season deal that did it?

    It was a trade near me, in July 1922, that established baseball’s trading deadline of June 15, which lasted until 1986 when it was extended to July 31. The other major North American sports — American football, basketball and hockey — also have trading deadlines, rather than one specific month in mid-season where purchases can happen (and straight-up trades rarely do).

  2. The transfer windows are relatively new innovations. Without looking I would say they were introduced about 5 years ago.

    Before then we had a transfer deadline day (usually some time in March). Any player that was transferred after the deadline could not play in a game where either team could still be relegated or promoted.

  3. Initially all players had to re-register with their clubs each season, and sign for the season. Then, as registration was made for life (until the club ended it) transfers evolved around 1880, and there was no limit on when transfers could be arranged.

    Sometime around 1919 (sorry I don’t have the date) a transfer window was established which stopped transfers during the last month of the season, and that is how it stayed until FIFA set up regulations to try and co-ordinate transfers.

    The EU were against such measures as a restraint of trade on the players, but eventually a compromise was reached for the 2002-3 season, and has been in effect since then with occasional modifications.

    Not every country has the same window – in Russia for example transfers continue until the end of February and in the southern hemisphere the transfer periods coincide with the season not the Euro rule.

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