We examine a particular season of Arsenal's glorious history, what happened, when and where, the stats and facts.
With unemployment breaking the two million mark, it was predicted that crowd figures at northern clubs, particularly in heavy industrial areas, were likely to fall during the season. That certainly seemed to be the case when FA Cup winners Arsenal began their campaign at newly promoted Blackpool. A disappointing 28,723 turned up to see the Gunners crush the Tangerines 4-1. David Jack and Cliff Bastin are in sparkling form as Chapman’s side begin their season in fine style.
Arsenal follow up their clobbering of Blackpool with an excellent away win at Bolton. Jack Lambert, always fearful that he’d eventually be replaced up front, nets a hat-trick. Having finally seen off the challenge from striker Davie Halliday, ‘Jackie’ Lambert will now go from strength to strength. If the Depression was biting hard in the north, the government revealed that building work in London continued apace. Crowd figures remained constant in the capital, and Arsenal win their first two home league games against Leeds and Blackburn at Highbury, where they parade the FA Cup to the fans. By the end of the month, with further victories against Sunderland, Leicester and Birmingham, Arsenal have already racked up 28 goals, with Lambert leading the way on 14.
Arsenal stutter slightly in the league, drawing at home to Sheffield United, and losing 4-2 at Derby, before regaining their form with an away win at relegation-bound Manchester United. Joey Williams, the winger whose dramatic intervention against Hull City in March’s FA Cup semi-final changed the course of the Gunners’ history, grabs his team’s first goal. Cliff Bastin nets Arsenal’s equaliser in a lively 1-1 draw at home to West Ham in front of Highbury’s first 50,000- plus crowd of the season.
Arsenal emerge unscathed from Leeds Road following their 1-1 draw with Huddersfield. David Jack plunders Arsenal’s goal following sublime link up play with Alex James. Although clashes between the Gunners and Chapman’s former side would be dubbed the ‘Champions’ game throughout the decade, Town never did add another title after 1926. More of a threat to Arsenal’s chances of landing a first title are Aston Villa, and their star striker Pongo Waring. Villa are swept aside in a tornado of attacking football at Highbury, with Bastin and Jack grabbing a brace apiece. At Stamford Bridge, a gargantuan 74,667 watch Arsenal run out 5-1 winners. David Jack’s hat-trick, a superb example of his power and grace, sees off the Blues.
"They secured the championship with a 3-1 win against Liverpool at Highbury in front of 39,000 supporters"
The weather turns grim, but Arsenal’s title assault shows no sign of cooling off. Although Chapman’s side suffer a reverse at home against Newcastle, they run out 4-1 winners at Maine Road on Christmas Day in front of 56,000, and a day later, inflict more misery on Manchester City in the reverse fixture with a 3-1 win. The small 17,624 crowd is due to a strike by train and Tube drivers. There is no rest for the players though, as Arsenal run out 7-1 winners against Blackpool at Highbury – their third game in three days! David Jack and Jimmy Brain star as they score a hat-trick apiece.
Arsenal start the defence of the FA Cup against much-fancied Aston Villa at Highbury. Lambert and Jack scramble a draw for the Gunners. Four days later in the Villa Park replay, flying winger Joe Hulme and forward David Jack help Arsenal to a 3-1 win. Legend has it that despite the victory, confident Villa striker Pongo Waring said to Herbert Chapman: “I bet you’d like to have me on your side, wouldn’t you?” That may have been the case, but Waring remained in the Midlands. Ten days later, however, Arsenal were left free to concentrate on their pursuit of the title, tumbling to a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round. In the league, Arsenal hammer a hapless Grimsby Town 9-1. Although Lambert nets a hat-trick, he’s outdone by David Jack, who hits four goals.
With the newspapers heralding British engineering and workmanship, as Captain Malcolm Campbell breaks the land speed record in Bluebird at Daytona Beach in the USA, the Arsenal machine roars on as they put seven past Leicester at Filbert Street. They follow up the victory with a 6-3 win at Derby, a 4-1 victory against Manchester United and a dramatic 4-2 success at Upton Park. Joe Hulme later recalled: “We’d always been confident that we could win the league, but when we emerged from February still ahead of the others, I was convinced that we would do it. We all were."
Storm clouds gather over Europe as Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists make gains in respective elections in Germany and Italy. With the coalition Government under pressure in the UK, even notoriously taciturn Gunners defender Eddie Hapgood claims to be “concerned about what’s happening throughout the world.” For the second time this season, Arsenal draw with Huddersfield, and four days later in front of just 12,212 (fans have long since deserted their relegation-threatened team) Bastin and James ensure a 2-1 at Elland Road against Leeds. The team suffers a huge setback at Villa Park when Aston Villa, the only team with a chance of catching the Gunners, win 5-1. Chapman demands a reaction and gets it when Arsenal fight back to defeat Sheffield Wednesday at Highbury and, after a barren spell, Lambert returns to form at Ayresome Park as his side runs out 5-2 winners.
1930/31 Division One table
|18||West Ham United||42||14||8||20||79||94||36|
With the finishing line in sight, the previously free-scoring Gunners appear to seize up slightly. The Gunners are held at high- flying Portsmouth, and squeeze past Chelsea thanks to goals from Hulme and Bastin. Lambert’s winner at Grimsby leaves Arsenal on the brink of becoming the first southern club to win the title, and they secure the championship with a 3-1 win against Liverpool at Highbury in front of 39,000 supporters. Fittingly, Lambert, Bastin and Jack, later described as “the flying forwards from Highbury” by Bill Shankly, score the goals to make history and show that Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph, rather than being a flash in the pan, was actually the springboard for a period of dominance by the Club. To demonstrate that the Gunners have no intention of taking their foot off the gas, a week after the Liverpool game they travel to St James’ Park and cruise past Newcastle 3-1.
Chapman’s boys finish the season in great style, thrashing Bolton 5-0 in front of 35,406 at Highbury as skipper Tom Parker gets his hands on the trophy. Midfielder Alex James has the honour of scoring the final goal of the season. The team for the final match is usually regarded as Chapman’s classic line-up: Harper, Parker, Hapgood, Roberts, Jones, John, Hulme, Bastin, James, Jack, Lambert. The Gunners finish the 1930/31 campaign seven points ahead of Aston Villa, and to show the respect both clubs had for one another, their first-team XI attend the Gunners’ end-of-season banquet.
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