By Tony Attwood
As coincidences go, this one is fairly near the top of the list of strange and unexpected ones.
February 15, 1930: Middlesbrough 0-2 Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Cup as Arsenal moved towards the club’s first major trophy.
February 15, 2015: Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
I’ve already about the 1929/30 season in which Arsenal won their first-ever major trophy – 44 years after it all started with Eastern Wanderers against Dial Square.
In that cup run, the 2-2 draw against Birmingham didn’t inspire confidence, not least because it came after a run of three defeats and a draw in the league. However, cups in those days were generally won by clubs slipping along unnoticed.
So we won the FA Cup for the first time in 1930, celebrated undoubtedly, and lost the next two league games, before having a holiday and preparing for the greatest season of the era – the league championship of 1930/1.
That season of 1930/1 involved scores such as 7-1, 9-1, 7-2, 6-3 - and five games in which we scored five.
But the league season 1929/30 was not good and Arsenal finished 14th - the league form of Arsenal under Herbert Chapman prior to 1931 is sometimes forgotten, and of course doesn’t diminish his massive importance to the club, but we can’t hide the facts. This was his fifth year at the club and what happened before that momentous.
Indeed in 1929/30 the FA Cup was something of a blessed relief, for between 26 December 1929 and 8 March 1930 Arsenal won just one league match out of the nine played. Three were draws.
In those days the bottom two went down and it was two points for a win, so Arsenal were in trouble. Although with Everton having played three more than Arsenal, there was every hope of avoiding the drop.
Thus in looking at two games on the same day 85 years apart there are contrasts.
At the time of the 2015 game against Middlesbrough, Arsenal were fifth in the league and FA Cup holders. In 1930 Arsenal had had just one appearance in the Cup final – a defeat to Cardiff in 1927.
In 2015 the manager Arsene Wenger was attempting to become the most prolific cup manager in the modern era having already won the cup five times. Herbert Chapman had already won the cup once with Huddersfield in 1922.
I write this, of course not knowing the outcome of the 2015 season, but as things stand in February 2015, Wenger is equal with Thomas Mitchell - who was also manager of Woolwich Arsenal for a while but who then fell out with the committee who ran the club - who won the FA Cup five times in 1884, 1885, 1886, 1890, 1891 and with Sir Alex Ferguson.
George Ramsay of Aston Villa is the all-time champion and the man Mr Wenger is seeking to emulate, with six cup wins between 1887 and 1920.
To conclude, here is the 1930 team:
Lewis, Parker, Roberts, Hapgood, Baker, John, Hulme, Jack, Lambert, James, Bastin
When you look at this lineup, it is a classic 1930s Arsenal team, which makes it rather odd that Arsenal could have such a poor run in the league that season. But then again, in football, stuff happens.