Arsenals Top Seasons – 1930-31 Our 2nd Best and First Top Flight Title

Here is an early accounting of the game against Liverpool when we won our very first Division One League Championship.

Date: Saturday 18 April 1931
Competition: Football League Division One
Location: Highbury
Attendance: 39,143
Arsenal: B Harper, T Parker (captain), E Hapgood, B John, H Roberts, C Jones, J Hulme, D Jack, J Lambert, A James, C Bastin. Manager: Herbert Chapman.
Liverpool: E Scott, J Jackson (captain), T Lucas, T Morrison, N James, J McDougall, H Barton, G Hodgson, D Wright, A McPherson, G Gunson. Manager: George Patterson.
A full strength Arsenal went into the game with Liverpool at Highbury needing only a point to secure their first ever League title. Arsenal were not helped by the wind which was blowing directly into their faces in the first half – in the third minute we conceded a goal when the wind diverted a cross which bounced off the thigh of Herbie Roberts and evaded goalie Harper’s left hand.
On 25 minutes David Jack equalised after a pass from Charlie Jones set him up to shoot. Arsenal despite the wind disadvantage held on for the remainder of the first half and began the second half with the wind on their backs! Arsenal piled on the pressure and the Liverpool defence held on until the 65th minute when James took a free kick from 25 yards out which he feigned to send to Hulme but passed to Lambert. The ball found its way on to Bastin whose crisp drive nestled just inside the post. Five minutes later Harper punted the ball up field and found Hulme whose cross to Lambert was rolled past Scott into the Liverpool net.

Rare brochure celebrating Arsenal at the beginning of our golden period in the 1930s

This was the first time one of the Southern teams won the Division One title. Arsenal were continuing their rise to the top echelons of football, Herbert Chapman had put together an exceptional forward line consisting of Jack Lambert, David Jack and Cliff Bastin and opposition defences simply could not cope with their combined skills. Lambert scored 38 goals in 34 matches, Jack 31 in 35 and Bastin 28 from 42. Joe Hulme also netted 14 times as Arsenal scored 127 league goals, a club record for a single season.

This was an exciting time to be a Gunner as we handed out a number of heavy defeats. Grimsby Town were on the end of a 9-1 hiding in a replay of the game that was abandoned on December 6th 1930, although they could consider themselves slightly unlucky as they were leading 1-0 when the re-scheduled game was abandoned due to fog.

Arsenal Information Corner in the south west corner of Highbury  Stadium was extremely busy in the 1930/31 season

Blackpool lost 7-1 at Highbury, Derby conceded six on their visit to North London, and Arsenal won 7-2 at Leicester. Cliff Bastin – already Arsenal’s youngest scorer, became their youngest scorer of a hat-trick (at 18) in a 6-3 win over Derby on February 14. Arsenal won four of their first seven games by 4-1 and looked the only possible winners after beating their nearest challengers, Aston Villa, 5-2 on November 8 – a defeat compounded by Villa’s 6-4 home defeat by Derby the following week. Villa won the return against Arsenal 5-1 in March, but by then it was too late.

Arsenal’s first League title set them on the way to their domination of the 1930s. The previous year’s FA Cup final victory over manager Herbert Chapman’s old club, Huddersfield, was very symbolic, but the championship cemented the arrival of Arsenal. It took Chapman six years to win it, but then the floodgates opened, with three in a row from 1933-35, another in 1938 and a second Cup win in 1936 – although sadly he didn’t live to see most of the silverware, having died in 1934.

Herbert Chapman surveying the future

The 1930/31 season also saw the debut of the Gunners first player signed from overseas, Dutch goalkeeper Gerry Keyser. He played in the first 12 league matches of the campaign. Another debutant was George Male who made his Arsenal debut against Blackpool in December and went on to serve the Club until 1948; his first appearance was on Christmas Day. The team played three games in three days over the Christmas period, and won them all scoring 14 goals in the process.

Arsenal’s 66 points were six better than the previous best in League history. Only Arsenal have stayed in the top flight without interruption since then, Everton were Second Division champions in their first year below the top level and won the League title the following season.

The Times on 20 April wrote an intelligent piece entitled “Arsenal’s Triumph” about the key to the team being Herbert Chapman’s planning the construction of a watertight defence balanced with the counter attack:

The Team succeed by the rapidity and unexpectedness with which they transform defence into attack. They lure their opponents into a false sense of security, and then, with a short series of sudden blows, accomplish their downfall. A goal is scored before the other side has realised that it is not the attacking side. Theirs is a cunningly devised plan, and its success is to be judged by the large number of goals scored, averaging almost three a match.

The successes of Arsenal have been due more to excellent team play and adaptability than to the brilliant individualism of a few costly players of renown…The various players have sunk their individuality in the team and each has taken his full share in promoting the fortunes of the club.

The club held the League Championship winning dinner and dance at the Café Royal on the evening of Thursday 30 April. This was to be the first of five such celebrations in the decade of the 1930s. 300 people were present at the banquet including the full complement of Aston Villa players, who were cordially invited as runners up.

The trophy was handed to Tom Parker by John McKenna, President of the Football League after the end of the Bolton game, the final game of the season at Highbury. This presentation on 2 May 1931 was made in the grandstand with supporters allowed to congregate on the pitch in front of the ceremony.

Tumultuous scenes were witnessed as the game was delayed as thousands ran onto the pitch thinking the game had ended. They all had to be removed by the police from the pitch before the final whistle could be blown. When the whistle blew they all ran on again and carried off the players to the grandstand.

35,406 witnessed the 5-0 win followed by the League Championship trophy being awarded to Arsenal, and indeed to any London club, for the very first time.  Previously the most southerly team to win the League had been Aston Villa.

Written by GunnerN5

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66 Responses to Arsenals Top Seasons – 1930-31 Our 2nd Best and First Top Flight Title

  1. chas says:

    Cheers, GN5, what a fine way to break our top filght title virginity.

    Slightly galling that Villa scored one more goal than us (a top flight record that stands today, though obviously it was over 42 games).

    Perhaps conceding 19 goals less than the Villans was the key to the triumph.

    The Times’ description of Chapman’s team could be referring to Arsene’s earlier teams, who revelled in those lightning counter thrusts.

    Thanks again.

  2. Rasp says:

    Terrific read, thank you GN5 … you continue to educate me.

    I love this in the Times article ….

    ….They lure their opponents into a false sense of security, and then, with a short series of sudden blows, accomplish their downfall. A goal is scored before the other side has realised that it is not the attacking side….

    … there are echoes of that approach in what Nick Hornby wrote when describing The Invicibles.

    I haven’t seen Terry around for a while …. but my hope is that “the ghosts of the thirties will be stirring” once again 🙂

  3. chas says:

    Love the proper Blackpool fans heard on this clip filmed at the very start of the 1930/31 season.

    Bastin scores a pen in a 4-1 win and Arsenal have the cheek to parade their recently won FA Cup.
    You can just hear the chap in the crowd say ” I want that Cup” 🙂

  4. GoonerB says:

    Brilliant work GN5. It seems I guessed correctly for the top 3 seasons. Only one to come…..and we all know what that is 🙂

    I echo Chas’ and Rasp’s thoughts about the similarity in football style between Chapmans side and AW’s early sides. I truly believe Arsene slightly changed his football ideology and vision of what type of team he wanted some years back, and moved from that previous style to something he felt represented an even greater footballing utopia.

    Unfortunately I feel this utopia lacked some pragmatism and realism, and was too romantic and unrealistic in its vision which has largely been what has led us to where we are today. Its a shame because I genuinely believe Arsenal under Arsene had more title wins in them had he stuck to his original tried and tested formula, but it is all spilt milk now and will not deflect from his overall brilliance and contribution to the club. History will remember him well.

  5. GoonerB says:

    BTW Chas, can I say how much more buff you look these days in that selfie from the last post. Chas the chick magnet….I will make sure I hang around you in the FFB from now on.

  6. RA says:

    A superb Post, GN5, but you must be well used to such an accolade.

    I have to admit that Chas has voiced every thought I would have had – or pinched from him. 🙂

    Well done sir. 🤨

  7. RA says:

    The thought of you Chas and GB hanging out in the buff hunting for birds has brought a smile to my face.

    What’s your preference Quail? Chickens? What? -:)

    Just as I am on here, I thought I would let you know, am not able to comment too much as I am back in hospital.

    Bloody hell.

  8. GunnerN5 says:

    Hi RA, Obviously all is not well for you to be back in hospital, I just hope that it’s not too serious and they you are able to get out soon.

    All the best wishes from myself and the AA clan

    Thanks for your positive comment on my post.

  9. GunnerN5 says:

    Hi Chas, you find some perfect videos. I remember all to well watching games when all we had was a black and white set. When the teams wore the same coloured shorts it took a while to figure out who was who.

  10. Big Raddy says:

    GN5. Another classic.

    My early fantasy/subbuteo teams included half the 30/31 squad. James, Bastin, Jack, Male etc are true legends of Arsenal.

    Imagine averaging 3 goals a game!

  11. mickydidit89 says:

    GN5

    This Top 10 Arsenal Seasons anthology is Herculean

    Bind the buggers together, throw in some scantily clad buxom wenches and a murderer, and you have a blockbuster on your hands

    Thank you very much indeedy

  12. mickydidit89 says:

    RA

    Hope you get better properly this time
    Best wishes
    DIDIT

  13. Eddie says:

    Final 1930/31 table made me laugh – Pool mid table, Man U right at the bottom and Tottenham nowhere to be seen, good old times 🙂

    ManU conceded 115 goals ha ha ha, next season they finally bought a goalie.

    GN5 – thank you for the amazing post, really good stuff. I love the ‘wind excuse’, even better than poor refereeing or uneven surface. Wind scored against us

  14. mickydidit89 says:

    Big Al

    You mentioned you’d been surfing. Can I assume because you’re called Big, Al, that you are a long boarder?

    Warm water surfing makes me very jealous

  15. Sorry, Micky
    You’ve lost me.

    I know it’s possibly a joke, though.
    Make that ‘probably’.
    Give me a clue.

  16. mickydidit89 says:

    Maybe I got the wrong bloke, swear you said you’d been surfing

    Could have been someone else, or maybe you meant internetporn surfing, as opposed to the wave riding variety 🙂

  17. chas says:

    Get better soon, RA.
    You’ve been told.

  18. VP of Oz says:

    Another brilliant post GN5, many thanks

  19. VP of Oz says:

    Micky, all this talk about a new coach, this you might find interesting from wiki – Personal life: After retiring from football, Luis Enrique lived for a while in Australia to practice surfing.

  20. chas says:

  21. chas says:

  22. mickydidit89 says:

    VP

    Thanks. Got to say I’d be very frightened of big, angry sharks down your way. Mick Fanning I am not!

  23. mickydidit89 says:

    THAT TRAP…. cool 🙂

    Matchday Motnings to one and all

  24. chas says:

    Think we’re going to win today?
    Not sure.
    Think we’re going to win today?
    Not sure.
    Think we’re going to win today??
    Not sure.
    Think we’re going to win today?
    Not sure.

  25. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Hope tonight’s game will be more entertaining than RM’s performance last night.

    Micky. I’ve had a go at surfing in Oz at Surfers Paradise (which is an awful place) and Byron Bay (where I would choose to live in another life). Ended up bruised and battered without having ever stood on the board. I was shamed into body surfing

  26. mickydidit89 says:

    Erik

    I’ve become a very fair weather surfer, bit like my casual armchair approach to Arsenal

    But not that low that I’d contemplate a body board 🙂

  27. chas says:

    Body surfing isn’t with a board, is it?

  28. Eddie says:

    i would have thought the you body surf when you fall of the board

  29. Eddie says:

    strange game last night, nowhere near as entertaining as the liverpoodian performance. RM were dominating the game when BM scored. Then BM dominated when RM scored. Ronaldo didn’t get to touch the ball, that horrible Ribbery falling as much as Robben used to do, both teams looked completely disjointed at times, very strange game indeed

  30. Eddie says:

    Ox out of the world cup, sad. He has been in top form lately, turned around his career. And that makes me wonder why he was going backwards at Arsenal? Could the accusation that we destroy young talent rather than develop it be true?

  31. Eddie says:

    they love football in Argentine. Maradona is God, Messi – Adam at Argentina FC HQ

  32. Big Raddy says:

    Superb ceiling. Wonder if Mrs R will allow one here? Henry, Adams and Big Raddy with PV4, DB and IW as angels

  33. mickydidit89 says:

    That’s a great painting, Eddie

    An AFC version? DB10 and Mesut?

    Re: The Ox, he plays his preferred position for them ie more central after they flogged that bloke to Barca

  34. chas says:

  35. Eddie says:

    what??? DB an angel??? He was god

  36. mickydidit89 says:

    Regarding the body surfing, as opposed to body boarding, a mate of mine has a hand board made of wood, about a foot long x about 8″ wide that you use on your leading arm. Pretty sure he got it from Aus and it’s superb

  37. chas says:

    Maybe The Ox has been overtrained like the spuds so that the dippers can gegenpress, hence the inevitable injury.

  38. Eddie says:

    chas – the article was PUBLISHED in January!! In the last 4 months Ox became a great player, player we were hoping he would be for us.

  39. Eddie says:

    Diego Costa, took me a while to remember that bastard’s face

  40. Eddie says:

    oh fuck, Costa is in London for tonight’s game!!! oh no, that ruined my day

  41. chas says:

    I only skim read the article, saw something about a goal against Man City and assumed it was the CL one. So, apologies.

    Whenever I’ve seen him play, he’s been bang average, capable of the sublime and the awful, but then I don’t watch Liverpool with the same commitment and adoration that you do. 🙂

  42. chas says:

    One thing’s for certain Liverpool have been in a different class to us this season and have a great chance of winning the CL again.

  43. chas says:

    Even without Oxbow-Chambermaid. 🙂

  44. Eddie says:

    no, no, no, I hate Liverpool now. Every time they win I know some fecking bastard is having good time. I want them to lose, badly!!

  45. chas says:

    Why are you always praising them all the time like a proper fan girl?

  46. GoonerB says:

    Morning all and can I just say get well soon RA and COYRRG’s

    Raddy I have been to Byron Bay as well and quite liked it. Knowing what I do know about you I can quite see you driving around in one of those psychedelic VW shagwagon’s that frequent the place 🙂 Is the braided hair still an option?

    Also had a couple of light ales in a surf club just south of surfers paradise. I think it was called snapper bay near Coolengatta. While watching 3 surfers in formation about 3 Dolphins appeared between them riding the waves like the surfers diving in and out. It was like they had properly and deliberately synchronised it with the surfers. I didnt have my phone ready quick enough to get a video.

  47. chas says:

  48. Big Raddy says:

    According to BBC Costa has a hamstring injury. Looks like false news.

    Better adjust my PM 😦

  49. Big Raddy says:

    GB. How did you know? I really did go to Byron Bay in a psychedelic VW shagwagon’ !!

    And this is not a joke. 😀

  50. mickydidit89 says:

    Chas

    You do love to publish that stuff don’t you

    Is this your shite stirring plan in full swing?

    Bloody trouble maker 🙂 🙂

  51. Eddie says:

    I did like Liverpool because of their history,the passion, their unbelievable fans, because of the ‘You never walk alone’ and because I (sadly) was married to a Liverpool fan. And now I hate them passionately but have to admit to enjoying watching them play. Can you make any sense of it? I cannot 🙂

  52. mickydidit89 says:

    What a superb sight that must have been GB

  53. mickydidit89 says:

    Eddie

    No apologies needed. I confessed the other day to my own dirty secret. Their fans (when in European competition) are awesome and their style of play under Klopp most pleasing

    ‘orrible shower otherwise

  54. chas says:

    From the Times…..

    “Arsène Wenger has confirmed that the timing of his departure from Arsenal was not his decision. He has disclosed few details about the move to step down as manager but suggested that he was effectively pushed out when asked why the announcement was made less than a week before the club’s most crucial game of the season, against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final, first leg tonight.”

  55. Big Raddy says:

    I enjoy watching the Klopp’s Liverpool. They play entertaining football. Salah is superb and seems a decent bloke.

  56. chas says:

    Hey, tonight we been asked to get into the stadium 20 minutes early to build an atmosphere with our free flags and light show.

    Get in 20 minutes early and you have to listen to the PA blasting out shite at full volume all the way up to kick off which doesn’t allow any atmosphere to build.

  57. GoonerB says:

    Haha. Raddy. When was it? Got a feeling I may have seen a hippy matching your description 🙂

  58. chas says:

    I want to see a photo of BR with braided hair.

  59. Big Raddy says:

    GB 2008

    Chas No chance

  60. Big Raddy says:

    There is a New Post

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