A hat-trick of League titles (1934–39)

Arsenal had started the 1933–34 season solidly, but in January 1934 Herbert Chapman died suddenly from pneumonia. Despite this, under caretaker manager Joe Shaw Arsenal retained the title that season; Hulme and James were both out with injury for a large portion, and so Arsenal were not the attacking side they had been the previous season, scoring only 75 in the League, compared with 118 in 1932–33.

Arsenal Stadium’s East Stand, which was built in 1936

George Allison (who had formerly been a director of the club) took over the job of team manager in summer 1934 and soon signed new blood for the side, including wing halves Jack Crayston and Wilf Copping (whose signings had been initiated by Chapman), and striker Ted Drake. With these new signings, Allison oversaw the completion of a hat-trick of League titles in 1934–35, and Arsenal were back to their attacking best; Drake scored a club record 42 league goals that season and Arsenal racked up a series of heavily one-sided scorelines reminiscent of the 1930–31 season (including 7–0 v. Wolves, 8–1 v. Liverpool, and 8–0 twice, v. Leicester City and v. Middlesbrough). Such was Arsenal’s strength that in November 1934, seven players that started for the England side that beat World Champions Italy3–2 (in the so-called “Battle of Highbury“) were on Arsenal’s books, a record number of players from a single club, which still stands today.

Arsenal’s ongoing success attracted larger and larger crowds. Arsenal’s home, Highbury, was completely redeveloped, with Leitch’s stands from 1913 demolished and replaced with modern Art Deco stands, parts of which remain to this day — the façade of the East Stand is now a Grade II listed building, and both façades have been retained as part of the modern-day redevelopment of Highbury into an apartment complex. Meanwhile, the North Bank and Clock End terraces had roofs installed. The new stadium saw its largest attendance, 73,295, on 9 March 1935 for a match against Sunderland.

Arsenal’s dominance of the decade was sealed with a second FA Cup in 1935–36winning 1–0 against Sheffield United with a goal from Drake. Arsenal faded in the League somewhat after the 1934–35 title, and were weakened by the retirement of Alex James and the club’s inability to replace him, as well as long-term injuries to several other key players such as Herbie Roberts and Joe Hulme. Nevertheless, they won a fifth League title in 1937–38, pipping Wolves on the final day of the season, to cap off a highly successful decade.

 

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