Arsenal League Champions 1933-34

In the 1930s Arsenal won the league three times in a row: 1932-33, 1933-34 and 1934-35.

All of these wins were obtained on opponents’ grounds, with two of these triumphs gained at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea…

1933-34 Arsenal team photo

Date: Saturday 28 April 1934

Competition: Football League Division One

Location: Stamford Bridge

Attendance: 65,344

Chelsea (0) 2                    Goalscorers: Horton, Mills

Arsenal (1) 2                    Goalscorers: James, Bastin


Chelsea: V Woodley, G Barber, R Macauley, W Russell, A Craig, J Hutcheson, E Oakton, G Mills, R Gregg, G Gibson, J Horton.

Arsenal: F Moss, G Male, E Hapgood, F Hill, H Roberts, C Jones, A Beasley, R Bowden, T Drake, A James (captain), C Bastin.


The crowd attendance was reduced from the previous year most likely due to the capital having the additional attraction of the FA Cup final being played a few miles to the north on the same day. The injured Joey Hulme, David Jack and Bob John were all watching the Arsenal from the sidelines.

A high quality match was played out where both attacks were on top. The Arsenal forward line was at its ingenious best, with Alex James, Cliff Bastin and Ray Bowden forming a tricky combination, assisted by Charlie Jones, whose assistance to the front line was a very real factor. Whereas for Chelsea George Mills at centre forward was a real threat.

Against the run of play Arsenal took the lead when a Bastin cross allowed James to crash a scorching shot from outside the penalty area onto the underside of the bar, and then bundle the rebounded ball into the net together with the Chelsea keeper Vic Woodley. It is highly dubious, in fact almost certain, that this goal would not be allowed to stand today owing to the physical element being defused over the years.

Jack Horton and Eric Oakton both missed chances for an equaliser soon after James’ strike, but a deserved equaliser came in the second half as the same Blues’ players combined allowing Horton to made amends by heading past Frank Moss from a pinpoint cross by Oakton.

Bastin contrived to get into unexpected positions, and after squaring the ball from the left wing, he sped at pace to the inside right position picked up a pass from Ted Drake and tested Woodley with a rasping shot.

Later Bastin ensured Arsenal regained the lead as he eluded the Chelsea defence. George Barber moved forward before the ball came across with the intention to play the Arsenal forwards offside but it did not work. It put him out of position to tackle Bastin, who trapped a swift pass from Jones and made no mistake with his shot.

Chelsea, a goal down, were still striving for a point to guarantee their safety and went on all-out attack. From one of these assaults Barber kicked the ball down the field to Mills. Herbie Roberts was shadowing him, but the Chelsea man managed to slip it past the policeman, while at the same time hooking it away from George Male. With his right knee Mills brought the ball down onto his left foot and let fly. Moss stood no chance of saving it!

Indeed overall Mills easily won the duel with Roberts which was an exceedingly rare event as usually he was so dominant from defence.

The Gunners in drawing had become Champions of England still with one game left to play. The one point gained by Chelsea was effectively irrelevant as Newcastle lost to Stoke ensuring that the Magpies were relegated and the Pensioners were safe for another season

Links to the match and participants:

The Arsenal team only showed 2 changes from the team who won the 1933 Championship just over a year earlier at Chelsea. Pat Beasley and Ted Drake came in for David Jack and Jack Lambert in an altered forward line.

Likewise Chelsea as Peter O’Dowd and Hughie Gallagher were replaced from the team the season previously by John Hutcheson and Robert Gregg.

Drake, recently acquired from Southampton, led the Arsenal line as centre forward but had a quiet game.

Drake, a legend at Arsenal for his 1930s goal scoring feats, was also the first Chelsea manager to win the Championship. His 1955 triumph was the only time the Blues won the League before the oil money turned up.

A day after this match the newspapers were full of reports that Arsenal were looking to bolster the midfield and purchase two half backs in the shape of Wilf Copping and Jack Crayston. Right-half Crayston was purchased on 16 May from Bradford Park Avenue for £5,250; while left-half Copping arrived from Leeds on 2 June for £8,000.

wilf copping arsenal 1938

Wilf Copping

Jack Crayston

Jack Crayston


Ted Drake

A few days after the league had been won Tom Whittaker, the Arsenal trainer, was in demand for his undoubted physio skills. One of a long line of non-football commissions he had been asked to massage a strained ankle for Jack Ormston, Birmingham speedway captain, which allowed him to be fit to ride at New Cross.

Other Arsenal 1933-34 Facts:

John McKenna, President of the Football League, presented Alex James with the League Championship trophy at the match with Sheffield United at Highbury on 5 May 1934. This coincided with David Jack’s last game for the Gunners before he moved on to manage Southend.

James attended the Championship dinner which was held in the evening of the final match of the season, after missing the previous season’s one following a spat with Herbert Chapman.

Arsenal finished three points ahead of Chapman’s old club Huddersfield, and they were invited to the dinner with the hosts.

This was James’ second season as captain, and as captain he would win the League Championship trophy three times, including this triumph, and the FA Cup once before he retired from playing in 1937.

Arsenal were defeated at home by Aston Villa in the FA Cup at the quarter final stage.

On the same day the FA Cup final at Wembley saw Manchester City defeat Portsmouth 2-1. At right back for Portsmouth was John Alexander Mackie. A native of Belfast, he had played 118 games for the Arsenal. These were predominantly in the pre-Chapman era at Highbury, and having started at Arsenal in 1921 he moved to Portsmouth in 1928.

Leslie Knighton, the manager who brought Mackie to Arsenal had been Chelsea’s manager since 1933, remaining at Stamford Bridge until around the start of World War 2.

Earlier in the season Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2-1 and thus, by drawing, the West Londoners narrowly avoided having the double completed over them. In both this and the previous season Chelsea avoided relegation by two points.

This was the second in a League winning triple for Arsenal, sadly marred as Chapman passed away mid-way through the season on 6 January 1934.

George Allison officially became manager on 30 May 1934, but on the death of Chapman he had taken effective control with Joe Shaw and Tom Whittaker overseeing the football side. In the following years this was pretty much the format they stuck by, Allison as club figurehead with Shaw and Whittaker taking responsibility for the playing side.

Additionally Frederick Wall joined the Arsenal Board soon after leaving as secretary of the Football Association.


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