Except it’s a load of old cobblers

One of the stories about Arsenal that Tottenham fans like dredge up due to their seemingly perpetual inferiority complex is that the Middlesex club were relegated in 1928 because Arsenal deliberately lost games to ensure this happened.

Even worse is that it gets an airing in some histories written about Arsenal, even the club’s official history!

So, is it true? Of course not.

mythbusters

Let’s take a look at this paragraph written by a particularly deluded fan:

Really?

Really?

If you want to read the whole blog, it is available by clicking here. I don’t recommend it, though.

Now, Alessio informs us that Arsenal deliberately lost games against Burnley and Portsmouth in 1927-28 when Tottenham finished second from bottom in the First Division. A look at Arsenal’s fixtures for that season show us that they played Burnley on 31 August and 5 September, the second and fourth games of the season. To have foreseen that Arsenal defeats in these two games so early in the season would have resulted in Tottenham being relegated would be stretching the realms of fantasy to the very extreme. On top of that, Arsenal actually won both of these games.

The game at Portsmouth was the ninth of the season, and was also won. This story isn’t looking too strong, is it? But…the home game was the 32nd of the season played on 28 March, and Arsenal lost. Could this be the game that Tottenham fans have been seeking? Let’s take a look at the league table on the morning of this game:

Pos Team Played Points Goal Avge
1 Huddersfield Town 32 42 1.50
2 Everton 34 39 1.42
3 Leicester City 34 38 1.19
4 Cardiff City 34 38 1.02
5 Bolton Wanderers 34 37 1.25
6 Blackburn Rovers 33 35 0.88
7 Newcastle United 33 34 1.06
8 West Ham United 34 34 1.00
9 Tottenham Hotspur 34 34 0.96
10 Bury 35 34 0.90
11 Birmingham City 34 33 0.95
12 Burnley 35 33 0.79
13 Sunderland 31 32 1.09
14 Arsenal 31 32 0.97
15 Derby County 33 31 1.00
15 Liverpool 34 31 1.00
17 Aston Villa 33 31 0.98
18 Middlesbrough 34 31 0.97
19 Portsmouth 33 31 0.74
20 Manchester United 32 29 0.88
21 Sheffield United 32 29 0.87
22 Sheffield Wednesday 33 24 0.90

Woah, hold on a minute. Tottenham were above Arsenal and twelve places above the relegation zone. Admittedly Arsenal had games in hand but Tottenham were in a far better position than most of the other clubs below them. A win for Portsmouth put them above Arsenal who dropped two places to 16th. Now that is a pretty poor attempt to get Tottenham relegated.

At this point it is worth noting that the First Division this season was incredibly tight. The final table showed just 7 points separating 18 teams. The two relegated teams had 37 and 38 points and the 7 teams above them had 39 points as shown below:

Pos Team Played Points Goal Avge
1 Everton 42 53 1.54
2 Huddersfield Town 42 51 1.34
3 Leicester City 42 48 1.33
4 Derby County 42 44 1.16
5 Bury 42 44 1.00
6 Cardiff City 42 44 0.88
7 Bolton Wanderers 42 43 1.23
8 Aston Villa 42 43 1.07
9 Newcastle United 42 43 0.97
10 Arsenal 42 41 0.95
11 Birmingham City 42 41 0.93
12 Blackburn Rovers 42 41 0.85
13 Sheffield United 42 40 0.92
14 Sheffield Wednesday 42 39 1.04
15 Sunderland 42 39 0.97
16 Liverpool 42 39 0.97
17 West Ham United 42 39 0.92
18 Manchester United 42 39 0.90
19 Burnley 42 39 0.84
20 Portsmouth 42 39 0.73
21 Tottenham Hotspur 42 38 0.86
22 Middlesbrough 42 37 0.92

I think we can see that it would be impossible to pin any result on being “the one that mattered.” But let’s continue.

After the Portsmouth game, Arsenal lost just two more league games. The first was on 7 April. I very much doubt that this game resulted in Tottenham being relegated as it was against…Tottenham!

So, it MUST have been the other defeat, yes? Only if you try really hard to clutch at straws. The other defeat was on 28 April against Manchester United who were in the relegation zone. This game and the Portsmouth game are the ones stated in the official history. Arsenal were now safe from relegation, and Tottenham were three points clear of the relegation zone with just one game remaining. This is how the table looked on the morning before the game against Manchester United.

Pos Team Played Points Goal Avge
1 Everton 40 50 1.57
2 Huddersfield Town 38 47 1.37
3 Leicester City 40 46 1.27
4 Derby County 40 42 1.16
5 Cardiff City 40 42 0.89
6 Bolton Wanderers 40 41 1.24
7 Aston Villa 39 40 1.06
8 Bury 40 40 0.95
9 Arsenal 39 39 0.96
10 Newcastle United 40 39 0.94
11 Blackburn Rovers 39 39 0.91
12 Burnley 40 39 0.86
13 Portsmouth 40 39 0.77
14 West Ham United 40 38 0.94
15 Birmingham City 40 38 0.92
16 Tottenham Hotspur 41 38 0.88
17 Liverpool 40 37 1.00
18 Middlesbrough 40 37 0.96
19 Sunderland 40 37 0.94
20 Sheffield United 39 37 0.92
21 Manchester United 40 35 0.82
22 Sheffield Wednesday 39 34 1.00

Arsenal losing to Manchester United was equally damaging to Tottenham, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. West Ham and Birmingham could also be included in this group. How on earth could Arsenal have targeted Tottenham and not these other teams? A win for Tottenham would have pretty much guaranteed them safety but they lost 2-0 to Liverpool.

Arsenal finished in the top half of the table, just three points safe from the drop.

As much as it would be great for it to have really been like this, It’s plain to see that there is no way that Arsenal could have deliberately lost games during 1927-28 to get Tottenham relegated, mainly because of how tight the First Division was that season.

But this story doesn’t end here. This is actually a double mythbuster. According to some history books, Sir Henry Norris was hauled before the Football League to explain Arsenal’s performances that allegedly sent their neighbours down.

However, in a previous blog we showed that Sir Henry stepped down from Arsenal’s board of directors in July 1927 and was banned from having any involvement in football later that summer. He no longer held any influence at the club, and there is no way that Herbert Chapman would have done him a favour following the acrimonious exchanges during the Football Association’s investigation. This part of the story is pure fabrication.

It does make you wonder: how much of Arsenal’s history has been made up to suit certain people’s agendas?

Who ya gonna call?

Who ya gonna call?

Background to this article

Following discussions with Steve Kell of the AFSC, Mark and I suggested writing for Gunflash for the 2015-16 season. Steve pointed out this would continue Gunflash’s tradition of publishing articles by guest writers, which makes it a great honour for us to be part of this great publication.

Current and back issues of Gunflash are available from the Arsenal Football Supporters Club on matchdays on the corner of Gillespie Road and St. Thomas’ Road, and via their website.

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The books…

Woolwich A and Crowd

3 thoughts on “Arsenal Deliberately Lose to Relegate Tottenham

  1. TBF he did say ‘allegedly’.

    For your next mission will you exonerate Norris?

    Oh, and the Middlesex jibe…really? Spurs stayed exactly where they were – the boundary commission [sic.] made some changes that were nothing to do with football. Hardly the same as the Woolwich wandering, is it.

    • Spot on!

    • TBF we did explain how and why Norris was banned in a previous blog which is linked to from this one.

      We have another blog coming up that shows Tottenham’s directors lied to try to gain favour over Arsenal – no “allegedly” about this one. You might want to keep an eye out for it.

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