by Tony Attwood
Spanish flu (as it was rather oddly known) swept across Europe from January 1918 to December 1920, and thus exactly 100 years ago, we were in the midst of the crisis just as we are now.
It the 20th century edition it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population, the number of deaths was established at somewhere between 17 million and 50 million, although some estimates are higher.
However with football having been reduced to the wartime leagues until the spring of 1919, the 1919/20 season was played without interruption, with Arsenal newly elected to the first division.
For the opening game of the season at Highbury 40,000 came to the ground, and for the home game on 24 April 1920 (100 years ago yesterday) 35,000 came to see Arsenal 0 Preston 0 (numbers for Arsenal at that time were always rounded).
That game left Arsenal in a satisfactory 13th position – satisfactory because money was short (the club was still paying for the work that had been done to build the stadium in 1913, and no repayments of the debt were made in the war years). What’s more this was their first year in the first division after four years of war and two years in the second division.
(Incidentally, 100 years ago Arsenal were definitely Arsenal. They changed from The Arsenal to Arsenal in November 1919, despite many “authorities” claiming that the change was initiated by Herbert Chapman).
This is how the table looked after the round of matches on Saturday 17th April 1920…
|1||West Bromwich Albion||40||27||4||9||100||45||2.222||58|
|9||Bradford Park Avenue||40||15||11||14||60||60||1.000||41|
|21||Preston North End||40||13||9||18||55||72||0.764||35|
Two clubs went down at the end of the season and Wednesday with 42 games to be played by each club, and just two points for a win, were already relegated. Arsenal were safe since Blackburn, with just one game left, could not reach them. In fact Arsenal, won one of their last two games (both against Bradford PA) and drew the other. Arsenal Actually went up the table and finished in 10th. Notts County went down to the second division.
In fact if we look at the present situation of Arsenal we can compare 100 years ago with now.
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If we take three points for a win and one for a draw in both seasons, and work out the points per game we find that now Arsenal have 1.54 points per game this season, against 1.33 points per game 100 years ago.
|15||Brighton and Hove Albion||29||6||11||12||32||40||-8||29|
|16||West Ham United||29||7||6||16||35||50||-15||27|
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