The decade that shaped Arsenal Football Club- 1926-1936!
We now enter into the era that has no doubt shaped Arsenal into the club that it is today..
When Henry Norris decided that Arsenal needed a new manager in the summer of 1925, he could never have anticipated the impact that his next appointment would have on both the club and football itself!
And so, it began… Herbert Chapman, who had won the FA Cup and two Division One titles with Huddersfield Town in the early Twenties, agreed to join us in the summer of 1925.
But it wasn’t the best of beginnings for Chapman and after the club was toying with relegation in the previous season he set about reinventing the club with almost immediate effect, where in his first season at Highbury, our new manager steered us to an FA Cup Quarter Final and a second-place finish in the First Division.
This kind of success was short lived though as the rest of the 1920’s saw us sit in mid table, something that was unacceptable for back then and even now. Although he did lead us to our first FA Cup final in 1927 but a 1-0 loss to Cardiff City would mean we left without a trophy.
That struggle would be overturned in later seasons, although league struggles were continuous by the early 1930’s and Chapman’s hard work off the pitch seemed to be gaining pace and making a difference.
His modern tactics along with signing the likes of Cliff Bastin, David Jack, Alex James and Eddie Hapgood, to name a few, had begun to transform the side into one of if not the most feared and envied clubs in the country.
And it wasn’t long after in the 1930-31 season that our first trophy came, and this time the FA Cup final against Chapman’s old employers Huddersfield Town, proved successful and we walked away with the cup for the first time in our history. I guess that is when the love story with the cup began!
The FA Cup final win did so much in the way of propelling us to dominance for a decade in English football though and it took just one year for us to win our first top flight title in the 1930-31 season where we racked up a record-breaking 66 points in the process.
We missed out on the title a season later yet managed to lift it again in the 1932-33 season but this time we lifted it wearing our famous and newly introduced by Chapman – red shirt with white sleeves, for the first time and this was just one of Chapman’s many innovative and additional ideas that he brought to the club and the game.
However, and rather tragically, this successful period would turn out to be our last triumph under Chapman. Having been present at an Arsenal Third Team match against Guildford City, while nursing a cold, Chapman’s condition quickly worsened and soon afterwards he would be diagnosed with pneumonia. An unfortunate turn of events would occur as during the early hours of January 6, 1934, Herbert Chapman died at his home in Hendon at the age of just 55.
With the sudden loss many people would have thought that Arsenal would falter, yet in contrast we would claim a second successive title that was delivered in the following May. And that quickly became three in a row under the management of ex-director George Allison in the 1934-35 season.
However, no league titles would follow in the next two years although we did lift the FA Cup for the second time in our history after a 74th-minute Ted Drake strike secured a 1-0 win for our Gunners over Sheffield United on April, 25 1936 and in the penultimate season before the outbreak of World War Two, Arsenal were champions of England once again and this would be their fifth league title in eight seasons.
The impact and achievements Chapman made with us ensure he would be and still is remembered for the effect his modernisations and inventions had on not just Arsenal as a club but on football as a whole game in itself.
His ideas and innovations included the use of a penalty area semi-circle, goal judges and a second referee which I guess would be somewhat of a linesman in more modern times. We also have him to thank for electronic turnstiles, floodlights, and a PA system which would be used to pass over team news to fans and create a letter and number scoreboard. This system would then go on to be copied throughout the whole country over the next 50 years.
Furthermore, Chapman was behind the inventing of the white sleeves of Arsenal’s which he believed allowed players to identify each other more easily and he also was behind feeder clubs which helped football clubs from a lower division provide training and experience for young players, putting in an agreement that successful players can leave to join a club in a higher division. Chapman was also responsible for European tours which we now hold for pre-season, travelling to fanbases all over the world.
Although one of his greatest ideas no doubt, came in the form of the famous Highbury clock, which we still have to this day and has even moved over to our current stadium too, I guess some parts of history just cannot be removed or thrown away!
During those days though it can be argued that Chapman’s greatest invention was the 3-2-2-3 WM formation. It proved so successful in cutting out opponents that many of the English sides later adopted it themselves. This then changed the vision of the domestic game as a whole and began to add more meaning and understanding to the games when being played.
However, I think that despite all of the amazing things he had done for the club and for football in general, his greatest achievement and the thing we can be most thankful to him for, was the fact that we are now the only team in London who has an Underground Station named after us.
Something I know I am proud of despite some fans surely going to be commenting “this isn’t the best thing to happen”, and no it may not be but it is something to shout about and of course you cannot deny he didn’t change the game with all of the other great inventions and ideas he had and utilised while being part of the football game.
And so here we say, thank you Mr Herbert Chapman, to whom without your ideas and innovations in the beautiful game, football would not be what it is today.
A legend, a master, an icon, both on and off the pitch and forever may you rest in peace..
To be continued…
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