Herbert Chapman - The great innovator

Herbert Chapman

When Henry Norris decided that Arsenal needed a new manager in the summer of 1925, he could never have anticipated the impact of his next appointment.

Herbert Chapman, who had won the FA Cup and two Division One titles with Huddersfield Town in the early Twenties, agreed to join the Gunners in the summer of 1925.

After flirting with relegation in the previous season, Chapman set about reinventing the Club with almost immediate effect. In his first season at Highbury, the new manager steered the Gunners to an FA Cup Quarter Final and a second-place finish in the First Division; the highest league placing in their history.

Within a year, Arsenal had reached their first FA Cup Final on April 23, 1927. However that day is remembered for another reason; it was the first and only time that the FA Cup has left England, as Cardiff City secured a 1-0 victory in front of 91,206 at Wembley.

"With the likes of Alex James and Cliff Bastin in the ranks, Arsenal became the envy of the football world."

However, Chapman would only have to wait another three years to bring the famous trophy to Highbury, ironically overcoming Huddersfield Town at Wembley in 1930. The triumph signalled the start of Arsenal’s prolonged dominance of English football and, with the likes of Alex James and Cliff Bastin in the ranks, Arsenal became the envy of the football world.

Within a season the Club romped to its first ever league title, racking up a record-breaking 66 points in the process. Only the FA Charity Shield was scooped in 1931/32 despite Arsenal coming within touching distance of both the League title and the FA Cup; eventually the Gunners would finish two points behind Everton and go down 1-0 against Newcastle in the FA Cup final at Wembley.

Arsenal weren’t to be starved of title success for too long though and the Club duly lifted the Division One title the following season, wearing their now famous red shirt with white sleeves for the first time. The achievement was only marred by a shock defeat against Third Division Walsall in the FA Cup.

But that disappointment would pale into insignificance next to a tragedy that would stun the Club. In January 1934, after watching an Arsenal Third Team match against Guildford City nursing a cold, Chapman’s condition quickly worsened. Soon afterwards, pneumonia set in. During the early hours of January 6, 1934, Herbert Chapman died at his home in Hendon aged 55.

However, the tragedy would not spell the end of Arsenal’s success and the Club continued to build on the foundations laid by their late manager. A second successive title was delivered in the following May. And that swiftly became three in a row under the management of ex-director George Allison in 1934/35.

No league titles were to follow in the next two years although Arsenal did lift the FA Cup for the second time in their history after a 74th-minute Ted Drake strike secured a 1-0 win for the Gunners over Sheffield United on April, 25 1936.

In the penultimate season before the outbreak of World War Two, Arsenal were champions of England once again; their fifth league title in eight seasons.


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