1925-1934: The Chapman era
Henry Norris tempted the manager of then champions Huddersfield Town, Herbert Chapman, with a mega-money offer to take up the reins at Arsenal. Chapman’s first order of business was to purchase prolific Sunderland striker Charlie Buchan. The manager also adopted the WM formation at Arsenal to compensate for the change in offside rule.
Chapman’s effect at Arsenal was almost immediate as the Gunners came within touching distance of their first major silverware, finishing 2nd in the First Division in 1925/26. The next season saw them reach the final of the FA Cup where they lost to Cardiff City by a 1-0 scoreline.
Arsenal were now strong performers in the FA Cup, reaching the semi-finals and quarter finals in the subsequent seasons although they finished mid-table in the league. However, Arsenal’s glory days were not far as they finally grabbed their first major trophy, the FA Cup in 1930. The Gunners had a perfect run in the cup tournament, recording clean sheets against Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, West Ham United and Hull City to face Huddersfield Town in the final at Wembley, where they lifted the trophy with a 2-0 victory.
Chapman had now developed Arsenal into a potent force in English football and that fact was established by their first league triumph in the 1930/31 season. Jack Lambert was the top scorer with a club record 38 goals as Arsenal became the first southern club to win the First Division title. The Gunners continued their scintillating run and came close to a double in the next season, but missed out on both trophies, finishing in 2nd place in the league behind Huddersfield Town and losing to Newcastle United in the FA Cup final.
Arsenal returned to the summit of the First Division in the 1932/33 season, with winger Cliff Bastin netting 33 goals for the Gunners. Chapman was not satisfied with the league triumph and the manager invested heavily to rebuild Arsenal in 1933. Unfortunately, the manager could not see the golden rewards of his hard work as he passed away in January 1934. The club nonetheless went on to win the title for the second straight season with George Allison taking up the managerial responsibilities following Chapman’s death.
Chapman was truly Arsenal’s first successful manager and the man was an innovator, being the first manager to incorporate squad numbers on jerseys. Gunners loyalists will fondly remember Chapman for redefining Arsenal and laying the foundation for the club’s growth into a major title winner.
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