1919-1925: Arsenal under Leslie Knighton
Following the club’s return to the First Division, ‘The’ was dropped from the club’s name and it began to be referred to as Arsenal, the name we know today. Tottenham and Arsenal had already grown into rivals owing to their physical proximity since Arsenal’s move to Highbury, but Norris’ act of getting his club into the First Division at the expense of Spurs is considered to be the definitive act of the famed North London rivalry. As ardent Gunners fans will know, Arsenal have never fallen out of the top division since their promotion in 1919.
Norris appointed Leslie Knighton as the new manager although ultimate control of the club remained in the owner’s hands. Knighton was known for having an eye for young talent and with Norris still reeling from the expenses of building Higbury, the new manager invested his limited funds wisely to snap up a number of young players and turn them into stars at Arsenal, the most notable among them being Bob John and Jimmy Brain. Arsenal finished their first season back in First Division in 10th place and the subsequent season in 9th place.
Knighton brought in several important players at Arsenal including Tom Whittaker, Alf Baker and Dan Lewis. Things were looking up for Arsenal as average attendances at Highbury continued to rise. However, Arsenal’s form under Knighton began to dip with the Gunners finishing 17th in 1921/22. Arsenal did rise to 11th the following season but their form continued to fall in the following season as they finished 19th in 1923/24.
Arsenal came close to relegation in the 1924/25 season, finishing 20th and Norris responded by sacking Knighton and replacing him with Huddersfield Town manager Herbert Chapman, the Arsenal manager who is credited with kickstarting the club’s rise to English stardom.
Read Also: Part 5: Move to Highbury