The man who started it all

Herbert Chapman (403 games as manager)

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. This would be the man who, on November 5, 1932, would have Arsenal made its debut on the London Underground, with the renaming of Gillespie Road.

Sheffield-born Herbert Chapman not only established Arsenal as English football’s dominant force, but his football concepts and ideas served as a template for teams and managers the globe over. He managed Leeds City and Huddersfield Town before taking over at Highbury where he introduced the 3-3-4 or ‘WM’ formation, winning the FA Cup in 1930 and the First Division title, scoring a club record 127 goals, in 1930/31. He won a second League title two years later before his tragic, sudden death in 1934, aged 55. A bronze bust of Chapman stands inside Highbury as a tribute to his achievements at the club. When Chapman arrived at Highbury in May 1925 he said it would take five years to build a winning team. He was as good as his word.


The appointment of Herbert Chapman in the summer of 1925 arguably shaped Arsenal into the football club it remains today. The Englishman was tempted from his successful Huddersfield Town side by Arsenal chairman Henry Norris but despite immediate success in leading the Gunners to a second place finish in the First Division in 1925/26, the rest of the 1920s were spent in mid-table obscurity. Chapman did take the Club to their first FA Cup Final in 1927 but saw his side lose 1-0 to Cardiff City. Despite Arsenal’s league struggles Chapman persisted and by the early 1930s his hard work was bearing fruit. His innovative tactics, plus shrewd signings like David Jack, Cliff Bastin, Alex James and Eddie Hapgood transformed Arsenal into one of the most feared sides in the country.

Three years after the pain of losing the 1927 FA Cup Final to Cardiff, Herbert Chapman took Arsenal back to Wembley and make amends, bringing the Club its first major trophy. As far as Arsenal’s success story is concerned, this is where it all began.Interestingly the opposition were Huddersfield Town, the club Chapman left to join Arsenal in 1925. He had guided Huddersfield to two league titles in the 1920s and the Yorkshire side bore all the hallmarks of Chapman’s tactical innovations, lining up in a W-M formation with wing-halves and inside-forwards.

And a year after tasting glory for the first time in the 1930 FA Cup Final, Arsenal continued their meteoric rise with their first league title. And they did it in style. Herbert Chapman’s team was blessed with an irresistible front line of Jack Lambert, David Jack and Cliff Bastin and opposition defences simply had no answer to their combined talents. Lambert scored 38 goals in 34 matches, Jack 31 in 35 and Bastin 28 from 42. Joe Hulme also chipped in with 14 goals as Arsenal racked up 127 league goals, a club record for a single season. This was just the start and more and more silverware would enter the marble halls thanks to this one man.

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.


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