Herbert Chapman - Arsenal Manager 1925-1934

Herbert Chapman

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Chapman's Innovations - White sleeves

Arsenal has always been at the cutting edge of the football world. And no man in Arsenal's illustrious history has been more innovative than Herbert Chapman.

In a special series we highlight some of the forward-thinking ideas from our legendary manager.

White Sleeves

White Sleeves
Chapman introduced white sleeves to the previously all-red Arsenal shirts in 1934 but how this idea came about depends on which source you believe. One version of events has Chapman spotting someone in the Highbury crowd wearing a red sleeveless sweater over a white shirt. A look that he felt it would help the players identify each other on the pitch.

Another school of thought has it that famous cartoonist Tom Webster had worn a sleeveless blue pullover over a white shirt whilst playing golf with Chelsea chairman, Claude Kirby. Kirby was struck by the colour combination and flirted with the possibility of adding white sleeves to the blue Chelsea shirt. Herbert Chapman on being told of the incident by Webster asked the cartoonist to sketch out the idea, which met with Chapman's approval and was adopted. The new design also incorporated the Club badge, which was positioned on the left-hand side of the shirt. Another change to the playing kit saw hoops added to the players socks in 1930 to help them pick each other out whilst looking down at the ball. Chapman also felt that having a brown ball on a muddly pitch made it difficult for spectators and players alike to follow the game. Chapman therefore introduced a white ball which made the game more of a spectacle.

Creating Traditions

Creating Traditions
Chapman created many traditions that remain in the fabric of the Club to this day. He understood that the loyalty of supporters to any football club was vital to its success. He insisted that the players clap all four sides of the ground, as a mark of respect to those who paid to watch them play. Another club tradition that Chapman started was having flowers in the oppositions colours in the Directors Lounge. Chapman's dignified nod of respect continues at Emirates Stadium unchanged after 70 years.

Chapman Innovation

Taking Football Forwards
His passion to improve English football as a spectacle led to him advocating changes, often years before they were implemented. These included the use of the penalty area semi-circle, goal judges and two referees. He promoted the use of floodlights as a tool to offset the threat of speedway and dog-racing as a spectator sport. Indeed in 1932, floodlights were installed at Highbury but the authorities did not sanction their use until the 1950s. The first floodlit game at Highbury was in fact a Boxers vs. Jockeys charity football match in April 1951!

Off as on the pitch, Chapman's methods portrayed an attention to detail. For example his ideas included a ticket system similar to that used on the Underground in order to cut queuing times. He oversaw the development of an an electronic turnstile that could count the numbers passing through it this helping safety and securing income. He developed a PA system which passed team news onto fans and created a letter and number scoreboard which was widely copied throughout the country over the next 50 years (and resurrected in the final season at Highbury). Probably Chapman's most enduring legacy are Highbury's art-deco West Stand and East Stand developments which were his brainchild. Chapman's appetite for new ideas knew no bounds. "I would borrow one from a programme boy at Highbury, if it were a good one," he once wrote.

Chapman Innovation

Promoting the Club
Chapman encouraged his players to play county or international cricket in the summer to keep fit but also keep the Club in the public eye. He also wrote a regular column in the Sunday Express to help raise the profile of the Club and introduce the Club to a wider audience. In 1927 Chapman dropped the 'The' from the Club's name, becoming simply Arsenal. His rationale was that they would now come first on the list of League clubs.

Chapman Innovation

The Famous Clock
The Arsenal clock has famously graced Highbury for over 70 years. First erected in the 1930/31 season, it was one of the many features of Highbury instigated by Chapman. Originally the clock provided supporters with a 45-minute countdown, but the football association believed this undermined the match officials and the Club soon changed the clock to a conventional timepiece.

It was first positioned on the north stand, then known as the 'Laundry End' but it was eventually moved to the south stand then the 'College End' in 1935 when the North Bank was covered. Over the years it became synonymous to that stand with most people now referring to 'The Clock End'. The clock has now been moved to Emirates Stadium where it overlooks the Clock End bridge.

Chapman Innovation

Feeder Clubs
Herbert Chapman saw the benefits of unofficial feeder clubs, 70 years or so before they became popular. In 1931 Chapman effectively took over Clapton Orient, later known as Leyton Orient, as he felt it was be much better to have Arsenal youngsters competing in a real League rather than against other juniors. On a grassroots level he worked with amateur side Corinthians to develop public service soccer schools.

Chapman Innovation

Visionary tactician
By the 1930s Arsenal were the most famous club in the world, a team that was the natural and perfect expression of Chapman's professionalism. Yet the Club were actually dubbed by many as 'Lucky Arsenal'. In 1925 the offside rule had changed so that a team would remain onside if two, rather than three defenders were between the goal and the foremost attacker. This led to a glut of high-scoring games.

On Arsenal skipper Charlie Buchan's advice, Chapman, who felt a team could 'attack for too long' instigated a 3-2-2-3 deployment which included a free-roving anchor player to police the edge of the area. The WM system, named after the shape which the formation resembled, changed football as a spectacle with many Clubs using it to nullify their opposition.

However Arsenal, with the attacking triumvirate of Alex James, Cliff Bastin and Joe Hulme and inspired selection of Herbie Roberts in the anchor role, used it to mix tight collective defence with devastating counter-attack. Wingers until then had hugged the touchline, but with James putting passes inside the full-backs Hulme and Bastin averaged a goal a game between them from 1929-35.

Spectators watched spellbound as the Gunners switched from attack to defence in a matter of seconds, intelligent players acting as a single, organic unit with a thrilling and devastating efficiency. On muscle jellifying pitches it was a tribute to the preparation of the management and players that they put on such an exhilarating spectacle for an audience badly in need of escape from the misery of economic depression and imminent war.

The Championship trophy was first won in 1931 when Arsenal scored 127 First Division goals - three per game. Visionary off-field developments also made Arsenal formidable in the transfer market. It was a potent cocktail and the 'Bank of England Club' were champions once more in 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1938.

Chapman Innovation

Team spirit
Herbert Chapman was a firm advocate of mind over matter and felt golf would help his players relax and also foster a sense of unity. He also encouraged players to think tactically as a team, to discuss matches on their journeys to and from games on the team bus or private train carriage which he insisted the team travelled on.

In the 1930 FA Cup Final, under the stooping spectre of the Graf Zeppelin, Alex James, so often architect, became destroyer. Seven minutes from time, James' through-ball found Jack Lambert who sealed the victory. It was a planned move which symbolised the change in football that Chapman had orchestrated.

Chapman Innovation

The renaming of Gillespie Road
Arsenal are the only football team in London with an underground station named after them.

This is largely down to foresight of Chapman, who pushed hard for the Tube stop just behind the North Bank to be re-christened. “Whoever heard of Gillespie Road?” he said at one point in the talks. “It is Arsenal around here!”

The idea had first occurred to Chapman when he visited the newly-relegated Arsenal in 1913 as manager of Leeds City. It took months of lobbying and the change meant that thousands of tickets, maps and signs had to be replaced. Even machinery had to be re-configured.

Eventually, on November 5, 1932, Arsenal made its debut on the London Underground.

Chapman Innovation

Introduction of European travel
Long before the days of official European competition, the name of Arsenal was inked into the consciousness of the football world. Showpiece overseas friendlies and tours made Chapman’s, Allison’s, and Whittaker’s Arsenal stars household names and Arsenal synonymous with dazzling attacking football and remarkable spirit.

Arsenal played Racing Club of Paris on November 11, 1930 at the instigation of Chapman and Jean Bernard-Levy, the Paris club’s president. The game was in aid of Great War veterans, so was held close to Armistice Day. It was the first of 27 eagerly-anticipated meetings with the prestigious French Ccub that made Arsenal and their players household names throughout Western Europe.

Indeed the French gave nicknames to many Arsenal stars including Le Feu d’Artfice (The Firework) for Cliff Bastin and Le Miracle (The Miracle) for Alex James. The Parisien games provided the first experience of air travel for many players and James, for one, preferred to do his flying on the pitch!

[ Tuesday, June 05, 2007]


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