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Autumn 1926: the Chapman magic fades at Arsenal

by Tony Attwood

September had ended in disappointment with Arsenal sitting in 11th position in the League having won three, drawn three and lost two games.  The prime problem was in attack – the team had scored just 13 goals – which in the context of the change in the offside rule the previous season in order to encourage goal scoring, along with the fact that Arsenal had come second in 1925/6, was modest indeed.

And on 2 October Arsenal were facing Newcastle at home – a game which brought back memories of one year before, when at St James Park, Arsenal had conceded six goals in the first half, before suddenly changing formation in the second to reduce any further damage.   And it looked for a while as if the problems experienced in facing Newcastle one year before might recur for Arsenal were 0-2 down after 15 minutes.

But this time, despite an injury to Baker, Arsenal repaired the damage in the second half and got a 2-2 draw.  However this season Newcastle were a modest mid-table team, and Arsenal’s struggle to beat them was not taken too kindly.  Football is, as much as anything else, a game of expectation, and last season’s 2nd place had raised the expectations dramatically.  The only solace in the league table was that Sunderland at the top of the table only had two more points than Arsenal.

As for Sir Henry Norris, he was certainly in London at this time, as he is recorded as being formally elected third warden for the Feltmakers’ Company at this time.  There were now three members of the ancient guild who were also Arsenal directors: Sir Henry, JJ Edwards and William Hall.

At this point Chapman now did what we had seen him do before – arrange a friendly game presumably in order to sort things out on the pitch.  This one, on the following Monday (11 September) saw Arsenal win 4-0.  The local paper did not give the team, but noted that Parker got a penalty, with Shaw, Buchan and Haden getting the other goals.

Haden had been out of the team injured since the second game of the season and was presumably now making his way back, while Shaw, an inside forward, did not make it into the team until March 1927.

It is also possible that Young played, for Baker having been injured in the Newcastle game was not fit, and Young replaced him in the following match.  Otherwise for the game away to Burnley on 9 October the team was the same as gained the draw with Newcastle.

Going into this game Arsenal still had not won away this season, and this continued against the middle of the table team, with Arsenal losing 0-2.  Arsenal slipped down to 14th.

Next up was West Ham at home – WHU being 19th in the league but with two wins and two defeats away from home thus far.  Young stayed in the team and Haden returned in what turned out to be a 2-2 draw.  Lambert scored his first ever goal for Arsenal, Brain got the other.  The Times said the game was one of the best seen, and noted that it was played at a stupendous pace.

However the result meant Arsenal were now solidly mid-table and hopes of building on last year’s achievements were fading fast.  They had scored under half as many goals as Leicester City at the top of the table.

So it was something of a pleasant surprise to the 27,846 who turned up on 23 October to watch Arsenal v Sheffield Wednesday to see Arsenal win 6-2.  Haden got two, and then Brain got four in the second half.  It lifted Arsenal up to 10th, five points behind the top club.

On 28 October, there was an Army v Football League game at Highbury: both Buchan and Hulme playing, and Sally Davis speculates that it was either Sir Henry or William Hall (who was still on the League Management Committee) who had arranged the match.

The final league game for the month saw Arsenal take another step backwards as they lost 1-3 to Everton, with Brain getting the only goal.  Buchan was injured and Ramsey returned.  Comparisons were now being made with Knighton, noting that in his last season Arsenal had actually finished October in 7th position with 14 points.  They were now 11th with 13 points.

And sadly there was little in the way of improvement for Chapman’s Arsenal in November.   Seddon, who had been briefly introduced last season, came in to replace Young, who had himself come in to replace Baker, but otherwise the team and the results remained much the same: two draws (2-2 at home to Blackburn, 3-3 away to Huddersfield), a 2-3 home defeat to Sunderland, and an away win against West Brom 3-1.  It was the club’s first away win of the season.

The goals for the month were spread around the team, Buchan (2), Brain (2),Haden (2), Ramsay (2), and one each for Hulme and Blyth.

Arsenal were now very much solidly middle of the table and making no progress up the league…

Pos Team P W D L F A GAv Pts
1 Sunderland 19 10 4 5 38 26 1.462 24
2 Newcastle United 17 9 4 4 44 27 1.630 22
3 Huddersfield Town 17 6 10 1 37 27 1.370 22
4 Burnley 18 8 5 5 43 34 1.265 21
5 Bolton Wanderers 16 8 4 4 33 21 1.571 20
6 Tottenham Hotspur 17 8 4 5 40 32 1.250 20
7 Sheffield Wednesday 18 7 6 5 34 36 0.944 20
8 Birmingham City 17 9 2 6 22 24 0.917 20
9 Leicester City 17 7 5 5 45 38 1.184 19
10 West Ham United 16 7 3 6 31 24 1.292 17
11 Leeds United 17 7 3 7 35 33 1.061 17
12 Arsenal 17 5 7 5 34 36 0.944 17

Although of course the season was not even half way through it seemed impossible to imagine that Arsenal could make a major climb up the league table to get anywhere near last season’s finishing position of second.  The only thing that was left to compete for was the FA Cup.  Arsenal had twice reached the semi-finals (in both 1906 and 1907) but had lost both times.  It seemed unlikely with this decline in the league position Arsenal would be able to make much of a showing in that competition.

There was one final piece of news for the month, on 29 November coal miners voted on whether to return to work; the majority said no, but their union rules required a two thirds majority for a strike, and this was not achieved.  The final remnants of the national strike were over.

As for Sir Henry, we have no further information on him at this time.  Whatever he was doing at this time, it was not anything that brought him to public attention.

Here are the results for the two months covered in this article.

Date Opposition H/A Res Score Crowd
02/10/1926 Newcastle United H D 2-2 38,842
09/10/1926 Burnley A L 0-2 12,709
11/10/1926 Clapton Orient (Fr) A W 4-0
16/10/1926 West Ham United H D 2-2 35,534
23/10/1926 Sheffield Wednesday H W 6-2 27,846
30/10/1926 Everton A L 1-3 34,153
06/11/1926 Blackburn Rovers H D 2-2 29,439
13/11/1926 Huddersfield Town A D 3-3 16,219
20/11/1926 Sunderland H L 2-3 20,087
27/11/1926 West Bromwich Albion A W 3-1 20,815

Details of the whole series of articles on Henry Norris at the Arsenal can be found here including a selection of articles covering the election of Arsenal in 1919 – which is a topic that can still be considered contentious in some quarters.

An index to our various series published prior to this one, and to the anniversary files can be found on the home page.

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