Did Chapman and Buchan invent the withdrawn centre half tactic?

If people remember the name Charlie Buchan today is it perhaps as the inside forward who earned his former club  £100 for each goal he scored in his first season at Arsenal – 1925/6.  Then there is the story that Arsenal paid more for the player because of that deal, than if they had paid the original asking fee – which is untrue.  And collectors (or readers of advancing years like me) might recall Charlie Buchan’s Football Monthly magazine.

Plus there is the story that in the 1925/6 season, after a match in which Arsenal let in seven at Newcastle, Buchan sat down with Chapman and hammered out the new notion of the centre half playing further back, between the two full backs.  This, the story goes, transformed Arsenal.

In fact 1925/6 was the first season of the new offside rule, and all first division clubs were experimenting with how to approach it.  But the notion of the withdrawn centre half had already been around for a few years before that as a tactic of playing against teams with a very fast forward line.

Indeed large scores (sometimes by both teams) was still the order of the day for several seasons to come as clubs continued to try out different approaches, and the records show that in the following season Arsenal let in five, six and seven in three matches.  The following season they conceded five twice, and six once.  And all this under Chapman – the master tactician.

Buchan and Chapman probably did talk after that hammering at Newcastle – but most likely at half time, because the score after the first half was 6-0.  They clearly changed the defence and withdrawing the centre half almost certainly happened at half time and saved Arsenal a hammering in double figures.

Here are the anniversaries for today…

25 June 1904: Fred Coles transferred to Grimsby.  He later became a cricket and football coach in Sweden and was also trainer of Hague in Holland between 1910 and 1911.

25 June 1910: Sidney Cartwright born.  He signed for Arsenal as an amateur in April 1931 and as a professional on 9 May.    He made his debut on 22 Feb 1936 against Portsmouth.

25 June 1914: Henry Norris was adopted as one of two Conservative Party candidates to contest the parliamentary seats in Stockport both strongly held by the Liberals.  He did not fight the seat however as he was subsequently offered the chance to fight the seat in Fulham where he was Mayor.

25 June 1960: Death of Charlie Buchan aged 68. After retiring from playing he became a football journalist, wrote a coaching manual and was a commentator for the BBC.  He co-founded the Football Writers’ Association, and edited Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly.   See also Buchan’s first period at Arsenal.

25 June 1975: Steve Gatting signed as apprentice professional.  He became a professional two years later and played his first game with the first team as a sub versus Lokomotiv Leipzig on September 13, 1978 which Arsenal won 3-0.

25 June 1978: Paul Davis joined Arsenal as a professional.  He had signed for Arsenal in 1977, and played for the first team for the first time against Tottenham on April 7 1980 at Tottenham.  We won 2-1.

25 June 1982: Pat Jennings played as N Ireland beat the hosts Spain in the World Cup 1-0.  In all he played 119 games for the Province.

25 June 1997: Arsene Wenger signed Manu Petit for the second time.  He had signed him originally in 1988 from ES Arques-la-Bataille and now, this time from Monaco for £2.5m.  Luis Boa Morte also signed on this day.  In June 2019 Boa Morte became assistant coach at Everton.

25 June 2007: After 254 league games and 174 goals Thierry Henry transferred to Barcelona for €24 million in a deal that ultimately cost the Catalan club over £250,000 per match.  Also quoted as 23 June in some quarters.  On 24 Jan 2019 Henry was dismissed as manager of Monaco who were 19th in the league.

Details of today’s anniversaries follow below


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Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

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