9 October: Arsenal under Chapman slip down to 14th



by Tony Attwood

I think that some supporters (and indeed journalists) imagine that when Herbert Chapman took over Arsenal it was immediate glory and trophies, just as it was when Arsene Wenger joined the club.

But in fact, although the first season saw Arsenal rise to their highest position in the league thus far in their history (2nd), this success was not built upon, and the September of Chapman’s second season (1926/7) ended 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, was modest indeed. Arsenal were 12th.

On 2 October Arsenal faced Newcastle at home and 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 either by supporters or the ever-critical media.

For the game on 9 October away to Burnley the team was the same as the one which had 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.

However although the papers contained letters of complaints from fans (no radio phone-ins in those days of course, although the BBC had started broadcastinig in November 1922) there was no wholesale demand for Chapman to go.  His success as manager of Huddersfield remained in the memory, although there is no doubt that after taking the club to runners’ up place in his first season, Chapman had been expected to go on and deliver Arsenal their first trophy this season.

What happened next

At this point in 1926 Chapman now did something he seems to have done several times in his career when things were not going well – he arranged a friendly game.  This one, on the following Monday (11 September) saw Arsenal win 4-0 which gave everyone some hope.  It was all quite a contrast with 2022.

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 at Highbury, and noted that it was played at a stupendous pace.

However, the result meant Arsenal were simply 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 – and the feeling seemed to be that although this was not as good as last season, it was a lot better than under Knighton.  There was a real feeling of hope around the club.

You can read more about this era on our blog.

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