Chapman at his best: picking the centre half

The club that changed football

Making the Arsenal

By Tony Attwood

After the chaos of the number 4 position it is rather nice to see that we return to what we might expect from Herbert Chapman: picking his player and sticking with him.

We have two centre halves here Butler and Roberts.  Butler was left to Chapman by the obliging Leslie Knighton.  Herbie Roberts came from Oswestry and played for Arsenal between 1926 and 1938 – a total of 297 league games.

Jack Butler joined in 1919 from Dartford, numbering among his earlier clubs the wonderfully named Fulham Thursdays.  He played 267 leagie games for Arsenal.

25/6 26/7 27/8 28/9 29/30 30/1 31/2 32/3 33/4
Butler 41 31 38 22 2
Young 1 1
Baker 2 2
Seddon 8 2 12 1
Roberts 2 20 26 40 35 36 30
Hayes 6 6 1
Sidey 2 11


So it is that a picture is emerging.  In some positions Chapman inherited a player who came from the previous regime and was able to replace him with his new man before the older player lost his ability, and this is a perfect case of that.   Roberts was being nurtured through the reserves which Butler was still playing 38 games a season.

Looking at the way Butler was used by Chapman, it raises all sorts of questions about Knighton and his endless complaints about Sir Henry’s transfer policy.  He did pick up some interesting players, as we have already seen.


One Reply to “Chapman at his best: picking the centre half”

  1. Mention of Herbie Roberts brought back memories of my youth and my School 1st XI.
    Chapman’s introduction of the “stopper” centrehalf sparked off a similar nickname for all boys playing in that position.

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