Arsenal and Huddersfield Meet Under The Watchful Gaze of Herbert Chapman.

Tradition will be the name of the game on Sunday when The Emirates hosts a match between two clubs with an ingrained historical connection. Huddersfield Town visit the Emirates for a lunch time kick off, yet more than just an FA Cup 4th round tie, this match will be an emotional occasion for many at the club. Herbert Chapman will be the name on the lips of most come Sunday lunchtime, and one will hope for a spectacle fitting of the great man.

It is an almost surreal thing to hear a legend talk unreservedly of another legend. Mr. Wenger, in his ever humble manor, was the subject of this spectacle during his press conference this afternoon. When asked of the tradition between the two clubs, and indeed the impact of Herbert Chapman on both, he referred to Chapman as a ‘super-pioneer’, having been deemed a ‘pioneer‘ himself by one of the journalists present. Despite the way in which Wenger solely transformed the modern-day Arsenal, in everything from its playing style to financing methods, the current manager was not slow to insist Chapman is Arsenal’s most influential manager of all time. The contrasts and comparisons between the pair, and their individual impact on Arsenal and indeed the state of English football is a debate for another day, yet in Chapman, Arsenal had a man lightyears ahead of his time.

Chapman was an innovator, and the impact he had at Arsenal Football Club makes for some quite remarkable reading. As well as designing the turnstiles and scoreboard as part of a renovation of the old ground during the early 1930’s, Chapman also helped coin the ‘Clock End’ with the introduction of a clock over the old ‘South Stand’. As well as being the first manager in Britain to use floodlights having seen this revolutionary invention in Belgium, Chapman soon went on to create a heritage for the club in a way no one will do ever again. Chapman was, in effect, the driving force behind the renaming of Gillespie Road tube station to Arsenal station. This was a powerful statement of his intention to put Arsenal literally on the map. Having become one of the first managers to posses almost autonomous control of their club with the arrival of Chairman Samuel Hill-Wood, Chapman went about creating a legacy for Arsenal far beyond the 2 league titles and 1 FA Cup triumph he achieved during his time at the club. Although Arsenal later went on to dominate the remainder of the decade after his sudden death in 1934, his prerogative was to create a lasting legacy for a club bereft of trophies and stature prior to his arrival. He did this not only with the introduction of Arsenal Station, but also by introducing kit numbers, the use of white footballs and the tradition of the two teams walking out together for the FA Cup Final, something he insisted on when Arsenal played his former team, Huddersfield, in the 1930 final. Perhaps most remarkably, it was Chapman who also introduced the white sleeves onto Arsenal’s previously all red kit, now such an emblematic feature of Arsenal’s identity.

Chapman’s innovative ideas unsurprisingly affected the tactical side of the game, arguably the reason behind his unbridled success. Chapman was, incredibly, the man who introduced the notion of planned tactics, introducing a sense of organization and responsibility during his first managerial role at Northampton, prior to which he claimed “no attempt was made to organise victory. The most that I remember was the occasional chat between, say two men playing on the same wing.” His loyalty towards a quick, counter-attacking game based on a strong defensive unit then bread unprecedented success at Arsenal. It was a way of playing that stepped away from the traditional contemporary English game, that which was based on the individual dribbling techniques of certain ‘ball-dwellers’, a la Stanley Matthews. Thus Arsenal had to live with cries of ‘Lucky Arsenal’ and ‘Boring Arsenal’ whilst marching on to a hat-trick of League titles, albeit the third coming after Chapman’s death.

Wiley in the transfer market, a glaring likeness with Wenger, Chapman was the man behind the purchase of George Brown, Huddersfield’s all-time leading goalscorer, and indeed Cliff Bastin, who despite playing as an inside forward, held the same record at Highbury until Ian Wright came along. Of course, Arsenal did well to pries Chapman from Huddersfield. On the back of two consecutive League titles and an FA Cup triumph, Chapman surprisingly chose to move to London, despite Arsenal’s recent history as relegation fighters and the Chairman, Sir Henry Norris’, limits on spending. Ultimately it was increased wages and the lure of larger attendances which enticed the ambitious Chapman. Throughout the proceeding decade, Arsenal became the overwhelming dominant force in British football. Fronted by a man who came up with the notion of a continental competition 20 years before the introduction of the European Cup, Arsenal were privileged to have such an ambitious manager, and such an influential man. It is a testament to the man’s association with Arsenal that a two year stint as a player at Spurs is rarely made note of, let alone bemoaned.

Undoubtedly Arsenal and Huddersfield are still possessing the marks of Chapman, and when the pair meet on Sunday it will be a special occasion. Seemingly, the link between the two clubs is as strong as ever, having been rekindled in recent years. With the presentation from Arsenal to Huddersfield of a replica of Chapman’s bust that for so long sat in the marble halls, and the contesting of the inaugural Herbert Chapman trophy in 2008 as part of Huddersfield’s centenary, the two clubs proved the connection is still strong. The legacy of the great man will be an ever-present feature on Sunday, and beyond that still. For every time I look up at the symbolic time-piece above the ‘Clock End’, or see Van Persie mop his perspiring brow on the white sleeve, I will think fondly of Mr. Herbert Chapman.

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