Going a long way into the past today, as we travel to the year the Arsenal first got their hands on some silverware.
Herbert Chapman was already something of a managerial legend by the time he was persuaded to take over in the summer of 1925, and represented yet another coup for chairman Sir Henry Norris, whose wily chicanery had propelled the club into the top flight against all odds – and all logic – just 6 years prior. Chapman arrived with impeccable pedigree, having brought Huddersfield back-to-back title triumphs. Indeed, his influence at the champions was still felt the following season, as his old club managed to make it 3-in-a-row by finishing 5 points ahead of his new club.
Given that he was explicit in his intention to implement a 5-year-plan, it’s possible that 1930 was something of a make-or-break year for Chapman. After that impressive league showing in his debut season at Highbury, Chapman was frustrated in his attempts to bring trophies to the Gunners; the closest they came was in 1927 as losing finalists in the FA Cup. In the championship they were mediocre at best; 11th in 1926/27, 10th in 1927/28, 9th in 1928/29. In fact, in 1929/30 the club actually went backwards in the league, stuttering to a dismal 14th place.
Nonetheless, glory was not far away.
On this day in 1930, the Gunners trekked up to Villa Park to take on Hull City in the FA Cup Semi-Finals for the second time in a week. At Elland Road 4 days prior, they had been 2-0 down to the Yorkshiremen before fighting back in the second half to force a replay. Hull were bottom of the 2nd Division at the time, and on their way to being relegated, so the fact that a replay was even required shocked most observers. Were Chapman’s men about to bottle it?
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Thankfully not, as the decisive breakthrough came in the 10th minute courtesy of a neat finish by David Jack after some characteristically brilliant play from Alex James. However, Hull dominated the rest of the half, and were it not for the dismissal, after the restart, of centre-half Arthur Childs – the first player ever to be sent off in the FA Cup Semis – who knows what may have transpired?
As it was, the fallout from the referee’s decision caused the match to quickly become an ill-tempered kicking contest. Neither side was innocent in this; Hull’s Paddy Mills was carried off after one particularly nasty tackle, while the Arsenal keeper Dan Lewis had to have his head bandaged due to the sort of aerial challenge that Hector Bellerin is now all-too-familiar with. Joining them on the injury list were the Arsenal’s Alf Baker, Tom Parker and match-winner David Jack, while Matt Bell and Fred Gibson of Hull were similarly unfortunate.
Eventually, the final whistle went, and the Gunners could breathe a sigh of relief at having made it to a second Wembley showpiece. Now the onus was on Chapman to devise a plan with which to beat their opponents in that head-to-head. Who were they to face?
Why, Huddersfield Town, of course.