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Alex Jackson, 1931: The secrets of Arsenal

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-07 13:45:49

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Alex Jackson | 08/04/1931 —

It is fairly safe now, I think, for me to offer my congratulations to the Arsenal club, the players and the managers, Mr. Chapman, on having practically won the championship of the Football League for the first time.
The honour is the greater because no London club has ever won the championship before, and also because it follows the Arsenal's Cup triumph of a year ago.
How exhausting and difficult a task it is to win the League championship only those who have succeeded, or have tried and just failed, can realise.
I can claim some knowledge of what it means, having been in the Huddersfield team in the season 1925-26 when Huddersfield created a record by winning the championship for the third successive year.
In the two following seasons Huddersfield were runners-up beaten first by Newcastle United by five points and then by Everton by only two points. GRUELLING TIME.
To win the championship a team must play not merely brilliantly but tenaciously, fighting every minute of every match, never surrendering, never slacking because of thoughts of Cup-ties or because the position looks comfortable.
During the recent attack upon the Arsenal's position by Aston Villa, when it was thought that the Arsenal were beginning to waver under the strain, the grim necessity for "keeping it up" was plainly seen. London began to get anxious. But the Arsenal kept it up — good luck to them for their stout hearts.
What is the recipe for the championship team? From his success at Huddersfield and now at Highbury it would appear that Mr. Herbert Chapman knows the secret. But I think he would be the first to admit that the recipe is not one to be adhered to rigidly.
There is a big contrast between that Huddersfield team and the present Arsenal side. Huddersfield were more brilliant, more spectacular, possessing more genius. The Arsenal's chief quality is a fine system of defence.
Huddersfield never depended upon any one man as the Arsenal depended upon Alex James. I think it is true to say that any one or two men might have been taken out of the Huddersfield side and the championship would still have been won; but I doubt whether the Arsenal would have been within sight of their goal to-day without James.
The foundation of a championship team is eleven first-class men, not necessarily all stars (in fact, eleven men of exceptional individual brilliance would probably never win it), and the true team spirit — the spirit which leads every man to sink his own personality for the interests of the side and which make it possible for a system of team work to be built up. A STAR TEAM.
Taking the Arsenal man by man. it will be admitted that few of them are what we call star players. Taken together, they are a star team.
The defence has been accused at times of being shaky, but with the shrewd position play of Parker, the speed of Hapgood the constructive ability of John and James and the cool watchfulness and tenacity of Roberts, they have all been welded together by understanding and have snatched victory after victory from other grounds while their opponents fully believed they were having the better of the game.
Therein lies one of the Arsenal secrets. They have so much confidence in themselves that they are content to play an apparently defensive game. They let their opponents bring the ball up, and appear to be defending desperately.
Then, in a twinkling, James picks up the ball from the ruck, andthe Arsenal forwards are away through a scattered defence.
Roberts has a bigger hand in this than some people suppose. He is particularly clever with his head, and it is frequently by means of his heading the ball aside to James or Jack that an attack is opened.
Mr. Chapman knows his job, as everyone will admit. He made no error in selecting and moulding Roberts to be the keystone of the defence, after the pattern of Tom Wilson, of Huddersfield. In the same way he secured Alex James to perform the duty, though in a different style, of Clem Stephenson. BASTIN'S SKILL.
I must also pay individual tribute to the skill of Bastin, the young outside-left, who, in my opinion, is going to be one of the finest players the game has known.
More than a year ago James told me that this boy was going to make his mark, and his words have come true. Like Roberts, like Lambert, and others, Bastin has been moulded in a style that the conception of the Arsenal scheme demands.
Both Bastin and Hulme have developed the gift of being ready on the mark to dash away, taking the ball at full speed, cutting in instead of swerving out, and being there in the goalmouth when the ball comes across from the opposite wing.
I used to be accused of wandering out of position when I began to get goals from the middle or even from the left. Bastin and Hulme are employing the same tactics in every match — and they pay!
One other item is necessary in the recipe for a championship team — good reserves. They need not be top-class players but they must be so taught that they will know their job if called upon.
It happens too often that a youngster who suddenly gets his chance has not realised the big difference between senior and reserve football. He flounders about out of position, is lost by the speed of the game, and is too late with his passes.
How good the Arsenal reserves are we have seen. While Roberts was playing for England at Glasgow the Arsenal, with a reserve centre-half, were accomplishing one of their finest victories of the season, a 5-2 win at Middlesbrough.
That such changes as this can be made successfully shows, too, the strength of the team work fo the Arsenal. THE ELUSIVE RECIPE.
Any team that can suffer the changing of the centre-forward during the season, and even during matches, as Lambert, and Jack have been changed, and still win matches well, must be strong everywhere.
In this respect the Arsenal are similar side to Sheffield Wednesday, who have held the championship for the last two years.
A championship side is not to be built in a season. It often takes years. Many have attempted year after year to find the right recipe and have never succeeded.
There must be brains and inspiration behind the team, and in the team itself there must be a good football, firm friendship, courage, and an abiding enthusiasm.
The Arsenal are nearly at the end of the road and they deserve our hearty congratulations.