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Allen, 1931: Arsenal, jig-saw puzzle

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-07 13:51:41

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— Roland F. Allen | 17/02/1931 —

Arsenal remind me of the boy who took his watch to pieces to find why it worked so smoothly. You will remember that he got most of the parts back, but had a few left over. He was surprised — as boys are in such circumstances — to discover that the smoothness had departed, that the watch went only when he did.
With the patient ingenuity which boys display when trouble is impending, he again broke up the timepiece, laboriously and hopefully reconstructed it, got the surplus parts back again — but found that others were now out of place. He was puzzled.
So, I imagine, are the people at Highbury, who appear to be trying to decide which is the best way in which to arrange the pieces in their player-puzzle without leaving out some which are essential. BEWILDERING CYCLE.
It is a bit of a riddle. If Brain is in Lambert is out; if Jones plays Seddon must watch; if David Jack leads the forwards I cannot help wondering whether he is a better inside right. Which, moving around this bewildering cycle, brings me again to the puzzled contemplation of Brain left over. It seems that from whatever angle this riddle is regarded one arrives back to the unenviable position of the boy who looked at the little pile he had not placed and could not escape the worrying conviction that there were pieces on the table which ought to be among the works.
I never felt violently critical towards that boy. He must have got a lot of quiet fun out of it — but he was always working in the shadow of possible and painful consequences. IN FAVOUR OF EITHER.
It is in very much the same uncritical frame of mind that I approach the riddle of the Arsenal. The solution is not clear cut. There is definite evidence in favour of either of their two or three arrangements of the working parts of that football machine.
David Jack, it seems to me, is the key to this jig-saw business. I prefer him at centre-forward because he is a master of the constructive side of the game, and because, when he is leading the attack, his genius is not cramped by hanging back and doing the work which ought to be done by the wing half-back. EVEN ALEX JAMES!
And when Jack is leading the line of the Arsenal become definitely an attacking side. Even those wing half-backs come forward and menace the opposing defence. Even Alec James crowns his exquisite scheming by shooting a goal!
It has been said that Arsenal have been covering a defensive weakness by the brilliance of their attack. I cannot see it. When there has been weakness it has, to my mind, been a question of tactics.
I have never liked the "W" formation, whether it has been adopted by the Arsenal or any other side. It assumes that half-backs are purely defenders. The Arsenal wing-halves seem to me to have realised that this is a false, even a dangerous assumption. I should like to see Roberts reach the same conclusion.
There have, I believe, been thoughts of juggling with the defensive section of the Highbury machine. Possibly reasons exist of which I am not aware which would justify this. But if I felt that temptation I should look carefully first of all at the possible alternatives. I cannot work them out.
The Arsenal will win the championship if they find the best arrangement of their violently contrasted mixture of works and spare parts. They have this advantage over the boy with the watch; they, with apparently essential parts left out, can get the machine working smoothly.
But, like the boy, they may, if they attempt too often to pull the machine to pieces and rebuild it, find that in the shadow of the trouble they are risking, they have missed the substance for which they are striving.
That would be a pity; as the boy realised, too late.