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The W-Formation of Chapman's Arsenal
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2021-07-02 00:47:43
Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
With the new signings of Cliff Bastin, Alex James & David Jack — the last to replace Charlie Buchan —, and players of the caliber of Jack Lambert & Joe Hulme, Arsenal F. C. molded a forward system which would dominate the English territory during the 30s. Alongside the revival of the W-Formation, their qualities combined reflected into a tremendous & different system, the Arsenal style.
Starting with Joe Hulme, the speedster, whose incisive runs were lethal to defences; Jack, the gentleman, was the attacking inside-right; Lambert, the classic centre-forward; Alex James, the wizard, was the schemer; Bastin, the young boy, cause damage to defeneces with his incisive sense of when making a diagonal run seeking the gate.
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Bastin Lambert Hulme
Bastin Lambert Hulme
Arsenal F. C. 1930/31
Arsenal, however, did not play a legit W-Formation, due to the characteristics of their own players. Alex James stayed behind the other four players, while David Jack was attacking and assisted Jack Lambert. Therefore, this caused many specialists — like Jeno Konrád & Jean Eskenazi — to apply a 3-3-4 formation to Arsenal. They, indeed, looked more like that, due to Alec James positioning.
There were English teams where, wherever he is, the connector protrudes or stays behind. It all depends on the individual abilities of the players. Arsenal in its pick, for example, never played a rigid W-Formation, but rather a version of the four-forwards system described in the Ödön Hólits and Dr. Mihályi Mamusich football book. James almost never stepped forward, stayed in the middle of the pitch, and lanched the ball he received to one of the other four, mainly the wingers. Much depends on the ability and nature of the so-called three forward strikers. This affects the shape and even the very existence of that much-attacked W letter.
Although Arsenal was attached to the W-Formation, according to Hugo Meisl, Herbert Chapman wanted to go back to their old style, due to criticism and an opinion of Chapman himself. Sometimes, when Arsenal did not succeed with their W-Formation, Chapman would play the pyramidal 2-3-5, thus playing James & Jack up-front.
James, the schemer
Alex James, was the embodiment of mind football. Despite his low stature and relatively poor physique, this forward has enjoyed unparalleled success in tough English league competition. For a decade, he has been revered as the greatest player in the British Empire, though rarely featured on the list of goal scorers. However, no one could do better than James in the island country to control and make his team score goals.
James was a master of tricks, could send long passes. All his actions were made seeking to create the best chances for his colleagues. He was a player with so many ideas, tricks and technically above of most of the greatest players. James used to command everything. Not the type of scoring goals, James was seen as his team’s playmaker. James — like Konrád Csámi — would drop deep and become the creator behind the four-forward line.
When Jenő Konrád visited Englaned, he wrote:
So many ideas, intelligence and techniques that evoke the best of Orth, Schaffer or Konrád II.
He was probably the greatest player I have ever seen.
Arsenal's style was quite special, but the whole game revolves around the insider left Alex James. James is the most outstanding football artist in the United Kingdom.
It was common to see Alex James drop deep and receive the ball from the two other midfielders. Then, James, with an incredible sense of which was the best movement, would organize the entire forward line. He always prefered the quick play and place skill above speed and bustle.
James and Bastin was a well-known duo. When Bastin made the run, James would constantly play inside balls, breaking the opponent’s defensive line. Bastin — like Raimundo Orsi — was not just the type of winger who would centralize the ball, but also score. On the other side of Arsenal was Joe Hulme, a fast player but not a goal scorer type. James cross-field passes to the right wing, seeking Hulme’s speed, were also another weapon. According to Cliff Bastin, Hulme received as many passes as him, due to Alex James unexpected plays. According to Alec himself, he prefered to play the cross-field passes to Hulme, due to the opposition defence not being prepared for that play.
Compared to other teams, Arsenal's wingers were much more of goalscorers. Bastin broke the record of most goals scored by a winger in Great Britain and was often the team's best goal-scorer; Hulme constantly scored his goals, yet he used to centralize more balls.