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Alex James - 1932/33
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2021-02-05 12:01:17
Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
This article was made in honor of the dedication to the memory of Mr. Herbert Chapman.
After the last season, which reflected a very inconsistent Arsenal in the First Division but a FA Cup finalist, James was not fit yet, due to the injury which he suferred during the last matches of 1931/32. He also did not have any conditions of playing the FA Cup final against Newcastle. Therefore, he would only be fit and with his football back during the course of 1932/33. However, the season did not start well for Arsenal and for Alex James, mainly due to the aforementioned issues. It took a while for the Scottish wizard to show a level similar to what the public was used to, even though he constantly showed his wide repertoire of tricks and schemes to be applied to Arsenal's style. James, nevertheless, was impressively involved in almost every goal scored by the London team, even if he didn't give the last pass.
It would take some time, but Alex James was still improving.
As mentioned before, Arsenal struggled in their first matches, until they reached the 4th round of the tournament, when they played Manchester City in a match that became complicated in the second time. On that occasion, James had already returned to play at a high level in certain matches to design Arsenal's main moves. Even though he didn't show a level of performance befitting his football, James was still mentioned as one of the best players of the season – and not just by the English. The best, for many.
As Arsenal played more games, the extraordinary football of Alex James came to light. He looked sharper, more sure of himself, and far more dangerous to opposing defensive systems. James performed tricks that put the opposing half-back to shame and made the audience laugh and applaud the Scottish master.
Even when he had the opportunity to score his first goal of the season, James, who was already rare for himself to go forward to shoot the goal, passed the ball to another companion. In the match against Sheffield United on 24/12/1931, his teammates wanted James to take the penalty kick, therefore scoring his first goal of the season. Wee Alec refused. However, even before the year ended, on 31/12/1932, James scored his first goal in a 3:0 victory against Birmingham. Some commented that James even apologized for the goal. The inside left of Arsenal F.C. had not scored since 17/02/1932.
PEFFERKORN: When Alex James plays.
"BEE", 28th match:
Already at the end of 1932, with Wee Alec physically better and more stabilized, Arsenal followed in first place and never left there. James enhanced his wizardy.
Alex James was called to play for Scotland, against England, in the last match of that edition of the British Home Championship. Had he played in the match, Alex James would not have played against Aston Villa F.C. on 04/01/1933. James, however, claimed he was injured, so he did not play in the match. Still, James played against Villa – and incredibly well, it didn't look like he was injured. This ended up generating several discussions in Scotland.
Intriguingly enough, James was not present at the celebration dinner in London to receive the First Division title from Mr. John McKenna, the League president.
For the last game of the season, on Saturday, against Sheffield United, James was not asked to play for the Arsenal. During last week James has asked to be excused from playing a friendly against Cliftonville, in Ireland, his reason being that he needed a rest. The fact that he was left out of the team against Sheffield United is suggested to be the reason why he retrained from attending the dinner. His name was on the table-plan.
SURPRISE IN THE FA CUP.
After being runners-up in the 1931/32 edition of the FA Cup, Arsenal, already considered one of the favorites to win the tournament, had Walsall as their first opponent. Even playing with a completely mixed team, Arsenal were still a far superior team. However, the London team ended up being eliminated, by a score of 2:0. On that occasion, Alex James played the game. Arsenal's forwards were very well marked. Actions were not being carried out very well. James and Bastin were the most prominent in the Arsenal attack, but they were always well watched, and James was bundled off the ball in nearly every run he attempted to make. It was tenacious tackling that kept the Arsenal forward out.
James was the star of the Arsenal forward line, but he was closely marked.
Arsenal's great performances, as well as their system of play, were a reflection of the Scottish star's performances. Throughout the season, mentions such as "Alex James against the world", "Alexander the Great James", "Alec The Great" and many other titles were mentioned to cite his impressive football. James reached impressive levels within the four lines. A player who possessed a vast repertoire of tricks and ideas, he was a true master of the game. He owned Arsenal's midfield and owned the show. He was a splendid, extraordinary player who pleased and made the audience laugh with his various tricks. At one point in the season, it was commented that James had so many tricks that they wouldn't even fit in a single box.
Playing much further behind David Jack and mainly Cliff Bastin, Ernie Coleman — or Jack Lambert — and Joe Hulme, James was the main schemer, organizer, orchestrator of plays for the Arsenal team. He was constantly referred to as an engineer-in-chief. With the ball completely dominated at his foot, James controlled the tempo, the pace of Arsenal's advances. He could receive the ball directly from Frank Moss and engineer a quick counter-attack, through a long ball or a series of dribbles that he performed on three or four opponents.
James had a different role than David Jack, the other withdrawn inside forward, even though both were creative agents on the team. James played further back, and almost didn't move forward to try a shot on goal. He, in turn, was seen more as a half-back of the London team.
Everytime I see and Arsenal match I get a card from an anti-Scotch man, who raves about my belief in Alec James. Well, Everton saw for themselves how he turns a gane, how he drags a ball and defenders capering after him, how he slides a pass, how he returns to scuff the ball with his tiny soles. Football, always football: the artist, the man who makes spectators tingle with laughters and makes a football life worth while. I should estimate that the crowd would be there next Saturday; they never tire of watching James, the Arsenal — or Everton in a Cup humour!
O. H. LEWIS, 36th match:
The brains of the Arsenal was, of course, James. He initiated many movements, and his far-flung passes always found Bastin or Jack. He also scored a goal, which Morton should have saved.
DAVID JACK: A team's tactics are governed to a great extent by the nature of the opposition and the characteristics of the players at command. If I had a sharpshooter in my forward line — a Joe Smith, ex-Bolton Wanderers, for instance — he would not be allowed to fall back on defence as much as, say, Alex James. The one is a creator of opportunities... essentially; the other was a great left-foot shot, a potential goal-scorer at ny distance up to thirty yards. If Joe Smith came back to active service there would need to be a revision of our tactical schemes. The Arsenal plan would not pay in his case.
Not only was James Arsenal's main engineer – the team's architect, schemer – but James also had defensive roles, almost always helping Herbie Roberts and the whole defensive system.
Arsenal's left side had a different positioning than the right side, as Alex James was considered a fourth half-back and Clifford Bastin was not a player who played that wide. Bastin was initially an inside forward, thus playing several times as insider for England. Due to Alex James' positioning and Bastin's goalscoring characteristics, the left winger was the team's main scorer. Alex James' punctual, accurate passing and his genius for attracting the opposing defence, Bastin had more freedom on the left side, often cutting in and scoring the goal himself. In total, Bastin finished the First Division with 33 goals in 42 appearances, with several of those goals being scored through Alex James' planning.
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