The appointment of Herbert Chapman in the summer of 1925 arguably shaped Arsenal into the football club it remains today. The Englishman was tempted from his successful Huddersfield Town side, who won the First Division for three consecutive seasons, by Arsenal chairman Henry Norris but despite immediate success in leading the Gunners to a second place finish in the First Division in season 1925-26, the rest of the 1920s were spent in mid-table obscurity. Chapman did take the Club to their first FA Cup Final in 1927 but saw his side lose 0-1 to Cardiff City.
Despite Arsenal's league struggles Chapman persisted and by the early 1930s his hard work was bearing fruit. His innovative tactics, plus shrewd signings like David Jack, Cliff Bastin, Alex James and Eddie Hapgood transformed Arsenal into one of the most feared sides in the country. Chapman's first trophy came in 1930 when Arsenal saw off his old employers, Huddersfield, in the FA Cup Final. The triumph began a decade in which Arsenal would be the dominant team in English football. The Gunners won their first top flight title in 1930-31, repeating the feat two years later. Tragically it would be Chapman's last success. In January 1934, the Arsenal boss died suddenly from pneumonia at the age of 55. He missed seeing the side he had moulded lift three back-to-back titles. Herbert Chapman entered into football management by accident. Everything he did thereafter was pure genius. Light years ahead of his time Chapman was to revolutionise professional football and the sport as an entertainment industry.
Chapman's ideas were visionary but many took years to be accepted by the Football Association. Herbert once visited an old friend in Austria and returned to talk excitedly about a night match he had watched. The pitch had been lit by the headlights of 40 cars. He asked, “Do you realise that if the same number of lights were up on 40-foot poles we could play football as if it was daylight”. But authority was unimpressed and it was nearly 20 years before the first official floodlit football match was played in England. He advocated numbered shirts five years before there was approval from the Football League (in 1939), white footballs and all-weather pitches, the ten-yard semi-circle, floodlit matches, goal-judges, better refereeing and a plan for improving the England team. He also oversaw the development of an electronic turnstile, developed a PA system which passed team news onto fans and created a letter and number scoreboard which was widely copied throughout the country over the next 50 years. Furthermore, Chapman was behind the famous Highbury clock, Arsenal's white sleeves - which he believed allowed players to identify each other more easily - feeder clubs and European tours. But perhaps his greatest invention was the 3-2-2-3 WM formation. It proved so successful in nullifying opponents that many English sides later adopted it, changing the domestic game as a spectacle. Last, but certainly not least, Arsenal have Chapman to thank for being the only football team in London with an Underground Station named after them. It took months of lobbying and the change meant that thousands of tickets, maps and signs had to be replaced. Even machinery had to be re-configured. Nothing about Chapman was grey or vague. He demanded power, loyalty, absolute obedience, punctuality at all times and devotion to club and profession. In return he was scrupulously fair and true to his word.
Chapman pushed hard for the Tube stop just behind the North Bank to be re-christened. "Whoever heard of Gillespie Road?" he asked at one point in the talks. "It is Arsenal around here!" Eventually, on November 5, 1932, Arsenal made its debut on the London Underground.
Within five years of his arrival at Arsenal, Chapman created a team that was to dominate English football for a decade. In the 1930s Arsenal won 5 League titles, 2 FA Cups and 5 Charity Shields either under Chapman or thanks to his legacy.
For much of Arsenal's history, their home colours have been bright red shirts with white sleeves and white shorts, though this has not always been the case. The choice of red is in recognition of a charitable donation from Nottingham Forest, soon after Arsenal's foundation in 1886. Two of Dial Square's (Arsenal’s original name) founding members, Fred Beardsley and Morris Bates, were former Forest players who had moved to Woolwich for work. As they put together the first team in the area, no kit could be found, so Beardsley and Bates wrote home for help and received a set of kit and a ball. The shirt was redcurrant, a dark shade of red, and was worn with white shorts and socks with blue and white hoops. In 1933, Herbert Chapman, wanting his players to be more distinctly dressed, updated the kit, adding white sleeves and changing the shade to a brighter pillar box red.