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By Bulldog Drummond
Arsenal first played West Ham in 1906 in the FA Cup. A 1-1 draw in Plumstead was followed by a victory in West Ham 2-3.
The next FA Cup match was not until 1925 but became notorious due to the fact that in his autobiography, Leslie Knighton suggested that he drugged some members of the Arsenal team because he was so worried about the strength of the West Ham team. He thought that with the added energy that the drugs would give his players they would lose.
The tale descended is nonsensical in many ways in that it involves a Harley Street doctor popping into Highbury to offer the drugs and then disappearing from the scene – all very odd. And it descends further into farce however because the match was twice postponed because of fog, with the players already drugged up and ready to play. Ultimately Arsenal lost, after the players refused to take the drugs when the match finally did get the go ahead.
The whole tale reads very much like a fantasy which was introduced into the autobiography in order to get extracts published in a sunday newspaper. Indeed Knighton’s autobiography was not published until after the manager had retired in 1946, over 20 years after he was sacked by Sir Henry Norris to make way for Herbert Chapman. It seems Knighton was in a somewhat parlous financial state in his retirement in Bournemouth by this stage.
What’s more, research by the Arsenal History Society has shown that multiple incidents reported in the autobiography most certainly did not happen, and the most likely explanation is that Knighton simply met with a reporter from the sunday newspaper and allowed the reporter to elaborate on incidents (real or invented) that Knighton revealed over an extended lunch. There is absolutely no evidence to back up this, or indeed many other wild and whacky claims from the book.
Probably the most extensive series of articles on Knighton, including the most fulsome report on the issues surrounding the West Ham match of 1925, is to be found here
So, quickly moving on, Arsenal have beaten West Ham 70 times, lost exactly half that number of games, and drawn 40. But it is the most recent results that make the most interesting reading…
|9 Apr 2016||West Ham United v Arsenal||D||3-3||Premier League|
|3 Dec 2016||West Ham United v Arsenal||W||1-5||Premier League|
|5 Apr 2017||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||3-0||Premier League|
|13 Dec 2017||West Ham United v Arsenal||D||0-0||Premier League|
|19 Dec 2017||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||1-0||League Cup|
|22 Apr 2018||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||4-1||Premier League|
|25 Aug 2018||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||3-1||Premier League|
|12 Jan 2019||West Ham United v Arsenal||L||1-0||Premier League|
|9 Dec 2019||West Ham United v Arsenal||W||1-3||Premier League|
|7 Mar 2020||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||1-0||Premier League|
|19 Sep 2020||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||2-1||Premier League|
|21 Mar 2021||West Ham United v Arsenal||D||3-3||Premier League|
|15 Dec 2021||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||2-0||Premier League|
By my reckoning that is 13 games with one defeat and three draws. The other nine all appear to have been won, which is rather nice.
As we have noted however in previous despatches it is the Europa Conference League that will be exercising West Ham minds at the moment and being 2-1 from the first leg at home will undoubtedly be proving a distraction. It is also true of course that West Ham could qualify for the Europa League or Conference again.
England have two teams in the Europa League and one in the Conference (leaving aside any qualification for having won the Conference this season). So as the table stands at the moment Tottenham and Manchester United would go into the Europa, while West Ham would go into the Conference.
|7||West Ham United||34||15||7||12||52||44||8||52|
However, a couple of slips for West Ham, because they are sidetracked by the second leg of the Conference semi-final (having lost the first leg 1-2 at home) could mean that Wolverhampton could indeed take over and get into the Conference.
So the manager will be doing the sort of things managers do to try and make sure there is indeed no slipping up. But history suggests that no matter how much of that goes on, the players do get distracted.
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