On taking over from George Allison, Tom Whittaker enjoyed immediate success by leading Arsenal to their sixth League Division 1 Championship in 1947/48.
Tom needed to start changing his team the aging stars in the squad could no longer keep up with the strenuous work routines. He brought in Doug Lishman, Alex Forbes and Cliff Holton but even with the new players Arsenal was unable to challenge for the league title.
The 1950/51 FA Cup proved to be a different story:
3rd Round Arsenal 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0
4th Round Arsenal 2 Swansea Town 1
5th Round Arsenal 2 Burnley 0
6th Round Arsenal 1 Leeds United 0
Semi Final Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2
SF Replay Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0 after extra time with Freddie Cox scoring the winning goal.
Both the Semi final and the Replay were played at White Hart Lane.
In the final Arsenal met Liverpool at Wembley on April 29th 1950 in front of a crowd of 100,000 – although some reports claim 127,000 were at the game.
The Arsenal team consisted of : George Swindin, Laurie Scott, Walley Barnes. Alex Forbes, Leslie Compton, Joe Mercer, Freddie Cox, Jimmy Logie, Peter Goring, Reg Lewis and Denis Compton.
Denis Compton was now nearing the end of his career as a footballer, he experienced an indifferent first half so during half time he was given a stiff brandy, in the second half he perked up and played a major part in a sparkling move which led to Reg Lewis scoring his second goal of the game.
Arsenal won the game 2-0 to claim their third FA Cup trophy.
Later in 1950 Leslie Compton became the oldest England debutant at 38 years and sixty five days in a game against Wales. Denis and Leslie were also Middlesex cricketers but Denis was more than just a first class player he was a brilliant batsman and scored over 123 centuries.
1951-52 saw the club nearly win their first Double, but it ultimately ended in disappointment; a series of injuries and a fixture pile-up at the end of the season saw Arsenal lose their last two matches, including the title decider against eventual champions Manchester United at Old Trafford on the last day of the season; the Gunners finished third, equal on points with Tottenham. A week later, Arsenal played Newcastle United in the FA Cup final, with several recovering players rushed back into the first team; Walley Barnes was taken off injured with a twisted knee after 35 minutes (no substitutes were allowed then), and ten-man Arsenal suffered further injuries so that by the end of the match they had only seven fit players on the pitch; Newcastle took full advantage and won 1-0.
Unbowed by the disappointment of the previous season, Arsenal won their seventh League title in 1952-53; in one of the closest title races ever, they beat Preston North End to the title on goal average after finishing level on points.
1952/53 League Division 1 Champions
That proved to be Arsenal’s last trophy for seventeen years; unable to attract many stars, the club’s fortunes began to wane, particularly after the unexpected death of Tom Whittaker in 1956. Apart from finishing third in 1958-59, Arsenal usually figured around mid-table. Nor did the club have much luck in the FA Cup – after reaching the final in 1952, Arsenal would not get beyond the quarter-finals again until 1971.
Jack Crayston and George Swindin, both former players, followed Whittaker as manager but could not replicate his success. In 1962, Arsenal made the bold but ultimately unsuccessful step of appointing England legend Billy Wright as manager, despite his lack of managerial experience. Like his predecessors, Wright could not achieve much either, although it was under his leadership that the club made their debut in European competition, in the Fairs Cup after finishing seventh in 1962-63. In his final season, Arsenal finished 14th, their lowest position in 36 years, and recorded the lowest-ever attendance at Highbury (4,554).