From Foundation to the First World War
Arsenal Football Club began life when a group of workers at the Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory decided to form a football team in late 1886. The Club played under the name of Dial Square. Their first match was a 6-0 victory over Eastern Wanderers, on December 11, 1886. Soon after, the name Royal Arsenal was adopted and the Club continued playing in friendlies and local cup competitions for the next few years.
In 1891 the Club turned professional and changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal, finally joining the Football League in 1893. The Gunners moved to Highbury in 1913, as a Second Division side. Following the First World War Arsenal were voted into the newly expanded First Division, where they have remained ever since.
Chapman and the Glorious Thirties
Herbert Chapman took over at Arsenal in 1925, and in 1930 he guided the Gunners to their first ever trophy — beating Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup Final. The following season Arsenal were champions for the first time. Between 1933 and 1935 the Club won a hattrick of league titles (which has only been achieved by four teams in the top flight). Sadly Chapman died in the middle of the run, by which time he had reached legend status.
George Allison took over and the dominance continued for the rest of the decade, winning one more FA Cup (1936) and another title (1938). During this time Arsenal had some of the game’s greatest players on its books: Alex James, Ted Drake, Cliff Bastin, David Jack, Eddie Hapgood and George Male were just some of the names in what was one of the greatest sides ever to play in the Football League.
Post-War to the First Double
The Second World War stopped Arsenal in their tracks but Tom Whittaker became manager and more success followed. Arsenal were Champions in 1947/48 and 1952/53; FA Cup winners in 1950 and runners-up in 1952. The ‘60s provided little in the way of silverware at Highbury, with two losing appearances in the League Cup Final in 1968 and 1969 being the closest thing to success. Bertie Mee had taken over in the mid-Sixties and Arsenal lifted their first ever European trophy in 1969/70, beating Anderlecht 4-3 over the two legged Fairs Cup Final.
Better was to follow the following season. An Arsenal side containing the likes of Charlie George, George Armstrong, Ray Kennedy and captain Frank McLintock, won the league and FA Cup ‘double’. They clinched the title at White Hart Lane, then beat Liverpool after extra time at Wembley to win the Cup. The side returned to Wembley for three consecutive FA Cup Finals under Terry Neill at the end of the decade — winning the second of them, 3-2 against Manchester United. The game became known as the ‘Five Minute Final’. The Gunners also reached the 1980 Cup Winners’ Cup Final, with a team that included Graham Rix, Frank Stapleton, Pat Rice, David O’Leary and Liam Brady, but lost on penalties to Valencia.
George Graham's Honours
In 1986 George Graham, a member of the 1971 ‘double’ winning team, took over as manager from Don Howe and more glory days followed. He led Arsenal to their first ever League Cup triumph in 1986/87, beating Liverpool 2-1 in the Final. Two years later the Gunners won the League Championship, with a famous last minute goal from Michael Thomas clinching the title with a 2-0 win at Anfield. Another title followed in 1990/91, when the side, including the famous defensive back four, lost just one league game.
More silverware followed. In 1992/93 Arsenal became the first club to win both domestic cups in the same season. Sheffield Wednesday were the beaten side on both occasions. Graham’s era of success was rounded off the following season. A superb run in the European Cup Winners’ Cup ended with a memorable 1-0 win over Parma in the Final in Copenhagen, thanks to Alan Smith’s strike. Arsenal failed to retain the trophy the following season, losing in the 1995 final to Real Zaragoza. By this time George Graham had left the Club. He was succeeded by Bruce Rioch, who was in charge for one season, during which time he signed Dennis Bergkamp.
The Arsène Wenger Era
In 1997/98, Wenger’s first full season at Highbury, Arsenal achieved, for the second time in the Club’s history, the League and FA Cup ‘double’ enabling the Frenchman to pick up the Carling Manager of the Year Award. Dennis Bergkamp was also named Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Player of the Year and PFA Player of the Year. A tremendous season was rounded off perfectly for French Internationals Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira as the Gunners stars played their part in France’s victorious World Cup campaign.
Three consecutive league runners-up medals followed and in 2000 Arsenal appeared in the UEFA Cup Final where they lost on penalties. In 2001 the Club reached the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Champions League before being knocked out by Valencia. 2001/02 however saw a reversal of fortunes as the Club recorded their third ‘double’ by beating Chelsea in the FA Cup and ending their league campaign with a 13-game unbeaten run and a memorable 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. Arsenal remained unbeaten at home for the whole season. For that, Arsène Wenger was named Barclaycard Manager of the Year while Robert Pires was named Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year.
The following season Arsenal narrowly missed out on retaining the title but the Gunners became the first English club in more than 20 years to retain the FA Cup with their 1-0 victory over Southampton at Cardiff. Thierry Henry was voted player of the season by both the PFA and the Football Writers’ Association in a term which saw him join Dennis Bergkamp in the hallowed 100 Club having scored a century of goals for Arsenal. Season 2003/2004 saw Arsenal win back the title in unbeatable fashion managing to go though the entire league season without a single defeat. Finishing 11 points ahead of second-place Chelsea, Arsenal smashed several records on the way to their 13th league title win. Spanish youngster Cesc Fabregas arrived in January and by the end of the season had broken the record for the youngest Arsenal appearance aged 16 years and 177 days.
A Semi-Final defeat in the FA Cup by Manchester United and the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League by Chelsea ended any hope of a remarkable treble. The unbeaten league run continued the following season and in August 2004 Arsenal overtook Nottingham Forest’s record for the longest all-time unbeaten sequence in English league football. The Gunners made it five trophies in four seasons by winning the FA Cup in a penalty shoot-out victory over Manchester United.
The 2005/06 campaign was the Club’s last at Highbury and the Final Salute celebrations proved to be a fitting goodbye to the Club’s home of 93 years. Fourth place in the league — and Champions League football — was secured on the last day of the season with a 4-2 win over Wigan Athletic (coupled with Tottenham’s loss at West Ham United). Arsenal’s alltime record at Highbury reads as follows: Played 2,010; Won 1,196; Drawn 475; Lost 339; Goals Scored 4,038; Goals Conceded 1,955.
The highlight of the season was the Club’s amazing journey to the 2005/06 Champions League Final in Paris. A 12- game unbeaten run, including a new competition record for the most amount of consecutive clean sheets (10 in all), saw Arsenal line-up against Barcelona in the Final on May 17 at the Stade de France. Despite having Jens Lehmann sent-off after just 18 minutes, the Gunners scored first through Sol Campbell before, in the second-half, the Spaniards scored two late goals to break the hearts of the travelling Arsenal support.
Into Emirates Stadium
As the Club prepared itself for the move to Emirates Stadium, Gunners captain and record goalscorer, Thierry Henry committed his future to Arsenal before going on to help France reach the World Cup Final in Germany in the summer of 2006. In July, 2006 the Club left Highbury, their stadium of 93 years, and moved to their new home. Ajax provided the opposition in Dennis Bergkamp’s Testimonial as the legendary striker played his last game for the Club in the first ever match at Emirates Stadium.