Wednesday, October 12, 2005
a r s e n a l . . .
Arsenal began as a works team for the Woolwich Armaments. They were founded in 1886 as Dial Square. The name soon became Woolwich Arsenal and they played their first match at Plumstead Common. They soon joined the old Second Division playing regularly against professional clubs.
The problem with South London was that it was difficult to get to; attendances were therefore low. After short spell in the First Division their lack of attendances (and consequent lack of money) meant that they had mediocre players. By 1913 they were back struggling in the Second Division. There would be three turning points in the history of the club that would transform them into one of the most famous in the world.
The first turning point was the move to North London. The club chairman wanted to merge Woolwich Arsenal with Fulham but that plan fell through. So a ground was found near a theological college in Highbury not far from Gillespie Road Underground station on the Piccadilly Line. Access was good from all parts of London, and the area was residential thus supplying supporters. Tottenham Hotspur, four miles away, objected to the move but were over-ruled; the South London club maintaining that there was enough potential support for both clubs.
In 1915 the move was completed and the club dropped the Woolwich from its name to become Arsenal. However, it was still an average Second Division team. In 1919 Arsenal won election to the First Division when it was expanded to 22 clubs. This was the second turning point in Arsenal's history. Since this election was at the expense of neighbours Tottenham, this set the enmity between the two clubs that lasts to this day.
The 1920s saw Arsenal as an average First Division club usually finishing in the middle of the table. The third turning point in Arsenal's history occurred when Herbert Chapman was appointed manager. He had made Huddersfield Town the dominant team in the 20s. Highbury was the platform he needed to try out his new ideas. He took Arsenal to 2nd in the First Division in 1926 and to the FA Cup Final in 1927. They lost 0 - 1 to Cardiff City (the only time that the FA Cup has gone out of England). This was still the best that Arsenal had done so far in their history.
It was during the 1930s that Arsenal became a football force. Chapman built a new stadium complete with marble halls, set up under-soil heating so that matches could be played in all weathers, set up the best medical facilities in the country to treat players, and began youth schemes to train young players. His proposals to number shirts and have floodlights were rejected by the football authorities. His innovations showed he was a man ahead of his time. Tactically, Chapman was astute enough to attack the weaknesses of other teams while playing to Arsenal's strengths. Outside of football, Chapman, had the tube station's name changed to Arsenal. Chapman made Arsenal the most successful and richest club in the country. Everybody wanted to beat them.
In 1930 Arsenal won their first trophy, the FA Cup, beating Chapman's old club, Huddersfield Town, 2 - 0. In 1931, Arsenal became the first London club to win the First Division Championship. They set up a new points total which was not bettered for 30 years. In 1932, Arsenal almost became the first club this Century to win both the FA Cup and the League. They finished 2nd in both, losing the FA Cup Final 1 - 2 to Newcastle United. In 1933, 1934, 1935 Arsenal were Champions, one of only three clubs to win three consecutive Championships. They had their upsets however: in 1933 they lost a cup game to Walsall of the old Third Division, a team that cost less than Arsenal's boots. Chapman died during this period, but he is considered to have been the first modern football manager. In 1934, England played an international game with seven Arsenal players, still a record. 1936 saw a second FA Cup win (1 - 0 against Sheffield United). During that season, Ted Drake set a record by scoring 7 goals in an away game at Aston Villa. A fourth Championship was captured in 1938 before World War II stopped competitive football for six years.
In 1947, professional football resumed but the ravages of war left Arsenal weaker. They were almost relegated from the top division. They rallied in 1948 leading from start to finish to capture their fifth Championship. Towards the end of that season, a match against second placed Manchester United attracted over 82,000 people. That remains the highest ever attendance for a league game in England.
1950 saw a third FA Cup win (2 - 0 against Liverpool). Arsenal won the Cup without leaving London. They were back at Wembley in 1952 but lost 0 - 1 to Newcastle United after an injury. This was in the days before substitutes were allowed. In 1953, a win in the final match gave Arsenal their 7th Championship, then a record. They finished equal on points to Preston North End but had scored more goals!
The next 17 years were barren for Arsenal followers. The lack of trophies was made worse by the fact that Tottenham had their golden period between 1960 and 1967. During those years Tottenham became the first club this century to win the FA Cup and League in the same season (1961), retained the Cup in 1962, became the first English club to win one of the new European trophies (1963), and won the FA Cup again in 1967.
In 1961 the League Cup had started. Arsenal reached the final of this trophy (called the Micky Mouse Cup by some!) in 1968 but lost 0 - 1 to Leeds United. A year later they returned to the final and faced Third Division Swindon Town. Arsenal were hot favourites. In fact they lost 1 - 3 after extra time. A flu virus was partially blamed but this was Arsenal's lowest point in recent times. Little did they know that it was to be the beginning of a new golden age.
Although they'd won nothing, Arsenal had finished high enough in the League to qualify for the one of the European competitions that had began during the late 1950s. In the end they won the European Fairs Cup by beating one of Belgium's best sides, Anderlecht, over two games. Arsenal lost 1 - 3 in Belgium but a packed Highbury saw their team win 3 - 0 to take their first trophy for 17 years.
1971 was a classic year for Arsenal. One Monday in May, thousands were locked out of Tottenham's ground as Arsenal won 1 - 0 in the final League game of the season. This result allowed Arsenal to overhaul Leeds United and take their eighth Championship. Five days later they came from behind to beat Liverpool 2 - 1 in the FA Cup Final to become only the second club this Century to 'do the double'. A year later, Arsenal returned to Wembley but lost 0 - 1 to a Leeds United side looking for revenge.
Arsenal reached the FA Cup Final in three consecutive years during the 70s, the first time a club had done so this Century. The first Final was lost 0 - 1 to Ipswich Town, the second won 3 - 2 against Manchester United, the third lost 0 - 1 to West Ham United after a gruelling four match semi-final against Liverpool.
Most disappointing of all was what happened after the 1980 Final. Arsenal had also reached the final of the Cup Winners Cup, another European competition. The game was against the Spanish club, Valencia. It ended 0 - 0 after extra time and Arsenal lost on penalties.
The early 80s were quiet. In 1986 George Graham became manager of Arsenal. He turned out to be Arsenal's most successful manager. In 1987, Arsenal finally won the League Cup (by this time called the Littlewoods Cup). They beat old rivals Tottenham in the semi-final, and came from behind to take the final 2 - 1 against Liverpool. 1988 saw Arsenal squander a 2 - 1 lead to lose 3 - 2 against Luton Town.
In 1989, Arsenal went to Liverpool for the final game of the season needing to win by two clear goals to be Champions. Leading by only a goal, as Liverpool began to celebrate, Arsenal scored a last minute goal to win 2 - 0 and snatch the Championship from under the noses of the Liverpool supporters.
Two years later (1991), Arsenal lost only one League game (a record for the 20th Century) to take their 10th Championship with a frustrated Liverpool finishing second. Only Liverpool have the won the Championship more times.
In 1993 Arsenal completed a unique cup double by becoming the only club to win the League Cup (now called the Coca Cola Cup) and the FA Cup in one season. They won both finals by 2 - 1 against Sheffield Wednesday, the winning goal in the FA Cup coming in the last minute of extra time. Their appearance in 12 FA Cup Finals was a record.
1994 saw Arsenal win their second European trophy, beating the Italian club Parma, 1 - 0 in Copenhagan. They reached the 1995 final only to lose 1 - 2 to a last minute goal against Real Zaragosa. By this time George Graham had left under a cloud.
Arsene Wenger became Arsenal's first foreign manager in 1996. In 1998, Arsenal completed the double for the second time in their history. Coming from 12 points behind, Arsenal won ten games on the trot to beat Manchester United to the championship. In the FA Cup final Arsenal beat Newcastle United by 2 - 0.
The following year they finished second in the League and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup.
In 2000 Arsenal again finished second in the League and reached the final of the UEFA Cup. They lost on penalties to the Turkish club, Galatasaray after a 0 - 0 draw. A year later they finished second in the League for the third year running and played in the FA Cup final in Cardiff, losing to Liverpool, 1 - 2.
In 2002 Arsenal returned to Cardiff to win the FA Cup 2 - 0 against Chelsea. A few days later a 1 - 0 win at Manchester United gave Arsenal their 12th Championship and their third double. They completed an entire season without losing away, a feat not done since 1889.
They couldn't quite retain the Championship in 2003, finishing second after a promising start. They did retain the FA Cup beating Southampton 1 - 0 in their third successive final.
In 2004, Arsenal won the Championship and went through the entire league season (38 games) unbeaten. They completed a record-breaking run of 49 unbeaten league matches which began from the penultimate game of the 2003 season and ended on the ninth match of 2005. It was not enough to retain the League but another FA Cup was won, on penalties against Manchester United.
In the League, Arsenal's 79 consecutive years in the top division is a League record.