Friday, December 7, 2007

Arsenal Football Club

Address: Arsenal Stadium, Avenell Road, Highbury, London N5 1BU
Telephone: (020) 7704 4000
Fax: (020) 7704 4001
Founded: 1-May-1886
Stadium: Arsenal Stadium (Highbury)


Arsenal Football Club (also known as Arsenal, The Arsenal or The Gunners) is a north London football club founded in 1886. They play at Arsenal Stadium, Highbury.

Early years

Arsenal were originally called Dial Square. The club later changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal, and then to Royal Arsenal, then back to Woolwich Arsenal again (the original founders were employed in the "Dial Square" area of the Woolwich Arsenal, an armaments factory in Woolwich, south London). In 1893 they were the first southern team admitted to the Football League, a move partly caused by the refusal of other southern teams to play them after they turned professional. From 1893 to 1904, Woolwich Arsenal played in the Second Division of the Football League. They were promoted to the First Division in 1904.

Woolwich Arsenal were relegated in 1913, the same year they moved from their south London home to Arsenal Stadium (often referred to as "Highbury") in north London. Their move away from this area precipitated the professionalism of Charlton Athletic - at this point an amateur club, amongst others who filled the void. With the move came the change of name to "The Arsenal". The club rejoined the First Division by dubious means in 1919 and have remained in the top division since that time, a unique feat in England.

This unbroken stretch of top-flight football has come much to the chagrin and longstanding enmity of Tottenham Hotspur (or "Spurs" for short) and their supporters, who lost their First Division place to The Arsenal. The First Division was due to be expanded and the decision to promote The Arsenal (who came fifth in the final league season before the war) rather than Barnsley or Wolves (third and fourth place, respectively), or to not relegate Spurs (who finished bottom of the First Division), has been linked to dubious back room deals by The Arsenal's chairman, and mastermind of the move from Woolwich to Highbury, Sir Henry Norris.

1930s to 1960s

In 1925, Huddersfield Town manager Herbert Chapman took over at The Arsenal. Under his leadership, a successful drive to rename the local tube station, Gillespie Road station, to Arsenal took place (the old name can still be seen picked out in tiles on the wall of the station). Chapman's Arsenal won the FA Cup in 1930 and the League in 1931 and 1933. They became the dominant team English football in the 1930s. It was also during Chapman's era that the club lost the definite article from its name, becoming just "Arsenal". It has been suggested by some that Chapman instigated the change so that Arsenal would be at the top of the League's alphabetical list, a position they maintain among the 92 top clubs today (however, should Accrington Stanley gain promotion from the Conference, they will lose it).

Chapman died suddenly in January 1934, but his legacy was continued by his successor, George Allison, who oversaw the club's completion of a hat-trick of league titles, and another FA Cup win in 1936. Such was Arsenal's dominance that in November 1934, Arsenal players made up seven of the eleven England players who beat World Champions Italy 3-2.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, Arsenal Stadium was requisitioned as an ARP station, with a barrage balloon operating behind the Clock End. The stadium continued to operate as a football ground for the armed forces, often with two or three games on it every day. During the Blitz, a 3,000lb bomb fell on the North Bank stand, destroying that stand's roof and setting fire to the scrap that was being stored on the terrace. Arsenal played their wartime home games at White Hart Lane, courtesy of their local rivals Tottenham Hotspur. After the war, the Arsenal board presented the Spurs board with a cannon as a gesture of thanks.

The war had cut short the careers of many of the club's star players, and upon the league's resumption in 1946-47 the club finished a dissapointing 13th. Allison resigned and was replaced by Tom Whitaker. Whitaker enjoyed immediate success with the club, winning the league in 1948 and 1953 and the FA Cup in 1950. However, after these the club went through a barren period, not winning a trophy for another seventeen years. England legend Billy Wright managed the club between 1962 and 1966 with little success, but he was succeeded by club physiotherapist Bertie Mee, who would lead the club to success in the early 1970s.

1970s to mid-1980s

Mee's appointment at Arsenal heralded a brief period of glory. The youth team had won the FA Youth Cup in 1966, and players such as Charlie George, John Radford and Ray Kennedy graduated to the first team. The team's early signs of promise included reaching two successive League Cup finals in the late 1960s, although they lost both times, the second one an infamous 3-1 loss to Third Division side Swindon Town.

Arsenal finally collected some silverware in 1970, when the club won its first European trophy, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. After beating Ajax Amsterdam, one of the strongest teams in the world at the time, in the semi-finals, Arsenal won the final 4-3 on aggregate over Anderlecht, after being (at one point) 3-0 down in the first leg.

The highlight of this period was the club's first FA Cup and League "Double" win in 1970-71.The League title was won at White Hart Lane, home of their deadly rivals Tottenham Hotspur, on the last day of the season; five days later Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley after extra-time, the winning goal scored by Charlie George.

Arsenal failed to capitalise on this success, and spent most of the mid-1970s in mid-table obscurity, brightened only with the emergence of Irish superstar Liam Brady. However, towards the end of the decade, under Terry Neill they proved their mettle in the cup. Between 1978 and 1980 Arsenal had a record-equalling spell in which they reached three FA Cup finals in a row. They won just the one, beating Manchester United 3-2 in the 1979 final after United had come back from 2-0 down. Alan Sunderland scored late on to secure a famous victory.

Arsenal went on to lose the following season's FA Cup final to West Ham, and the Cup Winners Cup final on penalties to Valencia. After the departure of Liam Brady to Juventus, the team entered another barren period for the first half of the 1980s.

The George Graham years

At the end of the 1985-86 season, Millwall manager George Graham (a former Arsenal player) was appointed as the club's new manager and it was a beginning of a golden era of Highbury. He led the club to victory over Liverpool in the League Cup final during his first season in charge and at the end of his third season (1988-89) the club won its first league title since 1971 in dramatic fashion. Needing two goals to secure the league championship against Liverpool, an injury time goal by midfielder Michael Thomas (who, ironically, later became a Liverpool player) gave Arsenal a 2-0 win to secure the league title. Another league title came in 1991, with Arsenal losing just one out of 38 league fixtures, although they had 2 points deducted in October 1990 after ten of their players were involved in a brawl with Manchester United players in a match at Old Trafford.

By the early 1990s, Arsenal had probably the finest squad in the English league. Goalkeeper David Seaman, defender and captain Tony Adams, winger Paul Merson and striker Alan Smith were capable of competing with some of the best players in England, if not Europe. The £2.5million addition of Crystal Palace striker Ian Wright in October 1991 further boosted the squad. Arsenal completed a unique FA Cup/League Cup double in 1993 (beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in both finals) although they finished 10th in the inaugural Premier League and scored fewer goals (40) than any other team in the division.

1994 saw the club win its second European trophy, by beating Parma 1-0 in the Cup Winners Cup final with a goal from Alan Smith. But the following February, George Graham was sacked after nearly nine years in charge after he was discovered to have accepted an illegal £425,000 payment from Swedish agent Rune Hauge following the 1992 acquisition of Danish midfielder John Jensen. Assistant manager Stewart Houston took charge until the end of the season, and although Arsenal finished a disappointing 12th in the Premiership they did reach the Cup Winners Cup final again - only to lose 2-1 to a last minute goal from the halfway line by Real Zaragoza midfielder Nayim.

The interregnum

Bruce Rioch, who had just guided Bolton Wanderers to a League Cup final appearance and promotion to the top division after a 15-year exile, was appointed as the club's new manager for the 1995-96 season. He (briefly) broke the English transfer record by paying Internazionale £7.5million for Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp, and the new signing formed an impressive partnership with Ian Wright.

Arsenal reached the League Cup semi final and finished fifth in the Premiership at the end of 1995-96, securing a place in the following season's UEFA Cup and giving hope for an eventual title challenge. But in August 1996, just before the start of the new season, Bruce Rioch was sacked by the club's board of directors after a dispute over transfer funds.

Assistant manager Stewart Houston was once again put in temporary charge, remaining at the helm for a month, before resigning to take over at QPR. Youth team coach Pat Rice held the fort for several games, before making way for the 44-year-old Frenchman Arsène Wenger, who had guided AS Monaco to the French league title in 1988.

Wenger's Arsenal

With the advent of Arsène Wenger as manager, Arsenal rebuilt their squad with a crop of French players seemingly unknown to all but Wenger. This first batch included Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira, as well as the Dutch winger Marc Overmars. Wenger melded the team with some of the "old guard", retaining Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown and Steve Bould, and also keeping on Pat Rice as his assistant. The team immediately improved under Wenger's management, coming third and achieving a UEFA Cup place in 1996-97, with six minutes left in the last game of the season.

Wenger took the club much further, to their second ever double the following season, after closing a 11 point gap behind Manchester United. A 4-0 home win over Everton on May 3 gave Arsenal the title with two matches to spare, making Arsène Wenger the first foreign manager to win the English league. On May 16, Arsenal beat Newcastle United 2-0 in the FA Cup final to complete the double.

Despite the signing of Fredrik Ljungberg in 1998 and Thierry Henry a year later, a more barren period followed as Arsenal failed to win anything for the next few years, though they came close several times; they blew a winning position in the 1998-99 Championship, losing it on the final day, and lost the last ever FA Cup semi-final replay to Manchester United in extra time, after a Dennis Bergkamp penalty miss in normal time. They also lost the UEFA Cup Final in 2000, on penalties to Turkish side Galatasaray after a 0-0 draw, and the 2001 FA Cup Final to Liverpool, after leading 1-0 but succumbing to two late Michael Owen goals.

Arsenal bounced back in the 2001-02 season, as they won their second double under Wenger, winning all of their final 13 Premiership fixtures. They finished seven points ahead of runners-up Liverpool, the title secured in the penultimate game of the season with a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. The previous weekend, Arsenal had wrapped up their eighth FA Cup success, beating Chelsea 2-0. Arsenal scored in all 38 league games and not losing any of their 19 away games. Henry was the club's leading league goalscorer with 24 goals in the Premiership.

Arsenal retained the FA Cup in 2002-03, but their joy was soured by the fact that they had surrendered the Premiership title to Manchester United when at the beginning of March they had led the table by eight points; Arsenal lost their title with a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Leeds United in the penultimate game of the season.

Arsenal had a record breaking season in 2003-04, winning the Premiership unbeaten (26 wins, 12 draws, 0 defeats), becoming only the second team to do so without losing a single game - the first being Preston North End in 1889. Their rivals for the title gained revenge in other competitions though, as Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea and the FA Cup by Manchester United in successive games.

The team has yet to register top finishes in the UEFA Champions League, where they have still not progressed beyond the quarter-finals stage. This may have contributed to Thierry Henry's failure to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2003, although he is the third player to win the PFA Player of the Year award in two different seasons (after Mark Hughes and Alan Shearer), and is the first to win the award in two consecutive seasons. So far, Henry and other key players have shown loyalty to the team and its manager by renewing their contracts rather than departing for the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid, where they would almost certainly be paid greater amounts of money than at Arsenal.

Thanks to his success at Arsenal, Arsène Wenger is now rated by some as the best Arsenal manager ever, while most football enthusiasts rate him at least as good as Herbert Chapman, Bertie Mee and George Graham.


Over the years the Arsenal crest has often been slightly modified, resulting in a crest which had no author who could claim the copyright. At the beginning of the 2001/02 season, Arsenal changed sponsors from Sega Dreamcast to O2 and simultaneously introduced a new 'modern' crest. This received a mixed response from fans, some claiming that it had ignored much of Arsenal's history by removing the blackletter text, the Latin motto Victoria Concordia Crescit (which means "victory comes from harmony") and coat of arms. The cannon has also been reversed; it now points eastward, like the original cannon crest.


Arsenal wear a mostly red home kit, in recognition of a charitable donation from Nottingham Forest. Dial Square's founding members, F. W. Beardsley and A. J. 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 kit was originally all-red and a much darker, almost purple, shade than currently used, but in 1933 Herbert Chapman, wishing his players to be more distinctly dressed, updated the kit, adding white sleeves and changing the shade to a brighter pillar box red. The team has stuck with the combination since, aside from a single season in 1963-64 where they reverted to all-red.

For the 2005-06 season only, the last season that Arsenal will play at Highbury, the teams' shirts are to be changed to the original darker red to reflect the colour worn in the first season at Highbury, in 1913. The colour is similar to that used by Sparta Prague, who themselves based their shirt's colour on Arsenal's 1906 kit.

Arsenal's away colours are traditionally yellow and blue, although they wore a green and black away kit for a short while in the early 1980s. Since the 1990s and the advent of the lucrative replica kit market, the away colours have been changed every couple of seasons; as a result, as well as yellow and blue, they have also been, at different times, navy blue with light blue, and metallic gold with navy trim. The current away kit is an all-blue number.

New stadium

Limitations at Highbury have led the club to monetary losses in recent seasons despite impressive domestic form. To close the gap with rivals such as Manchester United, Arsenal are currently in the process of building a new 60,000 seater stadium at Ashburton Grove, about 500m southwest, towards Holloway Road. While this project has been somewhat delayed by bureaucratic red tape and rising costs, the club has secured financing and hopes that its new stadium will enable it to continue to develop and compete at the very highest level of English and continental football. The stadium will be known until the end of the 2020/21 season as The Emirates Stadium after the club signed the largest sponsorship deal in English football history with airline Emirates, worth approximately £100 million over the term of the deal; Emirates will also become the club's shirt sponsor from 2006 until the end of the 2012-2013 season.


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