Thursday, July 5, 2012
A brief history of Arsenal
Previous names: Dial Square, Woolwich Arsenal
Admitted to Football League: 1893
European Cup Winners' Cup: 1993-94
First Division/Premier League:13
FA Cup: 10
League Cup: 2
Arsenal are the longest residents in the top tier of English football, having been there since 1919. They have won all 27 of their major trophies in that time, including three domestic Doubles. They are also the only team since the 19th century to remain unbeaten throughout an entire top-flight league campaign.
The club were originally based in the south east of London. They were named Dial Square, having been formed by workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich in 1886. Seven years later - and now known as Woolwich Arsenal - they became the first team from the south to join the Football League, and were promoted to Division One in 1904.
Arsenal struggled financially and were almost bankrupt when they were bought by Henry Norris in 1913. He relocated the club to north London and renamed the team simply Arsenal. By that stage they were in Division Two, but they were promoted in strange circumstances in 1919. Despite finishing fifth, Arsenal won a vote to take one of two extra places when Division One was increased from 20 to 22 teams.
Although Arsenal won nothing in the Twenties, they laid the groundwork with the appointment of the legendary Herbert Chapman, who had just won consecutive championships with Huddersfield, in 1925. Chapman brought in star players such as Cliff Bastin and Alex James, and eventually gave Arsenal their first trophy with a 2-0 victory over his old club Huddersfield in the 1930 FA Cup final.
Chapman won the club's first league title a year later, and then another in 1933, but died suddenly of pneumonia in January 1934. The team he left carried on the run of success with three more league titles - making it five in eight seasons - and another FA Cup in 1936. In that season, Ted Drake had scored a record seven goals in one game away to Aston Villa.
There was more of the same after the war: titles in 1948 and 1953, and an FA Cup in 1950. Then, however, Arsenal entered a remarkable spell of 17 years without a trophy. That included consecutive League Cup final defeats in 1968 and 1969, the latter to third division Swindon.
Arsenal ended their drought by winning their first European trophy in 1970, beating Anderlecht in the final of the Fairs Cup. A year later they won the Double in spectacular style. The title was sealed at the home of their rivals Tottenham, and then Charlie George's memorable extra-time winner decided the FA Cup final against Liverpool.
The next decade was marked by a series of near misses: Arsenal lost three FA Cup finals, were runners up in the league in 1973, and lost the 1980 Cup Winners' Cup final to Valencia on penalties. But a year before that they had triumphed in one of the most dramatic FA Cup finals, with Alan Sunderland's last-minute winner giving them a 3-2 victory over Manchester United.
A mediocre spell at the stat of the Eighties came to an end when their former player George Graham was appointed as manager in 1986. He won the club's first League Cup in 1987, with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool, and two years later secured the league title in astonishing circumstances. In the last game of the season, Arsenal needed to win 2-0 away to the leaders Liverpool to take the title; they did so after a 90th-minute goal from Michael Thomas.
Arsenal added another title two seasons later, when they lost just once and conceded only 18 goals in 38 games. Their defence of Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn were well on the way to becoming the most celebrated in the club's history.
Arsenal did not challenge for the title again under Graham, but were extremely successful in cup competitions: they won the League Cup and FA Cup in 1993, beating Sheffield Wednesday both times, and then stunned Parma with a 1-0 victory in the Cup Winners' Cup final of 1994.
Graham was sacked the following year for accepting an illegal punt, and Arsenal lost the Cup Winners' Cup final in bizarre circumstances when the former Tottenham player scored a last-minute winner from near the halfway line.
After a mediocre 1995-96 season, the Arsenal board took a far-sighted decision that would change the entire DNA of the club: they appointed Arsene Wenger, a complete unknown in England, as manager.
Wenger promptly turned Arsenal into one of the most watchable sides in the England, and won the Double in 1997-98, his first full season. That was also the season in which Ian Wright overtook Cliff Bastin as the club's top scorer, a record he would later lose to Thierry Henry.
Under Wenger, Arsenal became the aesthetes of English football, unashamedly occupying the moral high ground. After a few near misses between 1999 and 2001 - they were runners up to Manchester United in three consecutive seasons, and lost in the finals of the Cup Winners' Cup and FA Cup - they claimed another Double in 2002, ending the season with a staggering run of 13 consecutive league wins.
Arsenal were runners up again in 2003, despite leading the table for much of the season, but regained the title in 2004 with a remarkable performance: they went unbeaten through the 38-game campaign, the first such instance in the English top flight since Preston in 1889, and were thus dubbed "The Invincibles".
They took their unbeaten run to an English-record 49 games in 2004-05, but surrendered their title to Chelsea. Victory on penalties in the FA Cup final against Manchester United was some consolation, although that would be Arsenal's last trophy of the decade. In that time they lost a League Cup final to Chelsea and, most agonisingly of all, their first European Cup final to Barcelona in 2006.
A move to the Emirates Stadium in the same year signified a new era, and a young Arsenal side continued to play the football for which Wenger was renowned. But after another heartbreaking loss in a cup final - to Birmingham in 2010 - and the seventh trophyless season (albeit 3rd in the Premier League), Robin van Persie shared his desire to move on and follow Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in jumping from the sinking ship.