After failing to finish in the top-4 last season, Arsenal FC has broken the bank by spending nearly €100 million during this transfer-window.
Arsenal hails from the borough of Islington in North London. The club holds the distinction of keeping the longest streak at the top-division, having remained there since 1913.
Arsenal is the 3rd most successful football club of England in terms of trophies and has won the 2nd highest numbers of matches in the top-flight. Thus far, it has picked up 13 top-tier league-titles, 14 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 16 FA Community Shields and 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
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While it started with a maroon strip, for the larger part of its history Arsenal has played in red shirts with white sleeves and shorts. The crest has seen many transformations over the decades but has been unchanged since 2002. It is in the form of a shield which features a single cannon pointing eastwards.
The club was nicknamed the Gunners and its supporters are referred to as ‘Gooners’. Its local fan-base ranges from working-class areas like Finsbury Park and Newington Stoke to mixed localities such as Islington, Holloway and Highbury while stretching to the nearby wealthy neighbourhoods of Canonbury and Barnsbury as well.
After using many grounds in its early years, Highbury was the home-ground for Arsenal since 1913 before it vacated the premises to occupy Emirates Stadium in 2006. The club virtually sells out all of its home-games at the 60,260 capacity arena, giving Arsenal the 7th highest average attendance in Europe.
Arsenal shares a long-standing feud with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur and matches between the sides are termed as the North London Derby. London clubs Chelsea, West Ham United and Fulham are big rivals, too. Manchester United has also turned to bitter enemies as they battled each other for the Premier League in the early 2000’s.
In October 1886, David Danskin and 15 other fellow munitions workers in Woolwich formed the Dial Square Football Club, named after a workshop at the heart of the Royal Arsenal Complex. A month later the club was renamed Royal Arsenal. In 1891, it became the first football club in London to turn professional.
The club was renamed again in 1893 when it became a limited liability company. It was registered as Woolwich Arsenal by the Football League when the club was added to it that same year. Therefore, Arsenal became the first member of the Football League from the southern part of England.
The Early Decades
Woolwich Arsenal played its first campaign in professional football in 1893/94, starting out in the Second Division of the Football League and ending the season in 9th spot. It gradually improved but stayed in the division for a decade before winning promotion after finishing as runners-up in 1904/05.
In 1905/06, Woolwich Arsenal began its maiden campaign in First Division and earned a respectable 10th place finish. The club stayed in the top-tier for a number of years but was not able to make much improvement. It ended 1908/09 in 6th spot yet only narrowly escaped relegation after dropping down to 18th position in 1909/10.
After a couple more seasons in the mid-table, Woolwich Arsenal suffered its first and only relegation at the end of 1912/13 when it finished in 20th spot of the First Division. In 1913/14, it took 3rd place in the Second Division, thereby losing out on promotion to Bradford Park Avenue on goal-average.
Having changed its name to The Arsenal in 1914/15, the Gunners lost out on promotion again after finishing the season in 5th place. Then World War I broke out across Europe and football was suspended in England for the next 4 years. When it resumed after the war, the Football League decided to extend the top-flight to 22 teams.
As part of its expansion plan, the Football League controversially elected Arsenal into one of the new slots in the First Division. It got the nod ahead of Tottenham Hotspur who had been relegated from the top-flight in the previous season and thus cemented the intense rivalry between the two neighbouring clubs.
Therefore, Arsenal was back in the First Division for 1919/20 and ended the campaign in 10th position. The club mostly languished in the bottom-half of the table during the opening half of the 1920’s. The Gunners had finished the 1924/25 season just above the drop-zone in 20th spot.
The Golden Age
Despite failing to compete for titles, Arsenal had developed a strong local fan-base while moving to Highbury in 1913 had allowed the club to double its revenue. With the strong financial standing, the Gunners were able to prise away Herbert Chapman, the manager of Huddersfield Town who had recently led the club to successive league-titles.
The effect of Chapman was instantaneous as Arsenal produced its best top-flight season up to that point finishing as runners-up to Huddersfield Town in 1925/26. In the following 1926/27 campaign, the club dropped down to 11th but reached its first FA Cup final, losing 1-0 to Cardiff City.
Despite being in the mid-table for the next few years, Arsenal claimed its first piece of silverware by winning the FA Cup in 1929/30 by beating Huddersfield Town 2-0 in the final. The Gunners then went on to clinch its maiden First Division title in 1930/31 to usher in its dominance for the coming decade.
But before dominating English football in the 1930’s, Arsenal would only lose the league-title in 1931/32 before going down 1-2 to Newcastle United in the final of the FA Cup. Nevertheless, the club reclaimed the First Division in 1932/33 to become English champions for the 2nd time.
Arsenal challenged for the league-title again the next season but tragedy struck the club as Herbert Chapman suddenly lost his life to pneumonia in January 1934. His deputies Joe Shaw and George Allison took over the team which successfully defended its First Division title in 1933/34 before completing the hat-trick in 1934/35.
The Gunners lost its stranglehold on the First Division in 1935/36 but went on to lift the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United. After finishing the next season without a trophy, Arsenal won the league-title again in 1937/38, edging out Wolverhampton Wanderers and Preston North End for its 5th top-flight crown.
After ending the following campaign outside the top-4, Arsenal was sitting in 3rd place after 3 games in the 1939/40 season when World War II broke out in Europe. The Football League was suspended for the next 7 years before it resumed in 1946/47 with the Gunners finishing the league in 10th position.
Tom Whittaker became the manager at the start of the 1947/48 and he led Arsenal to First Division title in his debut campaign. The Gunners stayed in the upper-end of the league for the next few years and defeated Liverpool 2-0 to win the FA Cup final in 1949/50.
In 1951/52, Arsenal finished in 3rd spot after handing the league-title to Manchester United on the final day before losing 0-1 to Newcastle United in the FA Cup final. The Gunners beat Preston North End to the First Division title on a superior goal-average in 1952/53.
A Lengthy Barren Spell
Despite being the defending champions, Arsenal ended 1953/54 way down in 12th position. After a long glorious spell, the club would have to endure a prolonged barren spell in the coming decades. It remained a mid-table side for the rest of the 1950’s except when it took a distant 3rd place in 1958/59.
The 1960’s turned out to be a hugely disappointing decade for Arsenal as it failed to pick up a single trophy in this period. The Gunners could not even reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup while registering only a single top-6 finish in the First Division when it ended on 4th spot in 1968/69.
Hence, it was quite a big surprise when Arsenal edged Leeds united by a single point to claim the First Division title in 1970/71. In fact, less than a week later the Gunners were able to notch its first league and cup double when it beat Liverpool 2-1 after extra-time in the FA Cup final.
Arsenal finished the 1971/72 season in 5th spot before losing the FA Cup final 0-1 to Leeds Utd. It ended 1972/73 as runners-up of the First Division behind Liverpool but dropped down the table in the coming years. The Gunners reached the FA Cup final in 1977/78 where it was beaten 1-0 by Ipswich Town.
In 1978/79, Arsenal beat Man Utd 3-2 in the final of the FA Cup to lift the trophy for the 5th time. The Gunners went into its 3rd consecutive FA Cup final in 1979/80 but was beaten 1-0 by London rivals West Ham United. It also reached the European Cup Winners’ Cup final that season, losing to Spanish side Valencia in a penalty-shootout.
The Gunners took 3rd spot of the First Division in 1980/81, its best league-finish of the 1980’s until the end of the decade. Under its new manager George Graham, Arsenal took home its maiden League Cup in 1986/87 with a 2-1 win against Liverpool in the final. It reached the final again in 1987/88 but lost 3-2 to Luton Town.
The Contemporary Period
On the final day of the 1988/89 campaign, Arsenal required a victory over Liverpool at Anfield to win the First Division despite owning an 11-point lead earlier in the season. The Gunners somehow managed to get the required result with a stoppage-time goal which broke its 18-year drought for the league-title.
The Premier League Era
After taking 4th position in the following season, George Graham led Arsenal to the First Division title once more in 1991/92, the 10th time that the club was crowned as the champions of England. After ending 1992/93 in 4th spot, the Gunners became a founding member of the Premier League, the new top-flight of English football.
In 1992/93, Arsenal picked up the League Cup with a 2-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday. However, it could only get a 10th place finish in its maiden Premier League campaign. Yet the season ended on a positive note as Arsenal finally overcame Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 after extra-time in the replay of the FA Cup final.
Arsenal would fail to launch any serious challenges for the Premier league in its early years but enjoyed more success in other competitions. In 1993/94, the Gunners won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a 1-0 victory over Italian club Parma which remains its only success in Europe till date.
During the middle of the 1994/95 campaign, George Graham was dismissed by the club and suspended by the FA for receiving illegal payments from an agent for signing some players to the club. Bruce Rioch took over for the 1995/96 season which the Gunners ended in 5th position.
For the start of 1996/97, Arsène Wenger was appointed as the new manager of the club, the first one from outside the British Isles to take the helm. He introduced new tactics and training methods which lay special emphasis on physical conditioning and the team responded by finishing in 3rd place that season.
In 1997/98, Arsenal made a fantastic start and managed to stave off Manchester Utd to claim the Premier League title by a single point despite losing the last two fixtures. The Gunners then completed the double with a 2-0 victory against Newcastle United in the final of the FA Cup.
Arsenal lost the Premier League to Man Utd in 1998/99 after elimination in the group-stage of the UEFA Champions League on its debut appearance in the competition. It ended as runners-up in the league again in 1999/2000 before losing to Turkish club Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup final.
In 2000/01, Arsenal reached the knockout-stages of the Champions League for the first time, bowing out to Valencia in the quarter-finals. It finished the Premier League as the runners-up behind Man Utd for the 3rd straight season. The Gunners were then beaten 1-2 by Liverpool in the FA Cup final.
The Premier League title returned to Highbury in 2001/02 with Arsenal romping home with the title by winning the last 13 fixtures of the campaign. The Gunners completed the league and cup double for the 3rd time having already defeated Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup final.
Arsenal handed the league-title back to Man Utd in 2002/03 but was able to retain the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Southampton in the final. In 2003/04, the club remained unbeaten on its way to the Premier League trophy, the only English top-flight team to do so in the modern-era, which earned the side the moniker ‘the Invincibles’.
The Gunners would lose the Premier League title to Chelsea in 2004/05 but picked up its 3rd FA Cup in 4 years by beating Manchester Utd in the final on penalties. In 2005/06, Arsenal reached the UEFA Champions League final for the first time but went down 2-1 to Spanish giants FC Barcelona.
At the start of the 2006/07 season, Arsenal moved into the 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium. But despite bringing in greater revenue, the expenditure on the new arena meant Arsenal would have to change its transfer-policy by developing young talent and regularly selling off its best players.
Nevertheless, the club remained in the top-4 from 2006/07 to 2012/13 although it would not be able to earn any silverware. It reached the final of the League Cup in 2006/07 but lost 2-1 to Chelsea. The club went to the League Cup final again in 2010/11 but were humbled 1-2 by Birmingham City.
Arsenal finally ended its barren run by clinching the FA Cup in 2013/14, overcoming an inspired Hull City 3-2 in the final after extra-time. The Gunners went to the FA Cup final again in the following 2014/15 campaign and registered a 4-0 thumping over Aston Villa in the final to retain the trophy.
In 2015/16, Arsenal finished a distant runner-up in the Premier League behind the fairytale-champions Leicester City. The Gunners picked up the FA Cup again in 2016/17 beating Chelsea 2-1 in the final. But it ended outside the top-4 for the first time in nearly two decades, closing its 17-year spell in the UEFA Champions League.
The Gunners managed to get to the League Cup final in 2016/17 but were defeated 3-0 by Manchester City before it completed the league campaign in 6th position. Arsenal finished the 2017/18 season in 5th position to end up outside the lucrative top-4 spots of the Premier League for the 3rd year in a row.
At the end of the Covid-19 interrupted 2019/20 campaign, Arsenal could only secure 8th position in the Premier League, its worst league-finish in the 21st century. But it still had much better fortunes in the cup competitions and went on to defeat Chelsea 2-1 in the final of the FA Cup.
Despite beginning 2020/21 with renewed optimism, Arsenal was unable to make any significant improvements and ended the season in 8th spot once again. With a fresh young squad, the Gunners looked in contention for a 4th place in 2021/22 but were eventually beaten to it by arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
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