By Michael Kachitsa
As one of the most successful and beloved clubs in England, Arsenal Football Club was always a magnet for the public. Tradition-wise, their results speak for themselves; in addition to winning 28 major domestic trophies, Arsenal hold the records for longest unbeaten streak and longest run in top flight of English football.
Arsenal FC started life as a works team named Dial Square in 1886 – the workers were blacksmith’s that built cannons, which is the reason for the club being known as the Gunners. Shortly thereafter, the club turned professional and changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal, becoming a full-fledged member of the Football League in 1893 (the first club from the south parts of the country).
The following period was fraught with difficulties for the club; besides not being able to form a team that could challenge for the title, Jim was geographically isolated from the rest of the league, which resulted in low attendances. After teetering dangerously close to bankruptcy, the club was bought out by businessman Henry Norris in 1910 and moved to North London in 1913 (Highbury became the new home ground). The following year, the club was renamed as Arsenal.
The club’s first rise to prominence came with the hiring of Herbert Chapman as manager in 1925. In the process of modernizing many aspects of the club, Chapman improved the training regimen and made efficient changes to the club’s traditional 2-3-5 formation. After following this up by signing a couple of star players, Arsenal won their first major trophy in 1930, defeating Huddersfield Town 2-0 in the FA Cup final. This proved to be the beginning of a fruitful period for the club; during the 30s, they claimed five league titles and another FA Cup trophy.
The post-WWII period saw the club continue on their path of prosperity with another two League titles (1948, 1953) and an FA Cup (1950). Those were the last trophies the club would see for the next seventeen years, however; with their best players retiring or leaving for more successful clubs, Arsenal fell into a slump of mediocrity.
After winning their first Double in 1971, it seemed like the club’s fortunes had finally turned. Yet, this was followed up by a long string of second-place league finishes and losses in Cup finals, with the 1979 FA Cup victory being the only bright spot on their record during this time. They were a little more successful under George Graham, whose defense-oriented mindset proved a good fit with the club’s players. During Graham’s nine years in charge (1986–1995), Arsenal won two League titles, two League Cups, an FA Cup, as well as their first and only Cup Winners’ Cup by defeating Parma 1-0 in the final (they had been very close to win the 1980 Cup Winners’ Cup Final, losing against Valenca in the final after a penalty shootout).
Arsenal would become far more watchable with the appointment of Arsène Wenger. The then-unknown French manager immediately transformed the club into a goal-scoring behemoth, partly by successful import of French players such as Robert Pirés, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. Henry was incredibly effective as the lace of the team’s attack. Between 1996 and 2004, Arsenal claimed three League titles and three FA Cups, with the 2003–2004 season being particularly noteworthy due to the club not losing a single game in the Premier League. That squad, powered by Henry’s 30 goals in 37 matches, was later dubbed “The Invincibles”.
Under Arsène Wenger’s management, Arsenal has been known as a club that doesn’t buy big names, but instead finds talents through excellent scouting. An exception, however, was the transfer of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid in 2013. He did cost £42.5 million, a transfer record for the club.
Being one of the top clubs in England, the 38,419 seats at Highbury was not sufficient (the rule from 1994 dictating all-seater stadiums in the league had considerably reduced the capacity). Arsenal wanted to expand the stadium, but wasn’t given permission since the stands were historically listed buildings. They had to build a new stadium and in 2006 Emirates Stadium was ready for first kick-off with potentially over 60,000 in the crowd.