Arsenal Football Club (also known as Arsenal, The Arsenal or The Gunners) are an English professional football club based in Holloway, North London. They play in the Premier League and are one of the most successful clubs in English football, having won thirteen First Division and Premier League titles and ten FA Cups, and hold the record for the longest uninterrupted period in the English top flight.
Arsenal were founded in 1886 and were the first Southern club to join the Football League, in 1893. They won their first major trophies in the 1930s, with five League Championship titles and two FA Cups. After a lean period in the post-war years they became the second club of the 20th century to win the League and FA Cup Double in 1970–71, and during the past twenty years have recorded a series of successes – in this time Arsenal have won a Cup Double, two further League and FA Cup Doubles, the Premier League title unbeaten, and became the first London club to reach the UEFA Champions League Final.
The club's colours have traditionally been red and white, although these have evolved through history. Similarly, the club have changed location over time; the team were initially founded in Woolwich, south-east London, but in 1913 they moved north across the city to Arsenal Stadium, Highbury. In 2006 they made a less drastic move to their current home, the Emirates Stadium in nearby Holloway.
Arsenal have a large fanbase, who hold a string of long-standing rivalries with several other clubs; the most notable of these is with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur, with whom they regularly contest the North London derby. Arsenal are one of the richest clubs in English football (valued at over £600m as of 2008), and thanks to their stature, have regularly featured in portrayals of football in British culture. Arsenal Ladies are the most successful English club in women's football and are also affiliated with the club.
In 1925, Arsenal appointed Herbert Chapman as manager. Chapman had already won the league twice with Huddersfield Town in 1923–24 and 1924–25, and he brought Arsenal their first period of major success. His revolutionary tactics and training, along with the signings of star players such as Alex James and Cliff Bastin, laid the foundations of the club's domination of English football in the 1930s. Under his guidance Arsenal won their first major trophies – an FA Cup in 1929–30 and two League Championships, in 1930–31 and 1932–33. In addition, Chapman was reportedly behind the 1932 renaming of the local London Underground station from "Gillespie Road" to "Arsenal", making it the only Tube station to be named specifically after a football club.
Chapman died suddenly of pneumonia in early 1934, but Joe Shaw and George Allison carried on his successful work. Under their guidance, Arsenal won three more titles (1933–34, 1934–35 and 1937–38) and an FA Cup (1935–36). However Arsenal had started to fade by the decade's end, when the intervention of World War II meant competitive professional football in England was suspended.
After the war, under Allison's successor Tom Whittaker, Arsenal enjoyed a second period of success, winning the league in 1947–48 and 1952–53, and the FA Cup in 1949–50. However, after that their fortunes waned; unable to attract players of the same calibre as they had in the 1930s, the club spent most of the 1950s and 1960s in trophyless mediocrity. Even former England captain Billy Wright could not bring the club any success as manager, in a stint between 1962 and 1966.
Arsenal began winning silverware again with the surprise appointment of club physiotherapist Bertie Mee as manager in 1966. After losing two League Cup finals, they won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, their first European trophy, in 1969–70. This was followed by an even greater triumph: their first League and FA Cup double in 1970–71. However, the Double-winning side was soon broken up and the following decade was characterised by a series of near misses. Arsenal finished as First Division runners-up in 1972–73, lost three FA Cup finals (1971–72, 1977–78 and 1979–80) and lost the 1979–80 Cup Winners' Cup final on penalties. The club's only success during this time was an FA Cup win in 1978–79, with a last-minute 3–2 victory over Manchester United that is widely regarded as a classic.
The return of former player George Graham as manager in 1986 brought a third period of glory. Arsenal won the League Cup in 1986–87, Graham's first season in charge. This was followed by a League title win in 1988–89, won with a last-minute goal in the final game of the season against fellow title challengers Liverpool. Graham's Arsenal won another title in 1990–91, losing only one match, the FA Cup and League Cup double in 1992–93 and a second European trophy, the Cup Winners' Cup, in 1993–94. However, Graham's reputation was tarnished when it was revealed that he had taken kickbacks from agent Rune Hauge for signing certain players, and he was sacked in 1995. His replacement, Bruce Rioch, lasted for only one season, leaving the club after a dispute with the board of directors.
The club's success in the late 1990s and 2000s owes a great deal to the appointment of manager Arsène Wenger in 1996. Wenger brought new tactics, a new training regime and several foreign players who complemented the existing English talent. Arsenal won a second league and cup double in 1997–98 and a third in 2001–02. In addition, the club reached the final of the 1999–00 UEFA Cup (losing on penalties to Galatasaray), were victorious in the 2002–03 and 2004–05 FA Cups, and won the Premier League in 2003–04 without losing a single match, which earned the side the nickname "The Invincibles"; in all, the club went 49 league matches unbeaten, a national record.
Arsenal have finished in either first or second place in the league in eight of Wenger's eleven seasons at the club. They are one of only four teams (along with Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea) to have won the Premier League since its formation in 1993, although they have failed to retain the title each time they have been champions. Until 2005–06, Arsenal had never progressed beyond the Champions League quarter-finals; in that competition, however, they reached the final, the first club from London to do so in the competition's fifty-year history, but were beaten 2–1 by FC Barcelona. In July 2006, they moved into their current stadium, the Emirates Stadium, after 93 years at Highbury.
Royal Arsenal's first crest, unveiled in 1888, featured three cannons viewed from above, pointing northwards, similar to the coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich. These can sometimes be mistaken for chimneys, but the presence of a carved lion's head and a cascabel on each are clear indicators that they are cannon. This was dropped after the moved to Highbury in 1913, but in 1922, the club adopted their first single-cannon crest, featuring an eastward-pointing cannon, with the club's nickname, The Gunners, inscribed alongside it; this crest only lasted until 1925, when the cannon was reversed to point westward and its barrel slimmed down. In 1949, the club unveiled a modernised crest featuring the same style of cannon, the club's name set in blackletter above the cannon, the coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Islington and a scroll inscribed with the club's newly adopted Latin motto, Victoria Concordia Crescit (meaning "victory comes from harmony"), coined by Harry Homer, the club's programme editor. For the first time, the crest was rendered in colour, which varied slightly over the crest's lifespan, finally becoming red, gold and green.
Because of the numerous revisions of the crest, Arsenal were unable to copyright it. Although the club had managed to register the crest as a trademark, and had fought (and eventually won) a long legal battle with a local street trader who sold 'unofficial' Arsenal merchandise, Arsenal eventually sought a more comprehensive legal protection. Therefore, in 2002 they introduced a new crest featuring more modern curved lines and a simplified style, which was copyrightable. The cannon once again faces east and the club's name is written in a sans-serif typeface above the cannon. Green was replaced by dark blue. The new crest received a critical response from some supporters; the Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association claimed that the club had ignored much of Arsenal's history and tradition with such a radical modern design, and that fans had not been properly consulted on the issue.
For much of Arsenal's history, their home colours have been bright red shirts with white sleeves and white shorts, though this has not always been the case. The choice of red is in recognition of a charitable donation from Nottingham Forest, soon after Arsenal's foundation in 1886. Two of Dial Square's founding members, Fred Beardsley and Morris 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 shirt was redcurrant, a dark shade of red, and was worn with white shorts and blue socks.
In 1933 Herbert Chapman, wanting his players to be more distinctly dressed, updated the kit, adding white sleeves and changing the shade to a brighter pillar box red. The origin of the white sleeves is not conclusively known, but two possible inspirations have been put forward. One story reports that Chapman noticed a supporter in the stands wearing a red sleeveless sweater over a white shirt; another was that he was inspired by a similar outfit worn by the cartoonist Tom Webster, with whom Chapman played golf. Regardless of which story is true, the red and white shirts have come to define Arsenal and the team have worn the combination ever since, aside from two seasons. The first was 1966–67, when Arsenal wore all-red shirts; this proved unpopular and the white sleeves returned the following season. The second was 2005–06, the last season that Arsenal played at Highbury, when the team wore commemorative redcurrant shirts similar to those worn in 1913, their first season in the stadium; the club reverted to their normal colours at the start of the 2006–07 season.
Arsenal's home colours have been the inspiration for at least three other clubs. In 1909, Sparta Prague adopted a dark red kit like the one Arsenal wore at the time; in 1938, Hibernian adopted the design of the Arsenal shirt sleeves in their own green and white strip. In the 1930s, Sporting Clube de Braga's coach returned from a game at Highbury and changed his team's green kit into a duplicate of Arsenal's red with white sleeves and shorts, giving rise to the team's nickname of Os Arsenalistas. These teams still wear these designs to this day.
Arsenal's away colours are traditionally yellow and blue, although they wore a green and navy away kit between 1982 and 1984. Since the early 1990s and the advent of the lucrative replica kit market, the away colours have been changed regularly; the general rule currently is that they are changed every season with the outgoing away kit becoming the third choice kit for the following season. Generally, the away colours in this period have been either two-tone blue designs, or variations on the traditional yellow and blue, such as the metallic gold and navy strip used in the 2001–02 season, and the yellow and dark grey used in 2005–06 and 2006–07. Arsenal's current third kit for the 2008–09 season, which is used for games where both the first and second choice colours clash with those of their opponents, consists of white shirts with redcurrant shorts and hooped white and redcurrant socks; it was previously the away kit for the 2007–08 season.
For the majority of their time in south-east London, Arsenal played at the Manor Ground in Plumstead, a three-year period at the nearby Invicta Ground between 1890 and 1893 excepted. The Manor Ground was initially just a field, but the club installed stands and terracing in time for their first Football League match in September 1893. They played their home games there for the next twenty years (with two exceptions in 1894–95), until the move to north London in 1913.
Arsenal Stadium, widely referred to as Highbury, was Arsenal's home from September 1913 until May 2006. The original stadium was designed by the renowned football architect Archibald Leitch, and had a design common to many football grounds in the UK at the time, with a single covered stand and three open-air banks of terracing. In the 1930s, the entire stadium was given a massive overhaul, with new Art Deco West and East stands constructed, opening in 1932 and 1936 respectively; in addition, the North Bank terrace had a roof added, which was later bombed during World War II and not restored until 1954.
At its peak, Highbury could hold over 60,000 spectators, and had a capacity of 57,000 until the early 1990s. The Taylor Report and Premier League regulations forced Arsenal to convert Highbury into an all-seater in time for the 1993–94 season, reducing the capacity to 38,419 seated spectators. This capacity had to be reduced further during Champions League matches to accommodate additional advertising hoardings, so much so that for two seasons (1998–99 and 1999–00) Arsenal played Champions League home matches at Wembley, which could house more than 70,000 spectators.
Expansion of Highbury was restricted because the East Stand had been designated as a Grade II listed building and the other three stands were close to residential properties. These limitations prevented the club from maximising matchday revenue during the 1990s and early 2000s, leaving them in danger of being left behind in the football boom of that time. After considering various options, in 2000 Arsenal proposed building a new 60,000-seater stadium at Ashburton Grove, since renamed the Emirates Stadium, about 500 metres south-west of Highbury. The project was initially delayed by red tape and rising costs, but construction was completed in July 2006, in time for the start of the 2006–07 season. The stadium is named after its sponsors, the airline company Emirates, with whom the club signed the largest sponsorship deal in English football history, worth approximately £100 million; however some fans refer to the ground as Ashburton Grove, or the Grove, as they do not agree with corporate sponsorship of stadium names. The stadium will be officially known as Emirates Stadium until at least 2012, and the airline will be the club's shirt sponsor until the end of the 2013–14 season.
Arsenal's training centre is in Shenley, Hertfordshire, at a purpose-built facility which opened in 2000. Before that the club shared training facilities with University College London Student Union nearby, having trained at Highbury up until 1961. It is also where Arsenal's Academy teams play their home matches, while the Reserves play their games at Underhill, home of Barnet FC.
Like all major English football clubs, Arsenal have a number of domestic supporters' clubs, including the Arsenal Football Supporters Club, which works closely with the club, and the Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association, which maintains a more independent line. There is also the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, which promotes greater participation in ownership of the club by fans. The club's supporters also publish fanzines such as The Gooner, Highbury High, Gunflash and the less cerebral Up The Arse!. In addition to the usual English football chants, Arsenal's supporters sing "One-Nil to the Arsenal" (to the tune of "Go West") and "Boring, Boring Arsenal", which used to be a common taunt from opposition fans but is now sung ironically by Arsenal supporters when the team is playing well.
There have always been Arsenal supporters outside of London, and in recent times with the advent of satellite television, a supporter's attachment to a football club has become less dependent on geography. Consequently, Arsenal now have a significant number of fans not just from London but all over the world; there are 24 UK, 37 Irish and 49 overseas supporters clubs affiliated with Arsenal, as of 2007. A 2005 report by Granada Ventures, which at the time owned a 9.9% stake in the club, estimated Arsenal's global fanbase at 27 million, the third largest in the world.
Arsenal's longest-running and deepest rivalry is with their nearest major neighbours, Tottenham Hotspur, with matches between the two being referred to as North London derbies. Other rivalries within London include those with Chelsea and West Ham United,. In addition, Arsenal and Manchester United have had a strong on-pitch rivalry since the late 1980s, which has intensified in recent years when both clubs have been competing for the Premier League title – so much so that in a 2003 online poll by the Football Fans Census listed Manchester United as Arsenal's biggest rivals, followed by Tottenham and Chelsea. A 2008 poll, however, lists the Tottenham rivalry as more important.
In April 2008, business magazine Forbes ranked Arsenal as third most valuable football team in the world, after Manchester United and Real Madrid, valuing the club at $1.2bn (£605m), excluding debt. Accountants Deloitte rate Arsenal fifth in the 2008 Deloitte Football Money League, a ranking of the world's football clubs in terms of revenue, with the club earning £177.6m in the 2006–07 season, moving up from ninth the previous season.
Arsenal's board of directors hold 57% of the club's shares; the largest shareholders on the board are Danny Fiszman (a London diamond dealer) and Nina Bracewell-Smith (wife of the grandson of former chairman Sir Bracewell Smith), who hold 24.1% and 15.9% respectively. Fellow director Richard Carr has 4.4% and club chairman Peter Hill-Wood owns 0.8%, with all the other directors (bar Stan Kroenke, see below) holding nominal amounts.
In recent years, with several other major English clubs all having been taken over by foreign investors, Arsenal have been identified as a target for a buyout. The American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke currently holds 12.4% after buying an initial 9.9% from ITV plc in April 2007; initially treated with hostility, he is now regarded as an ally of the Arsenal board and was appointed a non-executive director of the club in September 2008.
A rival bid for the club has come from the firm Red & White Holdings, which is co-owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov and London-based financier Farhad Moshiri. Red & White bought the stake held by former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, and as of February 2008 own about 24% of the club, the largest single stake owned by a non-board member. This has led to press speculation of a bidding war between Kroenke and Usmanov. However, Kroenke has agreed not to purchase more than 29.9% of the club until at least September 2009, while the rest of the board have agreed not to consider a sale of their shares to "non-permitted persons" until at least April 2009, and have first option on each others' shares until October 2012.
Arsenal also formed the backdrop to one of the earliest football-related films, The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939). The film is centred on a friendly match between Arsenal and an amateur side, one of whose players is poisoned whilst playing. Many Arsenal players appeared as themselves, although only manager George Allison was given a speaking part. More recently, the book Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby was an autobiographical account of Hornby's life and relationship with football and Arsenal in particular. Published in 1992, it formed part of the revival and rehabilitation of football in British society during the 1990s. The book was later adapted into two films – a British film, which centred on Arsenal's 1988–89 title win, and an American film about a fan of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox.
Arsenal have often been stereotyped as a defensive and "boring" side, especially during the 1970s and 1980s; many comedians, such as Eric Morecambe, made jokes about this at the team's expense. The theme was repeated in the 1997 film The Full Monty, in a scene where the lead actors move in a line and raise their hands, deliberately mimicking the Arsenal defence's offside trap, in an attempt to co-ordinate their stripping. Another film reference to the club's defence comes in the film Plunkett & Macleane, in which there are two characters named Dixon and Winterburn, named after Arsenal's long serving full backs – the right-sided Lee Dixon and the left-sided Nigel Winterburn.
Thierry Henry is the club's top goalscorer with 226 goals in all competitions between 1999 and 2007 having surpassed Ian Wright's total of 185 in October 2005. Wright's record had stood since September 1997, a feat which overtook the longstanding total of 178 goals set by winger Cliff Bastin in 1939. Henry also holds the club record for goals scored in the League – 174 – a record that had been held by Bastin until February 2006.
Arsenal's record home attendance is 73,707, for a UEFA Champions League match against RC Lens on 25 November 1998 at Wembley Stadium, where Arsenal formerly played home European matches because of the limits on Highbury's capacity. The record attendance for an Arsenal match at Highbury is 73,295, for a 0–0 draw against Sunderland on 9 March 1935, while that at Emirates Stadium is 60,161, for a 2–2 draw with Manchester United on 3 November 2007.
Arsenal have also set records in English football, most notably the most consecutive seasons spent in the top flight (82 as of 2008–09) and the longest run of unbeaten League matches (49 between May 2003 and October 2004). This included all 38 matches of their title-winning 2003–04 season, making Arsenal only the second club ever to finish a top-flight campaign unbeaten, after Preston North End (who played only 22 matches) in 1888–89.
Arsenal also set a UEFA Champions League record during the 2005–06 season by going ten matches without conceding a goal, beating the previous best of seven set by A.C. Milan. They went a record total stretch of 995 minutes without letting an opponent score; the streak finally ended in the final against FC Barcelona, when Samuel Eto'o scored Barcelona's equaliser in the 76th minute.
For recent transfers, see Arsenal F.C. 2008-09 transfers.
|Assistant Manager||Pat Rice|
|First Team Coach||Boro Primorac|
|Reserve Team Coach||Neil Banfield|
|Goalkeeping Coach||Gerry Peyton|
|Kit Manager||Vic Akers|
|Chief Scout||Steve Rowley|
|Head of Youth Development||Liam Brady|
There have been eighteen permanent and five caretaker managers of Arsenal since the appointment of the club's first professional manager, Thomas Mitchell in 1897. The longest-running manager in terms of time is George Allison (1934–1947) while the longest-running in terms of games is current manager Arsène Wenger (1996–). Wenger is also Arsenal's only manager from outside Great Britain or Ireland and is Arsenal's most successful permanent manager in terms of percentage of wins with 57.36% (as of 11 May 2008), while Leslie Knighton is Arsenal's least successful (34.46%). Two Arsenal managers have died in the job – Herbert Chapman and Tom Whittaker.
Arsenal's tally of thirteen League Championships is the third highest in English football, after Liverpool and Manchester United, while the total of ten FA Cups is the second highest, after Manchester United. Arsenal have achieved three League and FA Cup "Doubles" (in 1971, 1998 and 2002), a joint record shared with Manchester United, and were the first side in English football to complete the FA Cup and League Cup double in 1993. They were also the first London football club to reach the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2006.
Arsenal have one of the best top-flight records in history, having finished below fourteenth only seven times. Arsenal also have the highest average league finishing position for the period 1900–1999, with an average league placing of 8.5. In addition, they are one of only five clubs to have won the FA Cup twice in succession, in 2002 and 2003.