Monday, September 17, 2007

History of Arsenal F.C.

Early years (1886–1910)
Arsenal were founded as Dial Square in 1886 by a group of workers employed by the Dial Square workshop at the Royal Arsenal, an armaments factory in Woolwich, south east London.They were led by a Scotsman, David Danskin, who purchased the club's first football, and Jack Humble; amongst their number was former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Fred Beardsley, who would later along with Morris Bates obtain a set of red kit from his old club, thus giving Arsenal the colours they still wear today.

Dial Square played their first match on December 11, 1886 against Eastern Wanderers on an open field in the Isle of Dogs, which they won 6–0. The club were renamed Royal Arsenal soon after, reportedly on Christmas Day. Initially the club played on Plumstead Common, but soon sought alternative homes, firstly the Sportsman Ground in Plumstead before moving to the adjacent Manor Ground in 1888. Unhappy with the Manor Ground's poor facilities, the club moved to the nearby Invicta Ground in 1890, before returning to the Manor Ground three years later as the Invicta Ground's rent proved too expensive.

During this period, Royal Arsenal started to win local trophies, winning both the Kent Senior Cup and London Charity Cup in 1889–90 and the London Senior Cup in 1890–91; they also entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1889–90. However, the gulf between Arsenal and the professional sides from the North soon became apparent, and Arsenal faced the threat of their amateur players being lured away by the money professional sides could offer; after Derby County had played Arsenal in an FA Cup tie in 1891, they attempted to sign two of Arsenal's amateur players on professional contracts. Therefore the same year Royal Arsenal decided to turn professional, and at the same time they changed their name to Woolwich Arsenal.

Woolwich Arsenal's move to professionalism was frowned upon by many of the amateur Southern clubs, and they were banned from participating in local competitions by the London Football Association. With friendlies and the FA Cup the only matches available for Woolwich Arsenal, they attempted to set up a southern equivalent of the Football League, but the move failed; Woolwich Arsenal's future looked bleak until the Football League came to their rescue by inviting them to join in 1893. Arsenal were the first Southern club to enter the League, initially joining the Second Division; in response, some of the club's amateur players who rejected professionalism and wanted a workers' team to represent just the Royal Arsenal, broke away to form a short-lived alternative side, Royal Ordnance Factories.
Woolwich Arsenal (in dark shirts) playing Newcastle United (in striped shirts) in an FA Cup semi-final — the club's first ever — at the Victoria Ground, Stoke on March 31, 1906; Newcastle won 2–0.
Woolwich Arsenal (in dark shirts) playing Newcastle United (in striped shirts) in an FA Cup semi-final — the club's first ever — at the Victoria Ground, Stoke on March 31, 1906; Newcastle won 2–0.

Woolwich Arsenal played in the Second Division for eleven seasons, and generally occupied mid-table before the appointment of Harry Bradshaw as manager in 1899; Bradshaw and his star signings, including goalkeeper Jimmy Ashcroft (Arsenal's first England international) and captain Jimmy Jackson, won promotion to the First Division in 1903–04. However, Bradshaw moved on to Fulham in May 1904, before the Gunners had kicked a ball in the top flight. Despite some strong performances in the FA Cup — the club reached the semi-finals in both 1905–06 and 1906–07 — Arsenal were never able to challenge for the League title, only twice finishing above tenth place in the First Division between 1904 and 1913.

The chief cause of this decline was the club's ongoing financial problems; despite the boom in football during the early 20th century, the club's geographic isolation, in the relatively underpopulated area of Plumstead (then on the outskirts of urban London), meant attendances and thus income were low. To stay afloat, Woolwich Arsenal were forced to sell their star players (including Ashcroft, as well as Tim Coleman and Bert Freeman), and slowly started to slip down the table, which compounded their financial situation as crowds fell. By the end of the decade the average attendance at Manor Ground was 11,000, a little over half of what it was in 1904. The club were close to bankruptcy, and in 1910 went into voluntary liquidation before being bought out by a consortium of businessmen; the largest shareholder amongst the new owners was property magnate Sir Henry Norris, who was also chairman of Fulham.

Move to Highbury (1910–25)
Norris was acutely aware of the problems associated with Woolwich Arsenal's location, and was desperate to improve the club's income. First, Norris tried to merge Woolwich Arsenal with his other club, Fulham. When that was blocked by the Football League, Norris abandoned the merger and looked to move the club elsewhere, eventually picking a site in Highbury, north London. Despite objections both from Woolwich-based fans and residents of Highbury, Norris tenaciously saw the move through. He reportedly spent £125,000[13] (approximately £8.2m in 2005 prices) on building the new stadium, designed by Archibald Leitch, on a divinity college's playing fields. Woolwich Arsenal moved there in the 1913 close season, having finished bottom and relegated back to the Second Division in 1912–13. They dropped the "Woolwich" from their name in April 1914, and although they were officially plain "Arsenal", the press at the time often referred to them as "The Arsenal" at first.

The club controversially rejoined the First Division in 1919, despite only finishing fifth in 1914–15, the last season of competitive football before the First World War had intervened. The First Division was being expanded from 20 teams to 22, and the two new entrants were elected at an AGM of the Football League. One of the extra places was given to Chelsea, who had finished 19th in the First Division and thus had been already relegated. The other spot could have gone to 20th-placed Tottenham Hotspur (also relegated), or to Barnsley or Wolves, who had finished third and fourth in the Second Division respectively.

Instead, the League decided instead to promote fifth-placed Arsenal, for reasons of history over merit; Norris argued that Arsenal be promoted for their "long service to league football", having been the first League club from the South. The League board agreed; they voted eighteen votes to eight to promote Arsenal ahead of their local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, which has fuelled the long-standing enmity between the two clubs. It has been alleged that this was due to backroom deals or even outright bribery by Sir Henry Norris, colluding with his friend John McKenna, chairman of Liverpool and the Football League, who recommended Arsenal's promotion to the AGM.

No conclusive proof of wrongdoing has ever come to light, though other aspects of Norris's financial dealings unrelated to the promotion controversy have fuelled speculation on the matter; Norris resigned as chairman and left the club in 1929, having been found guilty by the Football Association of financial irregularities; he was found to have misused his expenses account, and to have pocketed the proceeds of the sale of the Arsenal team bus.[18] Arsenal have remained in the top division since then, and as a result hold the English record for the longest unbroken stretch of top-flight football.

The move to Highbury brought about much larger crowds; the average attendance in Arsenal's first season at Highbury was 23,000 (compared to 11,000 at the Manor Ground) and rose further after promotion in 1919, finally warding off the spectre of financial ruin. However, Arsenal's return to the First Division was not immediately successful. Under Leslie Knighton, the club never finished better than ninth, and in 1923–24 came close to returning to the Second Division, finishing 19th and only a point clear of the relegation zone. Arsenal did no better the following season, finishing 20th (although paradoxically the club were a lot safer this time, being seven points clear of the relegation places), which was the last straw for Norris; he fired Knighton in May 1925, and appointed the Huddersfield Town manager, Herbert Chapman in his place.

The Chapman era (1925–34)
Chapman reformed many of the club's practices, including modernising the training and physiotherapy regimes, adding numbers to the players' shirts in August 1928, and changing the team's colours, adding white sleeves to the red shirt in March 1933. Chapman also insisted on journalists dropping the definite article from the club's name, becoming just "Arsenal", and he successfully campaigned for the renaming of the local Tube station, Gillespie Road, to Arsenal. At the same time, Chapman had a large transfer budget by virtue of Arsenal's improved revenue from their new stadium and a change of heart from Henry Norris; previously a highly prudent chairman, Norris now dictated that there was to be heavy spending on new players.

Chapman's first signing was veteran Charlie Buchan from Sunderland; as well as his contributions on the pitch, Buchan would play an important part off it. After Arsenal were beaten 7–0 by Newcastle United in October 1925, Buchan suggested a change to the formation to adapt to a relaxation of the offside law, adjusting Arsenal's formation to the "WM", strengthening the defence by pushing the centre half back into defence and the full-backs out to the wings. Over time, Chapman developed the formation further, putting an emphasis on a pacy forward line, wingers cutting inside, and the role of a creative ball-playing midfielder.

Arsenal came second in Chapman's first season, their best ever finish at that time,[28] but this proved to be a false dawn; for the next few seasons they stayed in mid-table as Chapman took his time to assemble his side, slotting new signings such as winger Joe Hulme, forward Jack Lambert and defenders Tom Parker and Herbie Roberts into his new formation. In 1926–27, Arsenal reached their first FA Cup final, only to lose 1–0 to Cardiff City, after Arsenal's goalkeeper Dan Lewis let a harmless-looking shot slip through his arms and into the net; it was the only occasion in history that the FA Cup has been won by a club from outside England.

Chapman was not deterred, and continued to build his side, signing future captain Eddie Hapgood, as well as three of the club's great attacking players, David Jack, Alex James and Cliff Bastin; it was especially Alex James, Arsenal's playmaker in midfield, supplying the forward line and wingers, who became celebrated as the engine of the team. Three years after their first Cup final, in 1929–30, Arsenal reached Wembley again, this time up against Chapman's old club Huddersfield Town. The match was notable for being "buzzed" by the enormous German airship Graf Zeppelin Arsenal were not distracted from their task; they won 2–0 with goals from James and Lambert to bring home the club's first major trophy.

This success was the first in a decade in which Arsenal were the dominant club in England. They won the First Division for the first time in 1930–31; Arsenal performed strongly in a free-scoring title race with Aston Villa, recording heavy wins of (including 7–1 v. Blackpool, 7–2 v. Leicester City, and 9–1 v Grimsby Town, which remains a club record for the top flight). Arsenal won the title with two games to spare, and finished the season having scored 127 league goals (another club record), though Aston Villa managed to score 128, which is still a record for the most goals in an English top flight season.

The following season, 1931–32, Arsenal reached the FA Cup final again, losing controversially to Newcastle United. Arsenal had led 1-0 with a Bob John goal, but Newcastle's equaliser came after a long ball had gone over the goal line, and out for a goal kick;[33] Newcastle winger Jimmy Richardson nevertheless crossed the ball back into play and Jack Allen levelled the match for the Magpies; Allen scored again in the second half to win the match 2–1. Arsenal's pain was compounded by the fact that Everton had pipped them to the League title; a poor start to the 1931–32 campaign meant Arsenal played catch-up for most of the season, finishing two points adrift.

Arsenal bounced back the following season, winning their second League title. Arsenal had started the season weakly, but then went on a long winning run to catch up and then overtake fellow title challengers Aston Villa, whom they beat 5–0 at Highbury in April to clinch the title. By this time Chapman's first set of signings had started to show their age so with an eye to the future Chapman promoted George Male to the first team to replace Tom Parker, and signed Ray Bowden to take over from David Jack. The only blot on the club's record was an infamous loss to Walsall of the Third Division North in the FA Cup; five of the first team were out with injury or flu and had their place taken by reserves, but despite six first-team players Arsenal lost 2–0 in one of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all time. One of the stand-ins, Tommy Black, was particularly to blame (conceding a penalty for Walsall's second), and was sold by an enraged Chapman to Plymouth Argyle within a week of the result; another, striker Charlie Walsh, was transferred to Brentford a week later.

A hat-trick of League titles (1934–39)
Arsenal had started the 1933–34 season solidly, but in January 1934 Herbert Chapman died suddenly from pneumonia. Despite this, under caretaker manager Joe Shaw Arsenal retained the title that season; Hulme and James were both out with injury for a large portion, and so Arsenal were not the attacking side they had been the previous season, scoring only 75 in the League, compared with 118 in 1932–33.

George Allison (who had formerly been a director of the club) took over the job of team manager in summer 1934 and soon signed new blood for the side, including midfielders Jack Crayston and Wilf Copping, and striker Ted Drake. With these new signings, Allison oversaw the completion of a hat-trick of League titles in 1934–35, and Arsenal were back to their attacking best; Drake scored a club record 42 league goals that season and Arsenal racked up a series of heavily one-sided scorelines reminiscent of the 1930–31 season (including 7–0 v. Wolves, 8–1 v. Liverpool, and 8–0 twice, v. Leicester City and v. Middlesbrough). Such was Arsenal's strength that in November 1934, seven players that started for the England side that beat World Champions Italy 3–2 (in the so-called "Battle of Highbury") were on Arsenal's books, a record number of players from a single club, which still stands today.

Arsenal's ongoing success attracted larger and larger crowds. Arsenal's home, Highbury, was completely redeveloped, with Leitch's stands from 1913 demolished and replaced with modern Art Deco stands, parts of which remain to this day — the façade of the East Stand is now a Grade II listed building, and both façades have been retained as part of the modern-day redevelopment of Highbury into an apartment complex. Meanwhile, the North Bank and Clock End terraces had roofs installed. The new stadium saw its largest ever attendance, 73,295, on March 9, 1935 for a match against Sunderland.

Arsenal's dominance of the decade was sealed with a second FA Cup in 1935–36, winning 1–0 against Sheffield United with a goal from Drake. Arsenal faded in the League somewhat after the 1934–35 title, and were weakened by the retirement of Alex James and the club's inability to replace him, as well as long-term injuries to several other key players such as Herbie Roberts and Joe Hulme. Nevertheless, they won a fifth League title in 1937–38, pipping Wolves on the final day of the season, to cap off a highly successful decade.

The Second World War (1939–45)
Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, all first-class football in Britain was suspended, and the 1939–40 Football League season annulled. Highbury was requisitioned as an ARP station, with a barrage balloon operating behind the Clock End. During the Blitz, a bomb fell on the North Bank, destroying the roof and setting fire to the scrap that was being stored on the terrace. With Highbury closed, Arsenal instead played their home matches at White Hart Lane, home of their rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Wartime matches do not count in official statistics; competitions were played on a regional basis and teams often did not complete a full season; many footballers served in the armed forces as trainers or instructors and were away from their clubs for long periods of time, so they would often star as "guests" at other clubs. Arsenal won the Football League War Cup South in 1942–43 and the London or Southern league titles in 1939–40, 1941–42 and 1942–43.

In November 1945, with league competition still suspended, Arsenal were one of the teams that played a Dynamo Moscow side touring the UK. With many players still serving abroad in the armed forces, Arsenal were severely depleted and used six guest players, including Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, which led Dynamo to declare they were playing an England XI, although three of the side were actually Welsh. In any case, Dynamo themselves had Vsevolod Bobrov on loan from CDKA Moscow. The match, at White Hart Lane, kicked off in thick fog and the slick and technically proficient Dynamo won 4–3, after Arsenal had led 3–1 at half-time.

Though the score is generally agreed upon, after that accounts of the match diverge; even the identity of the goalscorers is disputed. English reports alleged Dynamo fielded twelve players at one point, and trying to pressurise the referee into abandoning the match when they had been behind; in turn, the Soviets accused Arsenal of persistent foul play and even alleged George Allison had bet money on the result (a claim that was later retracted). The acrimony after the match was such that it inspired George Orwell to write his 1945 essay The Sporting Spirit, in which he famously opined on the nature of sport, namely that in his view "it is war minus the shooting". With the fog obscuring much of the action, not to mention the language barriers and the early-Cold War mutual suspicion between both sides, it is unlikely any reliable account of the match will ever emerge.

The post-war years (1945–66)
The war had claimed the lives of nine Arsenal first team players, the most of any top flight club, and the intervening time had cut short the careers of several others, including Bastin and Drake. Additionally, the debts from the construction of Highbury and the costs of repairing war damage were a heavy financial burden, and Arsenal struggled at first when competitive football resumed in 1946. They lost 6–1 on aggregate to West Ham United in the third round of the 1945–46 FA Cup, and upon the league's resumption in 1946–47 the club finished 13th, their worst in 17 years. George Allison decided to retire from football at the end of that season, and was replaced by his assistant Tom Whittaker, a long-time servant of the club who had been trainer under Chapman.

Whittaker enjoyed immediate success, winning the League title in 1947–48; led by captain Joe Mercer's strong defence and with goals from attacking front two of Reg Lewis and Ronnie Rooke, Arsenal were top of the table from October until the season's climax, winning by a seven point margin. However, given the age of the Arsenal side at the time (Rooke and Mercer were both over thirty, as were Denis and Leslie Compton), long-term success was not possible. In response, Whittaker had brought in younger players such as Doug Lishman, Alex Forbes and Cliff Holton. Although Arsenal were unable to sustain any challenges for the League title, with the new blood they won the FA Cup in 1949–50, with Reg Lewis scoring both goals in a 2–0 win over Liverpool.

The 1951–52 season saw the club nearly win the Double, but ultimately end up empty-handed; a series of injuries and a fixture pile-up at the end of the season saw Arsenal lose their last two matches, including the title decider against eventual champions Manchester United at Old Trafford on the last day of the season; after losing 6–1, the Gunners finished third, equal on points with Tottenham. A week later, Arsenal played Newcastle United in the 1952 FA Cup Final, with several recovering players rushed back into the first team; Walley Barnes was taken off injured with a twisted knee after 35 minutes (no substitutes were allowed then), and ten-man Arsenal suffered further injuries to Holton, Roper and Daniel, so that by the end of the match they had only seven fit players on the pitch; with the numerical advantage in their favour, Newcastle won 1–0 with a goal from George Robledo.

Despite the disappointment of the previous season, Arsenal won their seventh League title in 1952–53; in one of the closest title races ever, they beat Preston North End to the title on goal average after finishing level on points. The title looked to be Preston's after Arsenal lost to them 2–0 at Deepdale in the penultimate game of the season, but Arsenal came from behind to beat Burnley 3–2, to take the title on 0.099 of a goal. That proved to be Arsenal's last trophy for seventeen years, as Arsenal's fortunes began to wane, particularly after the unexpected death of Tom Whittaker in October 1956.

As the club's fortunes declined, they found themselves unable to attract many stars (Welsh international goalkeeper Jack Kelsey being a notable exception), while up and coming players such as David Herd left for more successful clubs. Jack Crayston and George Swindin, both former players, followed Whittaker but could not replicate his success. Apart from finishing third in 1958–59 and fifth in both 1955–56 and 1956–57, Arsenal usually finished in mid-table. Nor did the club have much luck in the FA Cup — after reaching the final in 1951–52, Arsenal would not get beyond the quarter-finals again until 1970–71. To make matters worse for the club, up the road their fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur won the Double in 1960–61.

In 1962, Arsenal made the bold but ultimately unsuccessful step of appointing former England and Wolves captain Billy Wright as manager, despite his lack of managerial experience and the fact he had no prior experience with the club. Like his two immediate predecessors, Wright was not very successful, although it was under his leadership that the club made their debut in European competition, in the 1963–64 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup after finishing seventh in 1962–63. In his final season, Arsenal finished 14th, their lowest position in 36 years, and recorded the lowest-ever attendance at Highbury — 4,554 in a match against Leeds United on May 5, 1966. The only Arsenal player to figure in England's 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning squad was George Eastham, who did not play at all during the tournament. Wright was dismissed by the Arsenal board in the summer of 1966, and was replaced by club physiotherapist Bertie Mee. Though the club's directors did not know it at the time, Mee would turn around the club and lead them to success both in Europe and at home within the next five years.

The first Double (1966–76)
Following the dismissal of Billy Wright in the summer of 1966, Arsenal appointed physiotherapist Bertie Mee as his successor. The move that brought surprise to some, not least Mee himself, who requested that he be able to return to his old role as physio if being manager had not worked out after 12 months. With assistant Dave Sexton, Mee brought a more professional approach to the club and promoted talent from within; Arsenal's youth team had won the FA Youth Cup in 1966, and talented attacking players such as Charlie George, John Radford, Peter Simpson and Ray Kennedy graduated to the first team.

Mee complemented this attacking ability with some more experienced heads; captain Frank McLintock at centre half marshalled a strong defence, while the hard-tackling Peter Storey filled the defensive midfield position. The team showed early signs of promise, reaching two successive League Cup finals, in 1968 and 1969. Both times the Gunners went home empty-handed. The first time Arsenal lost to Don Revie's Leeds United 1-0 in a dour match of few chances, Terry Cooper grabbing the only goal.

The second League Cup loss was an infamous upset – Arsenal lost 3-1 to Third Division side Swindon Town. Eight of the team had been struck by flu that had led to the postponement of Arsenal's previous League fixture, and Arsenal had only reached extra time thanks to a late goalkeeping error that had allowed Bobby Gould to score. In extra time, Don Rogers scored twice as Arsenal searched for a winner. However, that season was not a total disaster for Arsenal; they had also finished fourth, which won them a place in Europe for the 1969-70 season.

In turn, this led to the club collecting their first silverware in seventeen years and also their first European trophy, the 1969-70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Arsenal beat Ajax 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals, and then staged a famous comeback against Anderlecht in the final. Arsenal were 3-0 down after 74 minutes of the first leg at Stade Émile Versé, but Ray Kennedy got a late away goal to give the Gunners a glimmer of hope; in the second leg in front of a packed Highbury, inspired by captain Frank McLintock, Arsenal won 3-0 with goals from John Radford, Eddie Kelly and Jon Sammels, to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate.

The same season, Arsenal had only finished 12th in the league, perhaps distracted by their European campaign, and did not look like league contenders. Yet the following season, 1970-71, Arsenal went on to become only the second club of the 20th century to win the FA Cup and League Double, the club's first. After a bright start Arsenal looked to be out of the title chase with a 5-0 loss to Stoke City in September. However, Arsenal recovered and put in a strong run (they did not lose again in the league until January), and as the season closed they became involved in a tight race with with Leeds United.

Arsenal were pushed all the way – after being defeated 1-0 by Leeds in April, they needed to beat or draw 0-0 with North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on the last day of the season to take the title on goal average. An 87th-minute goal by Ray Kennedy gave Arsenal a 1-0 lead and despite Spurs' desperate attempts for an equaliser Arsenal hung on to win and take the title. In the meantime, Arsenal had also reached the FA Cup Final, following a titanic semi-final battle with Stoke which saw them come from 2-0 down to force a replay and eventual victory. In the Final, five days after the win at Tottenham, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley; Arsenal went 1-0 down early in extra time, before Eddie Kelly's 101st-minute equaliser from close range. Ten minutes later, Charlie George scored the winner from the edge of the penalty area to win the game, and the Double, for Arsenal.

The Double proved to a premature high point of a decade characterised by a string of near-misses. Despite signing World Cup winner Alan Ball for a club record £220,000 in the close season, Arsenal began 1971-72 badly, losing three matches in August, and were forced to play catch-up for the rest of the season, ultimately finishing fifth. Their debut in the European Cup started encouragingly, but they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by a Johann Cruyff-inspired Ajax, who went on to win the trophy as part of a hat-trick of European titles. Arsenal also reached the FA Cup Final for the second year in a row; in a repeat of the 1968 League Cup Final they lost 1-0 to Leeds United, in an ugly match of few real chances.

Arsenal finished as First Division runners-up in 1972-73, but within a year the Double-winning side had been broken up, and Mee was unable to build a new team in its place. The club's form declined sharply, finishing 16th in 1974-75 and 17th in 1975-76, their lowest in more than forty years, which prompted Mee's resignation. Tottenham manager Terry Neill, a former Arsenal player, was appointed in his place, even though he had never got Spurs anywhere beyond mid-table, to become Arsenal's youngest-ever manager.

Neill and Howe's mixed fortunes (1976–86)

Under Neill, Arsenal moved back into the top half of the table, inspired in part by the emergence of Irish superstar Liam Brady. Brady formed part of a large Irish contingent at Highbury, which included Pat Rice, Frank Stapleton, Pat Jennings and the young David O'Leary. Further to this were experienced signings such as Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Hudson, as well as the return of Don Howe, who had been part of the backroom staff when the Double was won, to the Arsenal coaching setup.

Although they could not challenge the League dominance of Liverpool at the time, towards the end of the decade they proved their mettle in the FA Cup. Arsenal reached three finals in a row (1978, 1979, and 1980), but won only one, the 1979 final against Manchester United. Largely inspired by Brady, Arsenal went 2-0 up through Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton and looked to be coasting to victory; with five minutes to go, United scored twice in quick succession to level the match. Extra time loomed, but Alan Sunderland converted Graham Rix's cross in injury time to secure a famous 3-2 win.

The next season, 1979-80, proved to be cruel as Arsenal played a record-breaking 70 matches and reached two cup finals, only to end the season empty-handed. Arsenal were favourites to beat Second Division West Ham United in the FA Cup final, but lost 1-0 to a Trevor Brooking header. Meanwhile, they had also reached the Cup Winners' Cup final against Valencia, after Paul Vaessen's goal had given them a famous victory over Juventus in the semi-finals; the final finished goalless and Arsenal lost on penalties, with Brady and Rix missing from the spot.

Liam Brady left Arsenal for Juventus in the summer of 1980, and the team entered another barren period. They continued to finish in the top four at the start of the eighties, though Arsenal were never title challengers, and could not rediscover their FA Cup form either; their best season was when they reached both cup semi-finals in 1982-83, only to be knocked out in both by Manchester United.

Neill struggled to control his team at times; throughout his tenure, he had fallings out with many of his players (including Hudson and Macdonald) and he was unable to contain the drinking culture within the squad. Other signings such as Charlie Nicholas failed to impress, and Neill was sacked in December 1983 after a poor start to the 1983-84 season, which included a shock defeat in the League Cup at the hands of Third Division Walsall.

Don Howe, Neill's assistant, succeeded him but he could not get the side anywhere near a trophy either. Although Arsenal managed to finish sixth and seventh under him, they never challenged for the title at any point and were dumped out of the 1984-85 FA Cup by Third Division York City. The fans were getting increasingly disillusioned with the club's muddling performances and attendances started to dip beneath 20,000. In March 1986, after hearing the board had approached FC Barcelona coach Terry Venables as his replacement, Howe resigned.

The George Graham years (1986–95)
In the summer of 1986, Millwall manager George Graham, a former Arsenal player, was appointed as Howe's long-term replacement, and it was the beginning of a new era of success at Highbury. Graham cleared out much of the old guard and replaced them with new signings and players promoted from the youth team, while imposing much stricter discipline than his predecessors, both in the dressing room and on the pitch. Arsenal's form immediately improved, so much so that the club were top of the League at Christmas 1986, the club's centenary, for the first time in a decade.

Though Arsenal finished fourth in Graham's first season in charge, Arsenal did win the League Cup, in a campaign marked by comebacks. Arsenal faced Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-finals; after losing 1-0 at Highbury in the first leg and conceding a second goal in the first half of the second leg at White Hart Lane, Arsenal scored twice through Viv Anderson and Niall Quinn to draw 2-2 on aggregate and force a replay; in the replay Spurs went 1-0 up, only for Arsenal to come back again with late goals from Ian Allinson and David Rocastle to win. The final against Liverpool was a repeat performance; after Arsenal had gone 1-0 down to an Ian Rush goal, two Charlie Nicholas goals brought Arsenal their first League Cup triumph.

While Arsenal lost the League Cup final the following year (a shock 3-2 defeat to Luton Town), their League form steadily improved. Graham's side featured tight defensive discipline, embodied by his young captain Tony Adams, who along with Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, formed the basis of the club's defence for over a decade. However, contrary to popular belief, during this time Graham's Arsenal were not a purely defensive side; Graham also employed capable midfielders such as David Rocastle, Michael Thomas and Paul Merson, and striker Alan Smith, whose prolific goalscoring regularly brought him more than 20 goals per season.

At the end of Graham's third season (1988-89), the club won their first League title since 1971, in highly dramatic fashion. Having led the League since Christmas, Arsenal were overtaken by Liverpool after losing to Derby County and drawing at home to Wimbledon in May. Arsenal had seemingly thrown away the title, but the final game of the season, on May 26, was against Liverpool at Anfield; Arsenal needed to win by two goals to take the title; Liverpool had already won the FA Cup and were favourites to complete the Double. Alan Smith scored for Arsenal early in the second half to make it 1-0, but as time ticked by Arsenal struggled to get a second, and with 90 minutes gone on the clock, Arsenal still needed another goal. With only seconds to go, a Smith flick-on found Michael Thomas surging through the Liverpool defence; the young midfielder calmly lifted the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar and into the net, and Arsenal were League Champions.

Arsenal could not retain the title the following season; they finished fourth in 1989-90 and fell behind champions Liverpool, runners-up Aston Villa and third-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the title challenge. They also failed to make their mark in the cups, and the post-Heysel ban on English clubs in European competition was still in force at that time, so Arsenal were unable to represent England in the European Cup.

Graham sought to improve his side and signed goalkeeper David Seaman and Swedish winger Anders Limpar in the close season; both players proved vital as Arsenal retook the title in 1990-91, despite two major setbacks. Arsenal had two 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, and captain Tony Adams was sentenced to four months' imprisonment for drink driving in December. These did not hinder Arsenal's progress; they lost only one league match all season and finished seven points clear. Arsenal also reached the FA Cup semi-finals, where they faced Tottenham Hotspur; Paul Gascoigne scored with a free kick from 30 yards after just five minutes and Tottenham ran home 3-1 winners, dashing hopes of a second Double.

1991-92 saw the Gunners sign striker and eventual second all-time top scorer Ian Wright from Crystal Palace in October, and the club's first entry in the European Cup since 1971-72. The European venture went badly; Arsenal were knocked out by SL Benfica in the second round and failed to make the lucrative group stage. The season went from bad to worse when the Gunners were knocked out of the FA Cup by lowly Wrexham, though Arsenal recovered to finish fourth in the League.

After this season, Graham changed his tactics; he became more defensive and turned out far less attack-minded sides, which depended mainly on goals from Wright rather than the whole team. Between 1986-87 and 1991-92 Arsenal averaged 66 League goals a season (scoring 81 in 1991-92), but between 1992-93 and 1994-95 only averaged 48; this included just 40 in 1992-93, when the club finished 10th in the inaugural season of the FA Premier League, scoring fewer than any other team in the division.

Arsenal's form in the cups was much better than in the league, and in 1992-93 they became the first side to win the FA Cup and League Cup double. In the League Cup final, Arsenal faced Sheffield Wednesday; a Merson-inspired Arsenal side came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 thanks to a Steve Morrow goal. In the FA Cup, Arsenal beat Spurs 1-0 in the semi-finals (avenging their defeat of 1991), and played Sheffield Wednesday in the final, again. It ended 1-1 and went to a replay; Wright opened the scoring for Arsenal but Chris Waddle equalised. Extra time came, and still no goal broke the deadlock until the 120th minute, when Andy Linighan powered home a header from a corner to win the match and the cup double for Arsenal.

In 1993-94, Arsenal won their second European trophy; a side missing key players (John Jensen and Martin Keown were injured, Ian Wright suspended) beat favourites and holders Parma 1-0 in the Cup Winners' Cup final in Copenhagen, with a tight defensive performance and Alan Smith's 21st minute goal from a left foot volley. The 1994 Cup Winners Cup proved to be George Graham's last trophy at the club; the following February the Scot was sacked after nearly nine years in charge, after it was discovered he had accepted an illegal £425,000 payment from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge following Arsenal's 1992 acquisition of John Jensen, one of Hauge's clients.

Bruce Rioch: The interregnum (1995–96)
Assistant manager Stewart Houston took charge until the end of the 1994-95 season. Arsenal finished 12th in the Premiership (their lowest ever-finish in the Premier League, as of 2006), but did reach the Cup Winners Cup final again, after a titanic semi-final against UC Sampdoria, which they won on penalties after drawing 5-5 on aggregate. Arsenal faced Real Zaragoza in the final; Esnáider scored for the Spaniards and John Hartson equalised for Arsenal. The game was heading to a 1-1 draw and penalties, before midfielder Nayim struck from near the halfway line in the 120th minute, in virtually the last kick of the game. David Seaman, who had been Arsenal's hero in the semi-final shootout, couldn't backpedal fast enough and only got a hand to the ball as it went in.

In June 1995 Arsenal appointed Bruce Rioch, who had just guided Bolton Wanderers to the League Cup final and promotion to the top flight, as manager. 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-finals 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. The Rioch era ended abruptly, however; in August 1996, just before the start of the new season, Rioch was sacked after a dispute over transfer funds with the board of directors, triggering a couple of months' turmoil at the club. Stewart Houston was once again put in temporary charge; he remained 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 Frenchman Arsène Wenger at the end of September.

Two more Doubles (1996–2003)
The team immediately improved under Wenger's management, coming third and winning a UEFA Cup place in 1996-97, missing out on second (and a Champions League spot) on goal difference. Wenger rebuilt the Arsenal squad with a crop of French players who were seemingly unknown in the UK. Patrick Vieira had been signed on Wenger's recommendation before he had officially taken up the reins, and Wenger added Nicolas Anelka and Emmanuel Petit, as well as Dutch winger Marc Overmars in the summer of 1997. Wenger melded the new arrivals with some of the "old guard", retaining Adams, Dixon, Winterburn, Keown and Bould, and he kept Pat Rice on as assistant manager.

Wenger got his first silverware, and became the first foreign manager to win the English league, the following season, when he steered the side to their second double. It had looked like Arsenal were out of the title race by December after losing 3-1 at home to Blackburn, but they overcame a twelve point deficit to overtake Manchester United; a 4-0 home win over Everton on May 3 won the title with two matches to spare. On May 16, Arsenal beat Newcastle United 2-0 in the FA Cup final to complete the double. To top it off, the same season Ian Wright broke Cliff Bastin's goalscoring record, bringing his tally to 185 goals before leaving the club in the summer of 1998.

Despite the signing of Fredrik Ljungberg in 1998 and Thierry Henry a year later, a more barren period followed for Arsenal over the next few years, though they came close several times. Arsenal led the League for much of 1998-99, until a 1-0 loss to Leeds United allowed Manchester United to overtake them; Arsenal beat Aston Villa on the last day of the season but United's victory over Spurs meant they took the title. To rub it in further, Arsenal also lost the last ever FA Cup semi-final replay to Manchester United; Dennis Bergkamp had missed a penalty in normal time, and Ryan Giggs scored the winner in extra time after a mazy solo run through the Arsenal defence. Arsenal's return to the Champions League for the first time in seven years was also unsuccessful, as they failed to get past the group stage.

Arsenal came second again in 1999-2000; this time, there was never any real title race and Arsenal finished the season 18 points behind winners Manchester United. Arsenal had another poor season in the Champions League, finishing third in their group; this won them a consolation place in the UEFA Cup, and Arsenal got all the way to the final, where they faced Galatasaray in Copenhagen, the scene of their 1994 Cup Winners' Cup triumph. The match was a tepid affair, a 0-0 draw with few chances; it went to penalties and Arsenal lost after Davor Šuker and Patrick Vieira missed their spot-kicks.

Arsenal again finished second in 2000-01, this time ten points behind Manchester United; the title race had been as good as over since February, when Arsenal lost 6-1 at Old Trafford. Arsenal's season gave priority to the Cups and Europe. They beat Spurs in the semi-finals and met Liverpool in the final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff; Arsenal dominated most of the match, and were denied a goal by the arm of defender Stephane Henchoz, which went unpunished.[14] Arsenal finally did go 1-0 up through Ljungberg but succumbed to two late Michael Owen goals and lost 2-1. In Europe, Arsenal made it to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 1972, only to be eliminated on the away goals rule by eventual finalists Valencia.

By now Wenger had been forced to rebuild much of the Double-winning side of 1998; Anelka, Overmars and Petit had all left for Spanish clubs in return for hefty fees, while age was finally catching up with the famous back line; Bould and Winterburn had already left, and Adams and Dixon would only last another season before retiring. In their place, Wenger signed the likes of Sol Campbell and Lauren in defence, as well as promoting Ashley Cole from the youth ranks. In midfield, Wenger added the talismanic Robert Pirès and signed his compatriot Sylvain Wiltord in attack, while in the meantime Thierry Henry had adapted to the English game to become one of the Premiership's best strikers.

Attack was definitely Arsenal's forté as they won a record-equalling third Double in 2001-02 season; the Gunners were the only team to score in every game of the Premiership season, and went unbeaten in domestic away games. After an initially tight title race (just three points separated the top four in February), Arsenal pulled away from the pack with a 13-game winning streak, finishing seven points ahead of runners-up Liverpool. Arsenal secured the title in the penultimate game of the season with a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford, the goal coming from Wiltord. The previous weekend, Arsenal had wrapped up their eighth FA Cup, beating Chelsea 2-0 with goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg.

In 2002-03, Arsenal became the first club in more than 20 years to retain the FA Cup, with a 1-0 victory against Southampton thanks to a Pirès goal. Their joy was soured by the fact that they narrowly missed out on retaining the Premiership title. Arsenal had led eventual winners Manchester United by eight points at one stage, but their form collapsed late on in the season; they drew 2-2 away to Bolton Wanderers after leading 2-0, and then lost 3-2 at home to Leeds United a week later, which gave United the title.

The "Invincibles" and a Champions League Final (2003–06)
Little did they know it at the time, but the defeat to Leeds would be Arsenal's last in the League for over a year. 2003-04 was a record-breaking season for Arsenal, as they won the Premiership unbeaten (26 wins, 12 draws, 0 defeats), finishing a clear 11 points ahead of second-place Chelsea. They became only the second team to do so, the first having been Preston North End in 1888-89, though Preston had only played 22 games in their own unbeaten league season. Their rivals for the title gained revenge in other competitions – Arsenal were defeated in the Champions League quarter-finals and FA Cup semi-finals by Chelsea and Manchester United, respectively, in successive matches. Faced with the potential collapse of their season, Arsenal recovered from being 1-0 and 2-1 behind to Liverpool in their next league match to win 4-2, thanks to a Thierry Henry hat-trick, and went on to win the league with a 2-2 draw away to Tottenham Hotspur, mimicking their success in 1971.

Arsenal were unable to retain the title in 2004-05, finishing second, 12 points behind a record-breaking Chelsea side. However, the Gunners did stretch their unbeaten run to 49 consecutive matches, an English league football record; the record was equalled with a dramatic 5-3 win over Middlesbrough (Arsenal having trailed 3-1 shortly after half-time) and then surpassed with a 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, before it was ended with a 2-0 away defeat by Manchester United. This defeat arguably upset the team's form and they fell away from title contention before recovering with a late flourish to finish second, sealed with a 7-0 drubbing of Everton. Champions League glory eluded them again, with the club getting knocked out 3-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the second round. Arsenal did not end the season empty-handed; they came away with their third FA Cup in four years, winning 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw against Manchester United.

Weakened by the sale of skipper Patrick Vieira to Juventus in the summer of 2005, Arsenal's 2005-06 season was comparatively disappointing domestically and the club failed to challenge for any trophies at home. In the league, their poor away form dogged them and despite recording some impressive wins at home (5-0 over Aston Villa, and 7-0 over Middlesbrough), Arsenal spent much of the latter stages of the season in fifth place or lower, and looked set to miss out on the Champions League for the first time since 1997. However, they won their last three matches of the season, culminating in a 4-2 victory over Wigan Athletic in the last ever match at Highbury; coupled with Tottenham Hotspur's loss at West Ham United the same day, this meant Arsenal pipped Spurs to fourth place and a Champions League spot.

In contrast to their domestic form, Arsenal's form in Europe in 2005-06 was much stronger; they reached the UEFA Champions League final for the first time in their history, becoming the first London club ever to do so. Arsenal finished top of their group unbeaten, above Ajax Amsterdam, FC Thun and Sparta Prague against whom Thierry Henry scored two goals on away to become the all time record goalscorer for Arsenal; in the knockout stages they beat Real Madrid (becoming the first British team to beat Real at the Bernabéu), Juventus and then Villarreal to reach the final, setting a competition record of ten matches without conceding a goal in the process. In the final, against Barcelona, Arsenal were reduced to ten men early on when goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent off for a professional foul; nevertheless they were the ones who scored first, Sol Campbell scoring with a header from a free kick in the 37th minute. Arsenal doggedly defended their lead, but two late goals from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti meant Barcelona ran out 2-1 winners.

Move to Emirates Stadium (2006–)
Arsenal have been highly successful in the 1990s and 2000s, but Highbury's capacity was limited to only 38,500 in the post-Taylor report era; virtually every match was sold out and the club have been unable to maximise matchday revenue. With expansion of Highbury ruled impossible, in 1999 Arsenal announced plans to move down the road to Ashburton Grove; construction started in December 2002 and in July 2006 the new Emirates Stadium opened, ready for the start of the 2006-07 season.

Although Arsenal started the season strongly, a haul of only four points in November led manager Arsène Wenger to concede that his side were too far behind to seriously challenge for the Premiership title;[15] Arsenal eventually finished fourth, level on points with third-placed Liverpool, having spent most of the season in the top four places. With a team largely filled with reserve and younger players, they reached the League Cup Final, which they lost 2-1 to Chelsea. However they were less successful in other competitions, being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by PSV Eindhoven 2-1 on aggregate in the round of 16, and lost in a fifth round replay to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup.

During 2007, Arsenal became subject to a possible takeover bid, with two foreign investors making a move. The first is American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke, who as of August 2007 owns or controls 12.19% of the club, the bulk of which he bought from Granada Ventures (a subsidiary of ITV plc) in April 2007. This led to Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, who owned 14.6% of the club, resigning from the club's board on April 18;[18] although initially thought to be in favour of Kroenke taking over, four months later he sold his share to Red & White Holdings, a company co-owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov and London-based financier Farhad Moshiri; Dein was made chairman of the new holding company in return. Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood has stated none of the rest of the club's board would willingly sell their shares (45.45% of the club) until at least April 2008.

During 2006–07 Arsenal had allowed a clutch of experienced players go to other clubs, including Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Lauren, Fredrik Ljungberg and most significantly, all-time top scorer and club captain Thierry Henry. Arsenal went into the 2007-08 season with only three first-team players from the title-winning season in 2003–04, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Eboué and Gael Clichy coming in to replace them. Arsenal have started the season strongly; of September 16, 2007 Arsenal are top of the League and are unbeaten, while in Europe they have qualified for the Champions League group stage.

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