Arsenal Football Club is one of the oldest, best known, widest supported, most successful teams in the English Football League.
Division: English Premier League
Nickname: The Gunners
Basic home strip: Red shirts with white sleeves, white shorts and white socks
Usual away strip: Yellow shirts with navy blue detailing, navy shorts and yellow socks
Stadium: 'Arsenal Stadium', Highbury (located in Islington, North London), capacity 38,500 (all-seater)
Manager: Arsène Wenger
Owner: David Dein
Most Club Appearances: David O’Leary (722)
Most Club Goals: Ian Wright (185)
Highest Transfer Fee Paid: £13 million (Sylvain Wiltord, Bordeaux)
Highest Transfer Fee Received: £23.5 million (Nicolas Anelka, Real Madrid)
In 1886 a group of workers from the Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory formed a football team called Dial Square (named after their workshop), soon changing its name to Royal Arsenal. In 1891 the club turned professional and underwent another name change, becoming Woolwich Arsenal, and joined the Football League two years later. After the First World War, it was decided that the First Division should be expanded from twelve to twenty-two teams, and the club was voted in to this select group.
The first club crest was adopted in 1888, based around the coat of arms of the Borough of Woolwich and depicting three vertical cannon barrels in the centre (alluding to the military connections within the borough – the Arsenal itself, the Royal Artillery Regiment and a number of military hospitals were based nearby). Although the club moved away and across London in 1913, a cannon still features predominantly on the current badge, and of course the team name remains. Between 1949 and 2002 the crest also incorporated a motto (coined by the Arsenal match programme editor Harry 'Marksman' Homer after the championship winning season of 1947/48); the Latin Victoria Concordia Crescit, translated, Victory grows from harmony.
This was lost in the recent redesign and simplification of the badge, which was undertaken so that a copyright could be obtained – the exact origin of the previous incarnation is uncertain, so it cannot be copyrighted.
The characteristic team colours
first came to be when an assortment of Nottingham Forest
players joined the club in 1895. They brought their old strips with them, and it was decided it would be cheaper to kit
the rest of the team out in the same style as the new players rather than the other way round. These original shirt
s were all-red with long sleeves; the distinctive white sleeves were introduced in 1925 when the manager saw a spectator wearing a sleeveless
red jumper over a white shirt.
The first 'change' strips were brought in during the 1950s
, to avoid confusing kit clashes with other teams that played in red. The original 'away' jerseys were yellow, a colour that has recurred as the years have passed.
Historically, the club’s bitter rival has been its North London neighbour, Tottenham Hotspur, leading to tense and passionate derby matches and a certain animosity between opposing fans. However, in more recent years, Arsenal’s main adversary has been Manchester United, the most successful English team since the inauguration of the Premier League in 1992. Manchester United has become an internationally successful brand, giving the team the sort of financial clout that no other club could have dreamed of (until Chelsea was purchased by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2003).
In the last seven seasons, Manchester United have topped the league four times and Arsenal thrice, with both teams always finishing first or second (until the 03/04 season, when Abramovich’s cash injection pushed Chelsea to second and United down into third).
League Champions (thirteen seasons)
1930/31, 1932/33, 1933/34, 1934/35, 1937/38, 1947/48, 1952/53, 1970/71, 1988/89, 1990/91, 1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04
F.A. Cup Winners (nine times)
1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1979, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003
League Cup Winners (twice)
European (Fairs) Cup
European Cup Winners’ Cup
The Modern Era
Arsenal are now in a phase of success surpassed only by the golden years of the 1930s.
The arrival of manager Arsène Wenger in 1997 triggered a run of achievement that began with a league and cup 'double' in his first year and has since brought two more titles and two more cup wins, with the club never finishing lower than second place in the Premiership.
Wenger’s astonishing ability to spot talented players early on in their careers has helped build a superb squad capable of top-level competition, on a budget a fraction of the size of Manchester United’s.
At the time of writing, the 2003/04 season has just come to a close; a season in which Arsenal have made history by maintaining an unbeaten league run for the entire campaign.
38 games played, 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 losses.
This is the first time a team has gone unbeaten in the league since Preston North End achieved the feat in 1889 (when they played only 22 games), and is a record that many experts predicted could not be accomplished, leading to nicknames such as 'The Invincibles' and 'The Unbeatables' being bandied about by the media.
The season was far from perfect for the Gunners, however.
They were eliminated from the F.A. Cup by Manchester United in a 1-0 semi-final defeat, only to be knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Chelsea just a few days later, destroying hopes of a 'treble-winning' season. Arsenal bounced back from these demoralising defeats and went on to secure the Premiership title and the record-breaking sequence of matches, but the cup exits remain as two highly apparent black spots on an otherwise exemplary season. Success in a major European competition continues to elude the team, and although the squad is clearly capable of such achievement, the very highest plaudits will be reserved until more silverware is won and talent has been proved against the top Spanish and Italian clubs.
The standout player during the season was Thierry Henry, a French national who signed for £10.5 million in 1999 from Juventus. At the time he was a pacey winger with moderate skill, but over his five years at Arsenal he has evolved into a deadly striker, and is currently lauded as the best player in the world. In the 03/04 season he scored 30 goals in the league and was the Premiership’s top scorer, and was awarded both the Players’ Football Association and English Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards for the second season running.
Perhaps the key to the Gunners’ success throughout the season was the team spirit displayed at all times. Not only could the players be seen to be truly enjoying their match-time, they also showed real 'togetherness' when congratulating each other’s goals and performances, and refused to give up or collapse when under pressure. The squad played beautiful and captivating football all the way through the campaign, with a counter-attacking mentality built on flair and pace, and a resolute defence that could shut the opposition out and swarm forwards to support attacks.
Arsenal lost no matches, scored more goals and conceded fewer than any other Premier League team, and finished eleven points ahead of their nearest rivals. The emphasis in 2004/05 will be squarely on retaining the title and gaining more success in the Champions' League, but this season will never be forgotten, and will always be aspired to.
Arsenal is also the home of a highly successful Ladies' Football team, formed in 1987. Ladies' football is slowly gathering support and interest in the UK (but lagging far behind the USA, where the women’s game is more popular than the men’s thanks to huge stars such as Mia Hamm).
They have won the Premier League six times and the F.A. Cup six times, including four 'doubles', and continue to encourage the development and popularity of the sport with various youth academies and training programs.
Construction is currently being undertaken on a new stadium for the club at Ashburton Grove, just a mile or so from Highbury. It is due to be opened in time for the 2006/07 season.
There will be capacity for 60,000 spectators, allowing more Arsenal supporters to watch their team in action. This will finally bring the club's attendance figures in line with other Premiership teams, most of whom have stadiums much larger and newer than Highbury. Arsenal have struggled for too long against a ground size disproportionate to the magnitude of the club, and this state of the art facility should redress that balance and affirm the organisation as one of the world's leading sports teams.
Please note: I am an Arsenal fan, but have tried to node in an unbiased fashion having noticed that there was no writeup for the football club – let me know if you think I’ve failed with this in any way.