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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. Arsenal have won thirteen First Division and Premier League titles, ten FA Cups and in 2005–06 became the first London club to reach the UEFA Champions League final. Arsenal are also members of the G-14 group of leading European football clubs.
Arsenal were founded in 1886, in Woolwich, south-east London, but in 1913 they moved north across the city to Arsenal Stadium, Highbury. In May 2006 they left Highbury, moving to their current home, the Emirates Stadium in nearby Ashburton Grove, Holloway. Arsenal have a long-standing and fierce rivalry with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur, located four miles away in Tottenham, with whom they have contested the North London derby almost every season since 1913.
Arsenal were founded as Dial Square in 1886 by workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, but were renamed Royal Arsenal shortly afterwards. They renamed themselves again to Woolwich Arsenal after turning professional in 1891. The club joined the Football League in 1893, starting out in the Second Division, and won promotion to the First Division in 1904. However, the club's geographic isolation resulted in lower attendances than those of other clubs, which led to the club becoming mired in financial problems and effectively bankrupt by 1910. In 1913, soon after relegation back to the Second Division, they moved across the Thames to the new Arsenal Stadium in Highbury, North London; they dropped "Woolwich" from their name the following year. Arsenal only finished in fifth place in 1919, but nevertheless were elected to rejoin the First Division at the expense of local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, by reportedly dubious means.
In 1925, Arsenal appointed the highly successful Herbert Chapman as manager. Chapman had won the league 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. Between 1930 and 1938, Arsenal won the First Division five times and the FA Cup twice, although Chapman did not live to see all of these achievements, as he died of pneumonia in 1934; George Allison succeeded him. 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.
Following the suspension of English professional football during World War II, under Tom Whittaker Arsenal won 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's second successful era began 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 ten 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 recently, Arsenal had never progressed beyond the Champions League quarter-finals; in 2005–06 however, they reached the competition's Final, the first club from London to do so in the competition's fifty-year history, but were beaten 2-1 by FC Barcelona.
Royal Arsenal's first crest, unveiled in 1888, featured three cannon viewed from above, pointing northwards, similar to the crest of the 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 along side 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, 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 being 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 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 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 there for the next twenty years, 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 East and West stands constructed, and roofs added to the North Bank and Clock End terraces. 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 whose owners objected to expansion. These limitations have prevented the club from maximising the revenue that their domestic form could have brought in recent seasons. After considering various options, Arsenal decided in 1999 to build 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 2021, and the airline will be the club's shirt sponsor until the end of the 2013–14 season.
Arsenal have a large and generally loyal fanbase, with virtually all home matches selling out; in 2005-06 Arsenal had the sixth-highest average attendance for an English club (38,184, which was 99.4% of available capacity), and the fourth-highest all-time average attendance. Arsenal fans often refer to themselves as "Gooners", the name being derived from the team's nickname, "The Gunners". The club's location, adjoining both wealthy areas such as Canonbury and Barnsbury, mixed areas such as Islington, Holloway and Highbury, and largely working class areas such as Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington has meant that Arsenal's supporters have come from across the usual class divides. Additionally, Arsenal have the highest proportion (7.7%) of non-white attending supporters of any club in English football, according to a 2002 report.
Like all major English football clubs, Arsenal have a number of domestic supporters' clubs, including the Official Arsenal Football Supporters Club, which is affiliated with the club, and the Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association, which maintains an independent line. 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.
In recent times, a supporter's attachment to a football club has become less dependent on geography, and Arsenal now have many fans not just from London but all over England and the world. While there have always been small pockets of supporters abroad, Arsenal's support base has widened considerably with the advent of satellite television, and there are now significant supporters' clubs worldwide. A 2005 report by Granada Ventures, which owns 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. Matches against other London sides, such as Chelsea and West Ham United are also derbies, but the rivalry is not as intense as that between Arsenal and Tottenham. 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.
Arsenal's parent company, Arsenal Holdings plc, operates as a non-quoted public limited company. Arsenal's ownership is considerably different from that of other football clubs. Only 62,217 shares in Arsenal have been issued, and they are not traded on a public exchange such as the FTSE or AIM; instead, they are traded infrequently on PLUS, a specialist market. As of December 2006, Arsenal's market capitalisation value is £304.9m, and the club made a pre-tax profit of £15.9m in the year ending May 31, 2006.
Arsenal's board of directors hold the majority of the club's shares, controlling over 60% of share capital. Currently, the club's largest shareholders are Danny Fiszman (a London diamond dealer) and Nina Bracewell-Smith (wife of the grandson of former chairman Sir Bracewell Smith), who hold 25.2% and 15.9% respectively. Vice-chairman David Dein holds 14.6% and fellow director Richard Carr has 4.4%, while club chairman Peter Hill-Wood owns less than 1%. In recent years, with Arsenal becoming a significant media asset, outside organisations have bought into the club. These include entertainment firm Granada Ventures (a subsidiary of ITV plc) (9.9%) and hedge fund Lansdowne Partners (2.7%); Lansdowne used to have a stake in Manchester United before selling it to Malcolm Glazer. In September 2006 an unknown investor bought 700 shares (just over 1% of the club), prompting speculation of a takeover bid, but ultimately no bid was forthcoming.
As one of the most successful teams in the country, Arsenal have often featured when football is depicted in British culture and have appeared in a number of media "firsts". On January 22, 1927, their match at Highbury against Sheffield United was the first English League match to be broadcast live on radio. A decade later, on September 16, 1937, an exhibition match between Arsenal's first team and the reserves was the first ever football match to be televised live. Arsenal also featured in the first edition of the BBC's Match of the Day, which screened highlights of their match against Liverpool at Anfield on August 22, 1964.
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, and may have played an active part in, the revival and rehabilitation of football in British society during the 1990s. The book was later made into a film starring Colin Firth, which centred on the club's 1988–89 title win. The book also inspired an American film adaptation, 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.
The club have also been mentioned in several Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches, and in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where a barman remarks that the impending end of the world is a "lucky escape" for Arsenal. Additionally, in the 2004 film Ocean's Twelve, the main characters don Arsenal tracksuits as a disguise, in order to escape from a hotel during one of their European heists.
Arsenal have featured in popular music as well; Joe Strummer wrote the song "Tony Adams", dedicated to the then Arsenal captain, which appeared on his 1999 album Rock Art and the X-Ray Style. Strummer was also known to wear an Arsenal scarf during gigs despite himself being a Chelsea fan. Additionally, Arsenal (along with arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur) receive a mention in The Pogues song "Billy's Bones", which appears on the band's second album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.
Arsenal Ladies are the women's football club affiliated to Arsenal. Founded in 1987, they turned semi-professional in 2002 and are the most successful team in English women's football today. They are managed by Vic Akers, who is also kit manager for the men's side, and play in the FA Women's Premier League; Arsenal Ladies are currently reigning champions, having won their eighth title in 2006.
They also won the FA Women's Cup seven times, the Women's League Cup eight times, and in 2006-07 reached the final of the UEFA Women's Cup, the furthest any English women's club has ever got. While the men's and women's clubs are formally separate they have quite close ties; Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein is president of Arsenal Ladies, and they are entitled to play once a season at the Emirates Stadium (they usually play their home matches at Boreham Wood).
David O'Leary holds the record for Arsenal appearances, having played 722 first-team matches between 1975 and 1993. Fellow centre half and former captain Tony Adams comes second, having played 669 times. The record for a goalkeeper is held by David Seaman, with 563 appearances.
Current Arsenal captain Thierry Henry is the club's top goalscorer with 225 goals in all competitions (as of January 29, 2007), having surpassed Ian Wright's total of 185 in October 2005. Wright's record had stood since 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 (173, as of January 29, 2007), 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 November 25, 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. The capacity of Emirates Stadium is 60,432, so it is unlikely that these records will be broken in the foreseeable future.
Arsenal have also set records in English football, most notably the most consecutive seasons spent in the top flight (80 as of 2006-07) 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 Barcelona, when Samuel Eto'o scored Barcelona's equaliser in the 76th minute.