Arsenal have a long and varied history and were founded way back in 1886, originally as Dial Square FC (which is now a breakaway protest team set up by former Arsenal fans). Shortly after being formed they changed their name to Royal Arsenal and before the 19th century was over they would become Woolwich Arsenal. Over time, they became simply the Arsenal, before finally settling on just plain old Arsenal in 1919.
All these names aside though, let’s get to the point of this article and address the question: have the club, by whatever name you choose to call them (we’ll go with Arsenal!), ever been relegated? The short answer is yes, they have. The slightly longer version is yes, but they may well hold the distinction of being the only major club to have had more name changes than relegations. Whilst the longer version still goes something like this…
Have Arsenal Ever Been Relegated from the Premier League?
For many fans, especially younger ones and many not based in the UK, the Premier League is English football. Whilst older football fans are well aware that football does indeed predate satellite dishes and Richard Keys (and know what both are!), there is no doubt that for many people, the EPL is the be-all and end-all. Even pundits and team staff sometimes talk as if football only truly began in the 1992/93 campaign and so, with that in mind, let’s first take a look at the Premier League era.
We have a very simple answer when it comes to this matter because Arsenal have not suffered the ignominy of relegation from the Premier League. In fact, they have not even come close. In the first year of the new era they finished 10th (out of 22 teams as it was back then) and in 1994/95 they were 12th (again in a 22-team league) but since then the eighth-place finish they achieved in both 2019/20 and 2020/21 are as bad as it has got for Gunners fans, which is an envious position to be in compared to fans of most other sides in the land.
They have never come close to being relegated and nor have they been in any sort of prolonged relegation battle. Along with Man United, Liverpool, Everton, Spurs and Chelsea they have been ever-present in the EPL since its inception in the early 1990s. As a little side piece of trivia, perfect served after a few pints in the pub, for the time being at least (correct until at least the end of the 2022/23 campaign), both Brentford and Brighton have also never been demoted from the Premier League.
What About the “Old” Top Flight?
If we expand our search further to include the pre-Premier League days then we discover that yes, Arsenal have been relegated from the top flight of English football. However, you need to have excellent genes to have been alive the last time Arsenal were relegated in any way, shape or form as the only relegation they have endured in their entire (not far off 150-year) history came back in 1913.
In the 1912/13 campaign the Gunners finished a lowly 20th. Given there were 20 teams in the First Division back then, it doesn’t get any lowlier in fact. They won just three of their 38 games and with just two points awarded for a victory they ended the season with a meagre 18 points (after drawing 12 times). They had started reasonably well too, with a win and three draws from their opening seven games, but they did not earn their second win until the 29th fixture of the campaign.
They went down with Notts County that year, a bad year for the big London sides with Chelsea and Spurs (18th and 17th) respectively just doing enough to stay up. The following season they narrowly missed out on promotion, finishing third whilst the year after that they came fifth in the second tier.
There was no formal league football until the 1919/20 season due to the First World War but when football did resume Arsenal were, rather controversially, once again in the top flight. Arsenal had very powerful connections back then and despite them finishing fifth (although believed to be sixth at the time, an error with goal average not corrected until well after the event in 1975), they were promoted thanks to a controversial and undoubtedly unfair vote!
Whatever the circumstances though, this means that Arsenal boast a continuous top-flight presence dating back to 1919, well over 100 years now. Ahead of the 2022/23 season they were priced at 500/1 to be relegated, which suggests there is at least a decent chance they will avoid relegation for the time being.
Whilst modern-day Gunners may not have had to “enjoy” the thrills of a relegation battle, the club has certainly spent a number of seasons at the wrong end of the table over the years. In a top flight with 22 teams, they finished 17th, 19th and 20th between 1921/22 and 1924/25, just the bottom two clubs going down in that period. They finished 16th and 17th in consecutive years in the 1970s but by and large they have tended to be no worse than midtable.
Have Any Sides Been Relegated Less Often?
In English football no side can better Arsenal in terms of the number of times (indeed the sole time) they have been relegated. Due to being a founder member of the Football League and not having spent their formative years in lower divisions, Everton have played in the top flight for a greater number of seasons (120 versus Arsenal’s 106). Indeed, both Liverpool (108) and Aston Villa (109) have completed more top-tier campaigns than the Gunners.
However, Everton have been relegated twice, in 1930 and 1951 and Liverpool have gone down on three separate occasions. Aston Villa have been demoted from the Premier League in 2016, as well as from the old Division 1 in 1987, 1967, 1959 and 1936 as well as from the second tier in 1970.