Arsenal are one of the most famous teams in the world and have won many trophies over the decades. Arsenal was founded way back in 1886 in London by a group of workers from a munitions factory in Woolwich (which might be confusing to some fans of the north London club given that Woolwich is in southeast London… but more of that later). The club was not initially called Arsenal and they were first known as Dial Square, which was related to the factory in which they worked as it had a sundial at the entrance to the factory.
Five years after they were founded, the club’s name was changed to Royal Arsenal as the factory was called the Royal Arsenal Armaments Factory. This name didn’t stick for long as just two years later it was changed again to Woolwich Arsenal to reference the location of the club. Woolwich Arsenal was the name for a significant amount of time before it changed again 20 years later in 1913 and the club was then called Arsenal, as we know it today. The name change came after the club moved north to Highbury in London (where their former stadium is). Arsenal currently play at the Emirates Stadium in Holloway, north London in what is now a very famous and well-established stadium and where the Gunners have played since 2006.
Arsenal’s Early Days
Arsenal had a tough time becoming a professional team and were initially barred by the London FA after announcing they were trying to go professional. This was around the time the club changed its name to Woolwich Arsenal and shortly after they were granted entrance to the second division of the Football League, their first season in the Football League being 1893/94.
Arsenal went on to achieve division one football and improvements in their playing staff and facilities were made leading Arsenal Football Club to become the successful football club they are today. Eventually, Arsenal moved to Highbury in 1913 and though they fell out of the top division and didn’t technically gain automatic promotion, they were re-elected to the First Division for the 1919/20 season, and have remained in the top division ever since.
Herbert Chapman is one of the biggest reasons for Arsenal’s success and he is largely credited with kickstarting the club’s achievements. Chapman joined Arsenal in the summer of 1925 after enjoying some success at Huddersfield Town. In his first season with the Gunners, Chapman managed to secure Arsenal a second-place finish in the league, which was the highest they had ever finished. And, by 1930, Chapman managed to bring the FA Cup to Arsenal. Arsenal won their first-ever First Division title in the 1930/31 season, with their second coming hot on its heels in 1932/33. This was just the start of Arsenal’s illustrious success in the top division of English football as the club added a further three league titles and an FA Cup before the end of the 1930s.
The Big Six
One of Arsenal’s biggest rivals were founded around a similar time to the club.
Tottenham Hotspur FC was founded in 1882 by a group of boys from both the local cricket club and grammar school and was initially called Hotspur FC. The rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham did not occur until around 1913 when Arsenal adopted Highbury as their home stadium which was located just four miles away from White Hart Lane which was Tottenham’s stadium. Many Tottenham fans were annoyed by this as they regarded Highbury as their territory and so the rivalry between the two sides began.
Another massive club in English football Liverpool FC were founded in 1892 in Anfield, Liverpool. The Liverpool badge depicts the mythical liver bird upon a shield and has been like that since around 1901. The club still plays in Anfield and Anfield is also the name of their current stadium, one that is known for its passionate atmosphere during games.
Manchester United was founded in 1878. By the 1892/93 season, Manchester United had managed to make it into the top flight of English football which was a very impressive feat considering it only took them 14 years. Man Utd was originally called Newton Heath LYR Football Club before being changed to Manchester United as we know it today in April 1902. They moved to their current stadium Old Trafford in 1910 and it is still one of the most iconic stadiums in English football.
Manchester United’s local rivals Manchester City were founded in 1880 and were first known as St Mark’s before changing their name to Ardwick Association Football Club in 1887 and finally to Manchester City in 1894. Man City is renowned for playing in light blue and currently plays at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City won their first Premier League in 2012 and have since gone on to win many more.
Chelsea FC was founded in 1905 by a man named Henry Augustus Mears and they are now one of the biggest clubs in English football. Chelsea’s home ground Stamford Bridge is also the oldest stadium still being used in the Premier League and was built in 1877 before becoming the home of Chelsea Football Club in 1905 when they were formed.
The oldest club in English football that is currently in the top four leagues of football is Crystal Palace. The south London club was founded in 1861 and had a pivotal role in founding the Football Association in 1863. The club became a properly professional team in 1905 and was named after a huge building made of glass called the Crystal Palace. The club had a period where they were moving from location to location until they eventually found their home in Selhurst Park where they still play to this day.
Having said that, the status of Crystal Palace as the oldest club still in the top divisions is disputed, with many historians suggesting the actual date of their formation was 1905 when, technically speaking, a new club was formed. This would make Stoke City – who were formed in 1863 – the oldest, with Nottingham Forest (1865) and Sheffield Wednesday (1867) not far behind. Either way, Arsenal were relatively late to the party when they arrived in 1886, with plenty of sides (including Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers) already having been around for a decade or more.