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July 2021

Arsenal chasing a 109 year old record

By Tony Attwood

If you ever glance at the links we place on the home page of this site or at the foot of some articles you will know that alongside Untold Arsenal I have the honour to edit a second blog: The History of Arsenal blog.

The history site covers all sorts of topics, but generally focusses on an ever growing history of Arsenal’s managers, and an anniversary list, although we also cover whatever topic happens to come along that day.

Now I have to say I wasn’t planning to do anything particular about a set of anniversaries that fall due on September 26 and October 3, but after three games with no goals against, it is time to think again.

For on September 26 1903 Arsenal established the record of four games at the start of the season, and then broke that record in the following game on October 3 by making it five games without a goal at the start of the season.

The games in question were:

  • Arsenal 3 Blackpool 0
  • Gainsborough 0 Arsenal 2
  • Arsenal 8 Burton U 0
  • Bristol City 0 Arsenal 4
  • Arsenal 4 Manchester U 0

The winning streak then continued for another three games, before Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Burnley.

At the time Arsenal played as Woolwich Arsenal, and were in the second division, which they had entered 10 years before.  Despite these heroic scores at the start of the season however Arsenal did not win the league that season but they came second and so were promoted for the first time to the First Division.

Obviously there are a lot of differences between that run and the present run of the first three games without letting in a goal.  Not only were Woolwich Arsenal scoring freely in 1903, and not only was it a different division and a different name, but high scoring was very much the order of the day.  Arsenal scored 5 goals in two further games and six goals in two other matches, later in the season.  Top crowd at the Manor Ground, Plumstead where Arsenal played, during that season was 28,000 against Preston on April 9, as the club edged nervously towards its promotion.

Of course, if we want to look for the record in terms of the club playing in the first division, playing in north London and playing as Arsenal rather than Woolwich Arsenal we have to move on to 1924/5 which as I mentioned in a previous article had us go three games at the start of a season without letting in a goal.   Then it was

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  • Nottingham Forest 0 Arsenal 2
  • Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0
  • Arsenal 2 Liverpool 0

I think it is when I saw that third result from 88 years ago that I started to look for the parallels – what were the odds against it being 2-0 against Liverpool in the third match of the last season in which we kept a clean sheet for the first three?

If you want another coincidence both the 1925 record and the 1903 record occurred in the final season of the manager.  In 1904 Harry Bradshaw resigned after five years having taken the club on a step by step route to the first division.  Over his tenure Arsenal came 8th, 7th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd.

In 1925 Leslie Knighton was kicked out after managing the club since the resumption of football after the first world war.  His record was 10th, 9th, 17th, 11th, 19th and 20th.  To give this a perspective, at that time the clubs that ended up 21st and 22nd went down.

If you are a member of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association you will by now have received, as part of your membership, the latest Arsenal History Society publication which by chance covers the war years, the election to the first division and Knighton’s tenure at the club.

Our view of Knighton in the past has been a view that has been dominated by the reporting of the era in Knighton’s autobiography, in which he naturally excuses himself of all blame for Arsenal’s demise at that time.

However as the new publication reveals, Knighton’s personal account is far from the truth, and upon the demise of Knighton, Herbert Chapman took over at Arsenal, and using much the same team took the club up to what was at that time its highest ever position in the league: 2nd.

Membership of AISA is just £10 a year – I do hope you will join.

So there we have it.  In 1924/5 it was three matches with none conceded followed by a 2-2 draw away to Newcastle.   In 1903/4 the fourth match was a 4-0 win away to Bristol City.

We have to wait and see.

The most complete and detailed story of the Woolwich Arsenal years appears in the book, Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football, or which I am a co-author along with Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.  It is available from the publishers, from the Armoury store at the Emirates, and from Amazon.

Here are the other links:

6 comments to Arsenal chasing a 109 year old record

  • Ong Bing

    Nice post Tony, like it.

    Most important is 3 point, record just bonus.

    But it will be nice if we win our next 6 games and still clean sheet. Because this month is very difficult.

  • Stuart

    Tony, are you writing for the matchday programme again this year?

  • Stuart – sadly no. The work has been taken in house, and the historical aspects focus on developments in Islington as a location, rather than on football matters – so they are outside my area of expertise, such as it is.

    So the tracing of the history of Arsenal’s historic move from Plumstead to Gillespie Road is going on, on the Woolwich Arsenal blog.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Like Ong Bing , I ‘m hoping that we continue to keep a clean sheet this month ,while scoring at the oppositon’s end!
    Not conceding in the Champions League as well as the League cup game will be an added bonus .

  • dreamer

    Enjoyable reading…Thanks

  • Stuart

    That’s a shame Tony, oh well, back to the blog site it is