Just how much impact did the stadium have in Arsenal’s 5-1 win on Saturday?

By Tony Attwood

“Did the new stadium force Ogbonna to misplace a pass that handed Arsenal an early lead? Was the new stadium responsible for West Ham’s half-baked recruitment over the summer?”   These questions are posed by the Daily Telegraph, and their conclusion (without of course considering any evidence, for that is never their way) is “Probably not”.

Mr Wenger added a little more substance to the debate saying that there is little that a manager can do beyond delivering results to make a new venue feel like home. “You can try, but you cannot create something artificially that doesn’t exist,” he said, adding, “You have to create a history. Now, there is no history.”

We all know what happened when Arsenal twice moved stadium in recent times.  In terms of the Champions League we had two miserable seasons playing at Wembley where the crowd numbers went up but the results went down.

As for the move to the Emirates we found the days of winning the league and FA Cup were over and instead we were into the “fourth is not a trophy” era.   I still view that era of achieving at least fourth each season in a new stadium with finances curtailed was a masterful achievement.  Others of course disagree.

So two problems arise with stadium moves.  One is that the move itself is disruptive and it is hard to find a club (whether the move is a natural upgrade to a new ground or an artificial move of the type outlined below) that has experienced it as anything other than a pain.  The other is that it can affect the club’s finances – curtailing the chance of player purchases for several years.

Running up to the move of West Ham from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium no one was really sure how much impact each of these two issues had – was it mostly the fact that the finances got messed up, or mostly the psychological issues concerning the move that caused the problems?

The move of West Ham however has given us quite an answer – for even when the stadium is gifted by the state to the club a move, particularly to a stadium that is not a football stadium, can be problematic.  I suspect it has been made far worse than it might have been by an unsympathetic media-ignorant group of owners, but arrogance has often walked hand in hand with football club ownership.

Looking back through history what is interesting is that two of the biggest clubs that had moves like West Ham’s (Juventus to the Stadio delle Alpi and Bayern Munich to the Munich Olympic Stadium), moved again to new stadiums in far less time than was previously imagined.  They simply didn’t get on with their new home.

We also know what has happened to the other clubs that moved stadia in recent years without special treatment from the state, the local council or the Football League. But what about clubs which, like West Ham, gained their new ground through what we might call unusual means.  I thought it might be fun to have a quick run down.

New Brighton Tower – 1898

New Brighton Tower were formed to play at an already-built stadium. The owners of the New Brighton Tower, wanted to provide more winter entertainment, and built a large stadium in which to hold events.  They then formed a club in 1896 to play in the stadium.   In 1898 they were admitted to the League, but support never turned up (average gates around 1000) and in 1901 they were disbanded to be replaced by Doncaster Rovers (see Bradford City below).

Liverpool – 1892

When the President of Everton FC (who owned the Anfield ground) put the rent up, the rest of the directors upped goal posts and moved to Goodison.  With no tenant in his ground and no club to be President of any more the ex-Pres set up his own team at Anfield and they were duly admitted to the league in 1893.  After a bit of bouncing up and down between the 1st and 2nd divisions, they won the first division in 1901.

Bradford City – 1903

Manningham Football Club was a rugby league club that played at Valley Parade, Bradford at a time when there were no West Riding of Yorkshire clubs in the Football League.  The League and the FA wanted to get into the county and in 1903 Manningham agreed to change codes and play football at the ground previously used for rugby.  The Football League then voted out Doncaster Rovers (see above) and voted in Bradford City who obviously had never played a game of football.  

After four seasons they won the league and got into division one where they stayed until 1922 after which they sank to the lower reaches of the league, making a brief return to the top league at the end of the 20th century.  They are now in the third tier.

Chelsea – 1905

In 1904 Gus and Joseph Mears bought the freehold on the Stamford Bridge Athletics Ground and tried to move Fulham FC into the ground.  Fulham refused and decided to upgrade their ground.

So Chelsea were formed in 1905 with the aim of using Stamford Bridge, and thus in an amusing twist, Craven Cottage was upgraded exactly at the same time as Stamford Bridge was being set up as a football ground, with both using Archie Leitch as the architect, and he seemingly flitted from one ground to the other on a daily basis).

Chelsea applied to join the Southern League, but Tottenham Hotspur objected to having another London club in the Southern League, so the application was thrown out.  Chelsea then applied to join the Football League, even though they had never played a game, and merely had the offer of a ground.

Since Tottenham were in the Southern League they now couldn’t object, and Woolwich Arsenal FC openly welcomed another London club to play against, so Chelsea were given a place.

After two seasons the got promoted to the first division, and yo-yo’d up and down for a while, finally winning the League under the management of ex-Arsenal superstar Ted Drake in 1955.

Thames Association -1928

The guys who built the West Ham Stadium in East London (a dog racing and speedway track with a capacity of 120,000) wanted a football team to play there at weekends.  So they formed one and in 1930 got admission to the League.   They played for two seasons, managed to get the lowest ever league crowd (469) and then gave up.

Manchester City – 2003

Sport England built the City of Manchester Stadium for the Commonwealth Games hoping Man City would then convert it to a football stadium.  However, Manchester City didn’t like the idea, citing the failure of other grounds with running tracks (Stadio delle Alpi and the Munich Olympic Stadium as noted above).

Eventually with the stadium doomed to stand empty, the cost to Man City was greatly reduced and related to crowd levels, with the local council funding most of the conversion expenses.

Having won the league in 2002 just before their move, Man City sank down the table, and had seasons with them ending up 14th, 15th and 16th, before gaining new finance and winning the league in 2012.

Tottenham and Chelsea

Tottenham have had a disappointing run in the Champions League at Wembley – showing just how powerful stadium problems are, and face next season playing all their games there (or maybe Milton Keynes).  Chelsea are pushing ahead with plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge and at last reports faced three seasons out of their ground.

If the history both of the clubs created for the ground (above) and the clubs that have moved in a more natural way is anything to go by, both Chelsea and Tottenham will have difficult times, not just during the time out of their stadia, but also in the years thereafter.

From the anniversary files 5 December.  (You can see all today’s anniversaries on the home page of Untold Arsenal)

5 December 1885 Millwall beat Eastern Wanderers 3-1 at Glengall Road. This game in itself takes on a significance because it confirms the existence of Eastern Wanderers, Arsenal’s first opponents, and has them playing in this era – and it confirms that there were matches on the Isle of Dogs where the first Arsenal game (as Dial Square) took place

Tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

State Aid United – Arsenal 1-5: Oh what a birthday gift

WHU v Arsenal. The teams, the tactics, the injuries, the cost.

When the press start saying Arsenal will win honours it is time to start worrying

West Ham v Arsenal Saturday 3 December 2016 – The Match Officials

Three times as many arrests at Arsenal as at State Aid Utd? Up to a point Ms Copper


16 Replies to “Just how much impact did the stadium have in Arsenal’s 5-1 win on Saturday?”

  1. I am sure there is an impact. Have never been to the tax payers stadium, but seems it really is not a stadium really designed for football. Having said that, such a stadium did Bayern no harm in the 1970s until the new one was built.
    But as for this game, West Ham are on poor form, look short of confidence, and were up against some inspired players.
    The effect on the likes of Chelsea and Spurs remains to be seen, perhaps with the latter, the way the light enters the new build might offer the ref better visibility , resulting them in getting less penalties from blatant dives, we can but hope.
    As for Liverpool!!! They are beyond brilliant, whatever stadium they play in…..except for yesterday of course, but clearly a blip.

  2. When Arsenal moved to Emirates they made a very conscious effort that there would be the minimum of other changes. The matchday habits of fans were disturbed as little as possible. Ticket prices were maintained and we all got to choose our seats to be as close as we could be to where (and with whom) we wanted to sit.The squad (already a regular CL qualifying one) was maintained as much as was possible with Tierry Henry encouraged to stay even though Barcelona desperately wanted him to discover some Catalan DNA in his blood.
    There was, in short, the minimum of other disruption. Bilic this morning seems to imply that West Ham did the opposite which would mean that even with Arsenal to learn from they went their own arrogant way.
    When you think about it – pornographers exploit peoples weaknesses while Arsenal made a point of exploiting existing strengths in order to achieve the best possible result.
    Looking at the table this morning we can see who got it more right.

  3. I think I would be right in saying that until last season of course no team who had built their OWN stadium have won the premiership.

  4. Taking all the points people have made about moving stadiums into account … the Olympic Stadium can’t be that bad to play football in. We scored five goals there!

  5. Whether it’s by design or by undesigned deed, Arsenal have convincingly beat the West Hammers at their new playing ground called the London Stadium. And this our win is very important to us because we needed the 3 points at stake in that match and we collected all.

    West Hammers moving to the London Stadium which is bigger and more modern than their former Upton Park or Bolyn Ground has sweetened them a lot as they were very happy the deal that gave them the Stadium went through successfully despite opposition against their moving to the Stadium from some quarters.

    I saw a picture of David Gold, the West Ham co-chairman in the media in front of the London Stadium looking very pleased and smiling as he held the paper deeds which gave him and his chairman the Stadium.

    Do we think the West Ham owners and the club supporters are not aware of the consequence in terms of likely poor results if they moved? I believe they should know because the records of poor results which followed after making a move to a new Stadium by the clubs who have moved before are there for them to see and study. I think they would have seen these records and studied them or be told by expert observers. But despite these negative fact, they still want to move badly and they succeeded in moving finally, thinking whatever be the poor results they’ll likely suffered on the field after moving will be overcome later as they suffered them and deal with them. But in their thinking the big price is to get the Stadium first and they’ve succeeded at getting it leased to them for many years on a platter or at a bargain price, which is what they are after.

    So whatever poor results the West Hammers have suffered at home at the hands of the Gunners last Saturday is their own absolute problem and lookout. It doesn’t concern us. All we the Gunners and Gooners are after is to win all our games at home and at away irrespective of whatever problem our opposition club might be facing. And that won’t be our business but theirs.

  6. The nature of a new stadium probably has less to with ( a drop in) performance than the general disruption surrounding the move. If it were only the nature of the stadium then, presumably, away form would not suffer. But it seems from reading Untold that both home and away form typically drop with a stadium move. Having said that, there must be any amount of less high profile examples where a stadium move has not been followed by a notable drop in form, e.g the move of NTFC to the purpose built (and rates payer subsidised) Sixfields Stadium.

  7. Tony – I agree that when we had first moved into the stadium and yet Wenger was still able to guide us to at least 4th was a great achievement.

    It would be nice however to move on from this era, yet the club seem unable or perhaps unwilling? to do so. We have not competed for a league title (beyond March) for 12 years now.

    Yes we have won 2 domestic cups in that period but they didnt really amount to anymore than the league cup, which was a competition totally dismissed on this very forum last week.

    A welcome win on Saturday of course but it was against a lowly team fighting relegation. Chelsea aside the results have generally been disappointing this season

  8. Tony.
    If you look at the years before Man City moved they were in a rather sorry state and it was division 1 they won having been as low as div 2 in 1998-9. It could be suggested that having moved they consolidated their position in the premiership, and became an attractive enough asset to attract the mega money, soon after which they broke into the top 4 and have not been outside it since.


    It would still seem that the difficulties associated with a stadium move should not be underestimated by a club. It is clearly, as you have shown, not a guarantee of the promised land.

    Although most of the movers seem to be doing rather well now it would be interesting to compare how they did before and after and whether teams who have not moved have fared any better. It may be that it can tell us something about the longer term. Blackpool and Portsmouth spring to mind.

    Arsene’s achievements cannot be overstated.

  9. Boy…your are hard to please Top Guns! We are in second place, we have 31 points, with 9 wins and 4 ties and only 1 defeat, with a goal difference of +19 and the best centre-forward in the EPL, the best # 10, plus the keeper with the most shutouts and best save percentage and we are only 1 win out of first place after a tough November, numerous key injuries and the usual referee screw-ups!

    Get a life and join us earthlings for awhile from your Olympian perch on the aaa apex!

  10. When Arsenal moved stadia, there was another aspect that seems to have eluded the evidence. The Pigmob had established themselves & Hackett had handed over to Riley. This is a major reason for Arsenal being hindered despite being a superb footballing team. The success was always subject to the laundered money & player tapping while the game was being massaged by selective officiating. The loss of quality players aided & abetted by media publicity had some impact but none more that the sloped pitches.

    There is a wonderful history in these ‘trophyless’ years. Arsenal were the only club to succeed financially independent from a sugar daddy with a new stadium & a manager who both in football & economics is second to none.

  11. The problem of playing in a new stadium was summed up by Thierry Henry many years ago when he said he found it difficult getting exact bearings on the pitch from the new layout. No doubt that being able to pinpoint your position on the pitch from familiar landmarks in the stands adds to your confidence as a player. On top of this the more open layout of the stadium in which the crowd seem a little further away from both the action on the pitch and fellow supporters on the opposite side of the ground tends to negate the advantage teams normally have when playing at home.

  12. Menace- isn’t putting “trophyless” and “succeeding” in the same sentence somewhat contradictory?

  13. Top Guns, you have missed the full stop, between years and Arsenal?

    Spectacles, is it??

  14. I haven’t missed anything.
    You on the other hand may want to look back at our history to see what proper success is

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