126 years ago today, Arsenal played their first ever league match, but it is a mark of the way the club was evolving at a very fast speed that none of the players in this game played in the first match of the following season.
The estimated attendance at the match was 10,000. However it was not an easy start for the club and it was not until the third game that Arsenal secured their first victory.
There were 15 clubs in the league this season and Arsenal finished 9th which was considered not too bad for a club breaking new ground by bringing league football to the south of the country.
Aside from Arsenal and Newcastle, the only other clubs in the 2nd division that season, who are still in any of the top four divisions in England were Grimsby Town, Burslem Port Vale (now Port Vale), Lincoln City, and Crewe Alexandra. Rotherham Town was also in the league, but they folded three years later and it was a new club that was founded with the same name which ultimately merged with others to become Rotherham United.
There is an index of many of the series of articles covering Arsenal’s history, on our home page.
Here are the anniversaries
2 September 1893: Woolwich Arsenal 2 Newcastle Utd 2. This was the first ever league match of the club, with the goals coming from Shaw and Elliott. Also see this report And the original reports in the press. Not one of the Arsenal players this day played in the first match the following season.
2 September 1899: First league match under Harry Bradshaw. It was also the first game for James Jackson who went on to play 183 league games for the club, and James Tennant who played 51 across two seasons before moving on to Middlesbrough.
2 September 1901: First appearance for Thomas Briercliffe, Arsenal 2 Barnsley 1. He played in all 34 league games that season and scored 11 goals.
2 September 1905: First appearance for James Sharp who had transferred from Fulham and for Jimmy Blair who had been transferred from Kilmarnock. The season marked the first serious drive towards promotion by Woolwich Arsenal.
2 September 1908: First game under George Morrell: Arsenal 0 Everton 4. Although Arsenal lost four of their first five games under Morrell, they recovered to end a very creditable sixth in Division 1.
2 September 1912: Start of final season at Plumstead: Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0. The crowd was 8724 for this match, played in the monday evening twilight.
2 September 1916: Debut for Arthur Hutchins in a wartime friendly. He had played for Croydon Common, who were the only Southern League club that failed to return after the first world war – Hutchin’s registration passing to Arsenal.
2 September 1916: saw one piece of uplifting war news as William Leefe-Robinson became the first pilot to shoot down a German airship over Britain. It was indeed the first sign that British forces could retaliate in the skies.
2 September 1933: Ralph Birkett, who was one of Chapman’s last signings, made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. In all he played 15 times in the side that won the second of the three titles in a row, sharing the number 7 position with Hulme and Beasley.
2 September 1939: Arsenal 5 Sunderland 2 (Dark 4, Drury). This was the final match before World War II, the season then being abandoned after 3 games. The crowd was 17,141. A barrage balloon rose from behind the ground at the final whistle.
2 September 1958: Stan Charlton’s last game: Burnley 3 Arsenal 1. He had made 110 league appearances, scoring three goals. In December he moved to Leyton Orient and helped them gain promotion to the first division where their first match was against…. Arsenal.
2 September 1958: Cliff Holton’s last game. He moved on to Watford, and then to Northampton where he became the club’s highest ever scorer in a single season. He then moved on to Palace, Charlton, Watford (again) and Orient.
2 September 1961: Chris Whyte born in Islington. He played 90 games for Arsenal including playing alongside David O’Leary in the early 1980s. He played for Arsenal from 1978 to 1986.
2 September 1964: Johnny MacLeod sold to Aston Villa after 130 league games for Arsenal. He continued playing until 1975 although the last three years were on a part-time basis.
2 September 1972: With Charlie George unsettled he was dropped to the bench for the home game against Chelsea in a 1-1 draw at Highbury in front of 46,675. Charlie came on as with 75 minutes gone, and seven minutes later was booked for the second time in a week One more would mean a ban under the new regulations. Mee, perhaps in the first sign he was losing control of the squad, declined to talk to reporters.
2 September 1976: Eddie Kelly sold to QPR. He had played 222 times for Arsenal including 175 in the first division and stayed one year at QPR before being signed by Frank McLintock at Leicester, leaving after three seasons as they were first relegated and then promoted as champions.
2 September 1978: Against QPR Arsenal played a front line of Sunderland, Walford, Stapleton, Rix with Brady and Price feeding the balls through to them. And it worked a dream, the result being Arsenal 5 QPR 1 with 33,883 at Highbury and the goals coming from Stapleton (2), Rix (2) and Brady.
2 September 2009: Bendtner signed a new long term contract. He was at Arsenal from 2005 to 2014, and his longevity at the club drew much criticism both for his lack of goals (24 in 108 league games), his perceived arrogance and eccentric lifestyle.
2 September 2009: Denilson signed a new long term contract. There was hope for some time that he might become a replacement for Gilberto Silva, as a defensive midfielder, but although his positioning was excellent, his passing out lacked much of Gilberto’s simplicity and accuracy.
2 September 2012: Arsenal played their third league match after two without scoring and perhaps surprisingly beat Liverpool away 2-0.
2 September 2013: Arsenal announced that they had signed Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42m. It was by some margin Arsenal’s record signing thus far.
2 September 2014: Arsenal confirmed the signing of Danny Welbeck from Man U.for about £16m in the last few hours of the transfer window. It was a transfer that surprised and to some degree split the fanbase. He left Arsenal in the summer of 2019 on a free transfer.