In 1952/3 Arsenal won the first division title under Tom Whittaker’s management. It meant he had won the league title twice as Arsenal’s manager, and won the FA Cup – exactly the same as achieved by Herbert Chapman and George Allison before him. What’s more in his six years as manager the club had never once finished lower than sixth in the league – something that equalled Allison’s record, (if we leave aside the first year back after the second world war, when Allison was working with virtually no resources).
So the start of the 1953/4 season when Arsenal, as champions drew two and lost six of their first eight games, including on this day a 7-1 away defeat to Sunderland on this day in 1953, was not what was expected. Indeed Arsenal did not score a single goal in the first three matches.
Arsenal never recovered from the awful start and finished 12th that season, 9th the next, and 5th in 1955/6.
Whittaker’s tenure at Arsenal was a great success overall, but it shows how difficult it is to keep success rolling along year after year.
Here are the anniversaries. You can read more about the Arsenal History Society and find indexes to the many series we have produced about Arsenal, on the home page of this site.
12 September 1891: Penalties had been introduced for the first time this season, but thus far after two saturdays, none was awarded. However there was an average of 4.33 goals a game, so maybe none was needed.
12 September 1903: Gainsborough Trinity 0 Arsenal 2 (attendance 3000). This was Arsenal’s 4th match of the season (two in the FL two in the London League) and Arsenal had won all four, including beating Tottenham away. It was by far the best start thus far and went on to be the best start ever.
12 September 1912: Leslie Compton born in Woodford. Like his brother he played cricket for Middlesex, but it was at football that he excelled. He came to Arsenal straight from Middlesex Schools, and played as an amateur in 1930.
12 September 1914: With the club now renamed “The Arsenal,” the victory over Fulham 3-0 on this day meant they had three wins and one defeat thus far, scoring 10 conceding one.
12 September 1919: First league game for Arthur Hutchins; a 1-1 away draw with Sunderland
12 September 1925: Sammy Haden’s cross shot is going in, but Buchan touches it at the last second, and costs Arsenal £100. It was Buchan’s first goal for Arsenal, and as a result of the transfer deal, Arsenal paid £100 per goal (approx £5700 in 2019). The media got very excited. See also here.
12 September 1925: With Arsenal now managed by Chapman and having a good start to the season, Tottenham had gone one better with four straight wins taking them to the top of the league. But Everton 1 Tottenham 1 on this day meant they started to lose their way.
12 September 1929: Sidney Hoar sold to Clapton Orient for £1000. In all, he played 117 matches for Arsenal and scored 18 goals, before playing at Orient for one season before retiring in the summer of 1930 at the age of 35.
12 September 1931: Arsenal played Sunderland at Highbury and finally, in front of a very disappointing crowd of 22,926, got the win they wanted. It was Arsenal’s second worst home crowd of the season. David Jack was out through injury but Parkin proved an admirable substitute at inside right.
12 September 1934: Arsenal v Rangers was the third in the series of games instituted by Chapman resulted in a 1-1 draw. Reserve players Sidey, Marshall, Dunne and Dougall (all of whom made appearances in the league during the season) played. Bastin got the goal in front of 53,000, showing just how intrigued the fans had become with such games.
12 September 1953: Arsenal lost 7-1 away to Sunderland. It was the 8th game of the season and Arsenal were left bottom of the table with two draws and six defeats. They scored six and let in 18 in these games.
12 September 1953: Final appearance for George Swindin. He had played 271 league games and 23 Cup games and was granted a free transfer to become player manager of non-league Peterborough the following spring.
12 September 1958: Billy McCullough signed from Portadown in N Ireland, one of George Swindin’s first signings. He was initially deputy to Dennis Evans, but eventually took over at left back.
12 September 1966: Alan Skirton sold to Blackpool for £65,000. He played 144 league games for Arsenal as a winger and scored 53 goals. After Blackpool he moved on to Bristol City and Torquay.
12 September 1970: Burnley 1 Arsenal 2 in front of just 12,675. League match 8 of the first Double season. Kennedy and Radford scored to make it four wins, three draws and one defeat thus far.
12 September 1974: After 44 days in charge of Leeds United and with the players seemingly rather upset by the way they were being managed, Brian Clough was relieved of his duties.
12 September 1987: Nottingham Forest 0 Arsenal 1, as Arsenal started a series of 10 straight wins (ending November 14). Alan Smith scored and it was also the start of five games without conceding a goal.
12 September 1996: Pat Rice took over from Stewart Houston as manager, Houston leaving after it became clear that he was not in line to take over from Bruce Rioch. Pat managed three games, winning all three, with Arsenal scoring eight conceding one, before Arsene Wenger arrived and made Pat his deputy.
12 September 1998: Arsène Wenger announced that he was looking for a new striker to replace Ian Wright, and would like to sign Emile Heskey. He didn’t but instead used Anelka and Kanu, along with Bergkamp, as the main source of goals until Thierry Henry arrived.
12 September 2009: Tomáš Rosický came on after 51 minutes v Manchester City, marking his return with a goal and an assist. However Arsenal lost 4-2 to make it two wins and two defeats in the first four matches, scoring 13 conceding 8!