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The day Arsenal went beyond the concept of Total Football

28 September 2002 is a day that should be commemorated at Arsenal as one of its great anniversaries because this is the day when not only were records broken, but the world of football woke up to what a truly fantastic team Arsenal had built.

Of course the journalists, tutored in years of knocking Arsenal, found it hard to accept, but other managers could only explain how their teams were endlessly taken apart from reflecting upon Arsenal’s brilliance.

It wasn’t just this day in 2002 when it all happened – but the comments made on this day, and in the following days, reflect what a remarkable change Arsenal had made in terms of what could be done on a football pitch.

It was, in effect Total Football, but with then something else added.

Here are the anniversaries.

28 September 1907: Preston 3 Woolwich Arsenal 0.  First league game for Joe Shaw. He started out with first division Bury, his home town club, and then moved on to non-league Accrington Stanley, before reaching Plumstead in 1907. The result made it four defeats in the first six games.  He later became Arsenal’s manager upon the death of Chapman. See also here

28 September 1908: Arsenal’s first match in the London FA Challenge Cup  –a 1-0 away victory over Fulham. The club’s final match was on November 12 1973 in the semi-final, played away to Tottenham in which Arsenal lost 0-3.   Arsenal reached the final on 16 occasions, winning the competition eleven times.

28 September 1924: Death of Arsenal’s first successful manager Harry Bradshaw who utterly transformed Arsenal, taking them to the First Division for the first time.  After leaving Arsenal he was Fulham’s first professional manager, won the Southern League twice in succession and their election to the Football League. He then went on to become secretary of the Southern League, where he stayed until his retirement in 1921.

28 September 1946: Final appearance for the utterly amazing Cliff Bastin.  After retiring from football he ran a cafe, wrote for the Sunday Pictorial and went on to be a publican, and died aged 79 back in his home county of Devon.

28 September 1946 International debut for Laurie Scott.  In all he played 17 times for England and four times for England B while at Arsenal.

28 September 1963: Having been 21st in the league after four games Burnley 0 Arsenal 3 made it five consecutive wins, lifting the club to sixth.  During the run Strong got four and Baker six goals.

28 September 1965: Alan Skirton became Arsenal’s first substitute of the modern era in a 1-1 draw with Northampton

28 September 1966: Tommy Baldwin’s final appearance. He then became part of the deal that brought George Graham to Arsenal.  After falling out with the Chelsea management over his social life he was loaned out before playing for Gravesend, Seattle Sounders and Brentford.

28 September 1974: Birmingham City 3 Arsenal 1, (25,584 present) left Arsenal 20th in the league just over three years after completing the double. George got a fine goal on 69 minutes, but it was Trevor Francis in the Birmingham side that really took Arsenal apart.

28 September 1976: For the Arsenal v Blackpool match the visitors introduced the concept of an 11 man defence and got a goalless draw in front of 27,195 bored spectators.  After the game Terry Neill said Arsenal had just broken the world record for crosses and shots. None of them however broke the two lines of five in front of the keeper.

28 September 1985: David Rocastle’s debut in 0-0 draw with Newcastle.  He went on to make 13 starts in his first season.  See also here

28 September 1991.  Southampton 0 Arsenal 4.  Ian Wright scored both his first league goal and his first hat trick for Arsenal and went on to score 24 goals in 30 games in his first Arsenal season.

28 September 1992.  Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0, the first win after 2 draws and 2 defeats.  Ian Wright scored in front of just 21,504.

28 September 1996: Arsenal 2 Sunderland 0 made it three wins out of three for Arsène Wenger, six undefeated for Arsenal.  Hartson and Parlour got the goals in the second of a sequence of six in which Arsenal did not concede a single goal.

28 September 2002:  Leeds 1 Arsenal 4.   Arsenal beat Nottm Forest’s record of 22 away games without defeat.  Olivier Dacourt of Leeds commented on the team,”We’re all fighting for second place now. It was demoralising. They just pass and move, pass and move. You find yourself working for nothing.”    Arsène Wenger called the performance as “edging nearer to perfection… We are playing great, Total Football.   Danger comes from everywhere.” Leeds manager Terry Venables said: “Manchester United have been exceptional for 10 years – but I’ve not seen anything as good as that.”   Arsenal also beat Chesterfield’s 72 year old record of scoring in 47 consecutive league games set between December 1929 and December 1930 in the Third Division north, a run in which Arsenal player Jack Lee, who was transferred to Chesterfield in 1928, was very much part of.

28 September 2007: Despite a period of privation as Arsenal work to pay off the debt arising from building the stadium, Arsène Wenger said if he was handed £100m transfer fund he’d hand it back.

28 September 2013: Arsenal made it a record breaking 12 consecutive away wins beating Swansea 2-1, as they also equalled the all time record of 8 consecutive away PL wins, set by Arsenal on 11 May 2002.

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