“Arsenal get the most injuries”. How the story began almost 100 years ago

By Tony Attwood

On this day in 1920 the Arsenal programme contained a piece by Sir Henry Norris, the club chairman, outlining the club’s array of injuries, and claiming that probably no team had ever suffered so many injuries at one time as Arsenal now had.

The piece was taken up by several newspapers, and as far as I can see was the first ever discussion of Arsenal’s injuries being more extensive than that in other clubs.  And indeed one of the first discussions of the number of injuries that players in one club had.

No research was undertaken to verify Sir Henry’s claim – he was just making a point about the high number of injuries and clearly had not checked out the statistics – if any were available.  But the media took the story, and appear to have run the with the notion thereafter – at least until a few of us started to question their statistics in the 21st century.

It just shows how a story such as “Arsenal get the most injuries” can get going, and keep going even though (as we showed) it was most of the time palpably untrue.

The anniversaries for today, are printed below.

The website

An index of many of the series of articles on Arsenal’s history that we have run on this site can be found on the Arsenal History Society home page.

The books

“Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” is the definitive history of Arsenal from its inception as a league club through to its first year at Highbury, and reveals dramatic elements of Arsenal’s early days that have never been revealed before.

“Making the Arsenal” is a journalist’s inside view of the events around Arsenal’s collapse in 1910 and the rescue that paved the way for the move to Highbury and the arrival of Herbert Chapman.

Both books are now available on Kindle and in print.    Please see here for more details.


13 November 1893: Stanley Briggs made his debut against Rotherham Town in the 3-0 home win in front of 3000 fans in the league game, and kept his place in the following game – a 2-6 away defeat to Burton Swifts – in both cases playing at centre half.   

13 November 1909: Sheffield W 1 Arsenal 1.   It was the first Arsenal goal in three games in a run in which the club scored just five goals in eight games while conceding 22.  Lawrence scored for Arsenal.

13 November 1915: Arsenal played Tottenham away in the wartime amateur league, and despite having gone 2-0 down at half time Arsenal rallied and the match ended 3-3.  The crowd however was a modest 7000. What was notable however was that King got another hattrick.

13 November 1920: Arsenal 2 Blackburn Rovers 0 was seen by many football writers as indicative of their improvement since August: a good win on a pitch made treacherous by morning rain.  A shortage of first team players meant that the club’s injured regular goalkeeper played at full back. Clem Voysey broke his leg in this game – which proved to be the end of his career. The programme for the game spoke of no club ever having such an injury list as Arsenal and was probably the start of the journalists’ eternal story that Arsenal get the most injuries – a tale that lasted until the 21st century.

13 November 1937: Arsenal 1 WBA 1 – Arsenal’s sixth without a win with just five goals scored in the last five games; somewhat unusual for a League winning season!    Leslie Compton scored in front of 24,324. It was also the final game for Arthur Biggs.

13 November 1943: Arsenal 5 QPR 0 in the Football League South, having beaten Chelsea 6-0 the week before. It meant Lewis had scored seven goals, scoring one or more in each of the last four games.

13 November 1971:  Arsenal 1 Manchester City 2 with 47,443 in Highbury. Nelson scored the opening goal, but Arsenal were nervous after recent defeats to Sheffield and Liverpool, and poor header from McLintock let Mellor through to beat Wilson in a one on one.  Bell scored the winner near the end.

13 November 1979: The last of three games against Brighton played in the space of two weeks, twice in the league cup, once in the league.  After two goalless draws, this was a 4-0 win in the league cup with two from Stapleton and two from Vaessen

13 November 2004: Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5.  The highest scoring game between the two sides – although it was 1-1 at half time.  Every goal was scored by a different player – and Tottenham actually took the lead at the start. 

13 November 2007: Arsenal 2 Man U 2.  Game 16 of a 19 game unbeaten run.

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