The popularity of Boxing Day matches in recent years means that key events in our three Wenger championship years happened on this day – and there was another particularly vibrant reason to celebrate on a non-trophy year around this time.
In 1977, the Boxing Day game of the second double season gave us the start of an 18 game unbeaten run. In 2000 Thierry Henrry got his first hattrick, in 2001 we had a good win over Chelsea in the third double season, and in 2003 it was the 18th match of the Unbeaten season.
Of course it hasn’t always been that way, but go back far enough and there is a 10-1 win as well. Here are the highlights…
26 December 1893: Arsenal (in the shape of Buist) scored their first ever league penalty, in 1-3 defeat to Grimsby. This was also (rather obviously since it was the first league season) the first Arsenal league game on Boxing Day
26 December 1895: Arsenal 10 Cliftonville Athletic 1
26 December 1892: First game for Joseph Powell, who– Arsenal’s highest ever Boxing Day score
26 December 1899: Arsenal v Loughborough abandoned. The replay on 12 March 1900 created our biggest ever win.
26 December 1902: Bill Linward played his first game for Arsenal, (a friendly) and then immediately went on to play his second match on the following day (his first league game).
26 December 1903: Arsenal drew away to Leicester Fosse 0-0. Frank Ransom is shown in the records as wearing the number 6 shirt for this game, in what was Arsenal’s promotion season from the second division. It was his one and only game for the club.
26 December 1909: Charlie Buchan signed as an amateur. He left the club over a contractual dispute, and signed for Sunderland without playing a league game for Arsenal, but returned under Chapman in 1925 to lead a rejuvenated side to the club’s highest ever league position.
26 December 1910: First game for Thomas Winship who played in the first match at Highbury, and who (much later) was credited with the pass that resulted in the first ever goal in the Third Division (North).
26 December 1911: Having lost to Tottenham 5-0 at WHL on Christmas day Arsenal now beat Tottenham at the Manor Ground 3-1.
26 December 1913: Having beaten Bradford 3-2 away on Christmas day Arsenal repeated the feat at Highbury on Boxing Day in front of 30,000, the score being 2-0. This was part of a four match winning run through the month which took Arsenal up to third.
26 December 1914: Some seven weeks after scoring six at Highbury for the first time Arsenal did it again beating Leicester Fosse 6-0. But with the war news very bleak indeed and the recruiting officers stepping up their work at League matches, only 6000 turned up – the second lowest crowd at Highbury.
26 December 1920: As Boxing Day fell on a Sunday, there were no league games but Dick Kerr’s Ladies F.C. drew the largest-ever crowd to attend a women’s match in the era before the FA and League effectively banned the sport: 53,000 spectators at Goodison Park for a game against St. Helen’s Ladies. Indeed it was this attendance that so worried the FA that they started the moves to ban women’s football – to their eternal shame. As far as I know neither the League nor the FA has ever apologised.
26 December 1922: Arsenal 5 Bolton 0. First game for John Robson, at 5’ 8” Arsenal’s smallest ever goalkeeper in the league. He went on to play 97 league games for the club over four seasons before moving on to Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic.
26 December 1929: Last game for John (“Jack”) Butler, one of the claimants to be our first foreign player, (being born in Ceylon) and also Woolwich Arsenal’s first centre half. After 267 league games he moved on to Torquay Utd.
26 December 1929: Tom Parker played his 172nd consecutive game for Arsenal – an all time record in the club. It ended Arsenal 1 Portsmouth 2. Tom captained Arsenal to the club’s first league and cup honours.
26 December 1929: The start of a league run that went on to 8 March 1930 during which Arsenal won just one league match out of the nine played. Three were draws
26 December 1931: Last game for Bill Seddon, one of the players to win Arsenal’s first FA Cup and first league title. The result was Arsenal 0 Sheffield Utd 2 in a run of three consecutive defeats.
26 December 1931: Also the last game for Joey Williams as Arsenal lost 0-2 at home to Sheffield United.
26 December 1950: Stoke City 1 Arsenal 0. The first game for Cliff Holton: he scored an amazing 293 league and cup goals through his career and won the league with Arsenal in 1953.
26 December 1958: Last game for Jim Fotheringham, a centre half for Arsenal in the Whittaker era. The result was Luton 6 Arsenal 3; Julians, Evans and Bloomfield scored Arsenal’s goals. After 72 league games Jim moved to Heart of Midlothian.
26 December 1970: Arsenal 0 Southampton 0. League match 23 of the first Double season after which Arsenal won every home game through the rest of the season. The story is told that after the match George Armstrong said to his team mates, “I bet we win the Double”.
26 December 1975: Last game for Eddie Kelly, a Double winner who played 168 games for Arsenal despite upsetting Bertie Mee upon his arrival with his “welcome gift” requests. He moved on to QPR in September 1976.
26 December 1992: Jack Crayston, the Arsenal player who also managed the club, from 1956 to 1958, died. As a player he gained two league winner’s medals, a cup winner’s medal, and eight England caps playing 168 times for the club.
26 December 1994: Stephen Hughes played his first game. It ended Arsenal 0 Aston Villa 0. He made 22 starts for the club before being transferred to Everton in March 2000.
26 December 1995: Arsenal 3 QPR 0. Goals from Merson (2) and Wright gave Arsenal their first win in six games in a run of one win in eight.
26 December 1997: Arsenal 2 Leicester 1. Game 20 of the second double season. The first of 18 unbeaten games which took us to the league title. Platt scored – the other was an own goal.
26 December 2000: Thierry Henry’s first hattrick in a 6-1 win against Leicester. Vieira, Ljunberg and Adams got the other three. The score meant that Arsenal had scored 16 goals in four consecutive league games, conceding just two.
26 December 2001: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1. League match 19 of the third Double season. Campbell and Wiltord scored and the win kept Arsenal in second place in the table.
26 December 2003: Arsenal 3 Wolverhampton W 0 The 18th league match of the Unbeaten season. Henry, Aliadière and Vieira scored as Wolverhampton accumulated five yellow cards. The result was a relief after three draws and a 1-0 win in the previous four games.
26 December 2008: Phil Brown of Hull (later to accuse Fabregas of spitting and wearing inappropriate clothes while not in the team) showed an early version of his eccentricity by holding his half time team talk on the pitch. It was widely condemned in the media.
26 December 2016: Arsenal 1 WBA 0. This result came after two consecutive league defeats, and started a seven match unbeaten run which revitalised hope that Arsenal might once again make the top 4, but it wasn’t to be as Arsenal ended the season in 5th – the first time in the Wenger era that the top four was not reached.