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February 2020
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Five games in eight days, and Tottenham bottom of the league. The Arsenal anniversaries

These days, playing two games a week (as clubs playing in Europe, the League, the League Cup and the FA Cup regularly do) means having a squad of 25 players, plus a whole load of youngsters who can step up for some of the non-league games against weaker opposition.

Five games in eight days seems completely ludicrous but that was common in December and around Easter in the early 20th century and for many years thereafter – as Arsenal found in 1904.    And when the club didn’t have enough league games to fill up the programme they played friendly matches as well.

Today is also the anniversaries of a time when Tottenham were bottom of the league – this time as recently as 1997.

Here are the anniversaries.

28 December 1904: Arsenal lost 0-4 away to Sheffield United; the 4th of five games in eight days.  Arsenal won two and lost three of the games, scoring five and letting in nine.

28 December 1907:  Charles Lewis – a rare example of a local lad (he was born in Plumstead) playing for Woolwich Arsenal – played his first game on this day and went on to play 206 games for the club before moving on to Margate in 1921

28 December 1908: Sheffield W 6 Arsenal 2.  Part of a run of just two wins in 11. The run continued through the winter but was ended with a 5-0 thrashing of Liverpool on 20 February.

28 December 1935:   Sunderland 5 Arsenal 4.   It was the first time Arsenal let in five goals since 19 November 1932. Bowden, Drake, Bastin and an own goal gave Arsenal their four against the eventual champions who were virtually unbeatable on their own pitch.

28 December 1936: David Nelson’s first game, a 3-1 win over Preston.   Kirchen, Nelson and Milne scored, making it the fourth game in succession in which Kirchen had scored.   When he left Arsenal he was part of the deal that brought Ronnie Rooke to the club. 

28 December 1939: Frank McLintock, Arsenal’s first Double winning captain, was born.  In a curious twist he played in two league cup final defeats with Leicester before joining Arsenal in 1964 and then featuring in two more league cup final defeats.

28 December 1940: Arsenal 8 Luton Town 1, in the wartime Southern Regional League.

28 December 1963: McLeod (2), Baker and Armstrong scored as Laurie Brown played his last senior game: Arsenal 4 Birmingham 1.  After a spell in the reserves Tottenham bought him and played him their next game – against Arsenal.

28 December 1965: Arsenal 5 Sheffield W 2.  After this game Arsenal only won one of the next fourteen, and ended the season in 14th place.  Eastham got two, Skirton, Sammels and Baker the others.

28 December 1990: Paul Dickov moved from trainee to professional.  He went on to play 22 league games for Arsenal, and had two loan spells (Luton and Brighton) before being sold to Man City in 2006.

28 December 1991: Man City 1 Arsenal 0.  It was one of seven consecutive games without a win which ensured Arsenal did not continue as Champions.  During these seven games Arsenal scored just two goals and conceded six.

28 December 1997: Tottenham (at this moment bottom of the League) 1 Arsenal 1.  Arsenal were in 6th position. Game 21 of the 2nd Double Season.   Ray Parlour scored.  The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

28 December 1999: Vieira made his return from suspension for the 2-0 win over league leaders Leeds United, who were eight points in front of Arsenal at the time.  Ljungberg and Henry got Arsenal’s goals.

28 December 2001: Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 1.  League match 20 of the third Double season.  Middlesbrough took the lead but Pires and Cole turned the game around in the second half to make it three consecutive wins.

28 December 2008: Arsenal 1 Portsmouth 0.  A poor game but the unbeaten run went on, and on (until May).  This was also the first of 8 consecutive home games without conceding a goal. Gallas scored to start Arsenal’s run of three consecutive wins.

28 December 2014: Francis Coquelin started his first match for Arsenal in 23 months.  It ended West Ham 1 Arsenal 2 and Coquelin kept his place thereafter, with negotiations being opened to give him a long-term contract at Arsenal.  Cazorla and Welbeck scored.

28 December 2015: Arsenal beat Bournemouth 2-0 recovering from a previous 4-0 defeat against Southampton with goals by Gabriel and Ozil.  Arsenal were again top of the league, and stayed there for four games, until a run of three draws and a defeat in late January put paid to hopes of winning the league.

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