Arsenal’s greatest season ever begins…

Today is the anniversary of the first match of the Unbeaten season.  The team we put out for the home game v Everton was…

Jens Lehmann

Ashley Cole  Sol Campbell  Kolo Toure  Lauren

Patrick Vieira

Fredrik Ljungberg  Gilberto

Sylvain Wiltord   Thierry Henry  Robert Pires

The subs were Martin Keown (30) and Ray Parlour (70)

  • Stuart Taylor
  • Francis Jeffers
  • Dennis Bergkamp

The pundits didn’t like the idea of Kolo Toure a centre back at the expense of Martin Keown, nor the idea of Sylvain Wiltord playing alongside Henry with Dennis Bergkamp and Francis Jeffers on the bench.  The previous season Wiltord had played on the right side of midfield.

Jens Lehmann made his first league appearance as David Seaman had left the club in the summer.

Sol Campbell was sent off for bringing down Thomas Gravesen on the edge of the area on 25 mins but 10 minutes later Thierry Henry scored from the penalty spot after Alan Stubbs had handled.  They doubled their lead just before the hour when Robert Pires stabbed the ball home following a save from ex-Arsenal keeper Richard Wright.

Arsenal later came close to adding a third when Freddie Ljungberg hit the bar with a free-kick before Tomasz Radzinski hit home a goal for Everton with six minutes left.  But then Everton substitute Li Tie received his second yellow card and at 10 v 10 it was easier to see the game out.

Everton had Wayne Rooney (who had scored in both games against Arsenal) on the bench.

Here are the anniversaries of this day through Arsenal’s history

16 August 1513: The Battle of the Spurs.  It did not take place in Tottenham but at Thérouann, as part of Henry VIII attempt to fight holy wars.  The “Battle of the Spurs” name came from the fact that the French ultimately rode away from the battle at high speed while facing certain defeat – although much of the English army died of dysentery. 

16 August 1912.  Ted Drake born.  He started at Winchester City, and then went on to Southampton, Herbert Chapman quickly spotted him, but at first could not convince him to move.  Drake was eventually signed in March 1934 for a fee of £6,500.

16 August 1920: Athletic News reported that several clubs within London were seeking to register the ex Rangers player who won the league with them and played for the Scottish League, Dr James Paterson.  He chose Arsenal, as his brother-in-law worked for the club.  Later Leslie Knighton, Arsenal’s manager, stated he was “reduced to playing the brother-in-law of the club’s physio,” even though Paterson was the club’s star player!

16 August 1925: Arsenal FC finally bought Highbury Stadium – which until that point had been leased.  It meant that Sir Henry Norris was no longer under an obligation to return the ground to its previous state at the end of the lease.

16 August 1927: First reported use of numbers on players’ backs, over a year before Arsenal tried it out.  Arsenal worked hard to popularise numbering, but, it seems, didn’t invent it.

16 August 1936: The end of the Berlin Olympics in which Britain entered an amateur football team including among its players, Bernard Joy, the Arsenal player.

16 August 1975: David O’Leary made his league debut for Arsenal – he went on to play 558 league games for the club.

16 August 1975: The awful decline of Mee’s ability as a manager was plain to see as Arsenal opened a new season with a goalless away draw to Burnley and went on to achieve just one win in the first ten league games.

16 August 1978: John Matthews sold to Sheffield United.  He had played 43 league games for Arsenal but went on to over 100 games for Sheffield Utd before moving on to Mansfield.

16 August 1980.  Kenny Sampson played for the first time for Arsenal v WBA and went on to play every game that season.  Arsenal won 1-0 with Stapleton scoring.

16 August 1981: Steve Gatting played his last game for the first team v Olympiacos in a friendly.  He moved to Brighton for whom he played over 300 league games before finishing his playing career at Charlton.

16 August 1992: Nottingham Forest 1 Liverpool 0, was the first PL match shown live on TV by Sky.  ITV thought they had the deal sown up, having split from a match-sharing deal with the BBC, but Sky, under instruction from Alan Sugar whose company made satellite dishes put in a much higher bid, and ITV’s duplicity backfired.

16 August 2003: Arsenal 2 Everton 1: the first match of the unbeaten season.  Campbell was sent off on 25 mins for a foul outside the area, Henry scored a penalty on 35, Vieira was yellow carded on 41m and Pires scored the winner on 58.  Everton got a consolation on 84 before Li was sent off on 87.  And so the greatest season ever began.

16 August 2008: Justin Hoyte signed for Middlesbrough from Arsenal.  He had played 68 league games for Arsenal and went on to play 142 times for Middlesbrough before moving on to Millwall.

16 August 2008: Arsenal started the season with 1-0 win over West Brom, with Nasri getting the first goal of the new season on his debut. 

16 August 2011: Emmanuel Eboué joined Galatasaray for a fee of £4m.  He had played 132 league games for Arsenal before leaving, having previously played 70 games for Beveren.  In December 2017, Eboué was offered a job coaching the under-14 team at Galatasaray, when their manager was made aware of Eboué’s financial problems and the fact he was homeless.  In June 2019, Eboué spoke about his ongoing difficulty with mental health.  The Arsenal History Society wish him the very very best in his struggle with that awful illness. 

16 August 2012: Jack Wilshere was given the number 10 shirt and said “Getting the No. 10 shirt again at the club means so much to me…It has a special place for all attacking or creative players. I feel proud to wear it now after some real club legends have worn it, such as Dennis Bergkamp.” 

16 August 2012: Kyle Bartley sold to Swansea for £1m.  In July 2014 he was given a further three year contract.  In 2018 he moved onto West Brom.

16 August 2013: Wellington Silva loaned to Real Murcia for the season.  He played 38 games for them and scored 3 goals, before moving on to Almería for 2014/15. In 2016 he joined Fluminense.

16 August 2018: Krystian Bielik loaned to Charlton for the season.  Charlton gained promotion in 2019 to the Championship and Bielik was strongly praised for his contribution. In 2019 he joined Derby County.

The Arsenal History Society is part of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association – a body which gives positive support to the club, and has regular meetings with directors and senior officials of the club to represent the views of its members to the club.  You can read more about AISA on its website.

100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.


“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. 

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