Arsenal’s very first season. 1886/7 – the games, the results

By Tony Attwood

Generally speaking books which record Arsenal’s results start with 1893, when Woolwich Arsenal entered the league.

But for six seasons before that Arsenal did play a mixture of friendlies and cup games.

Although the FA Cup exploits of the club have long since been recorded, the other games played – the friendlies and the games in a variety of cups – have been missed from the record books.

However (and not for the first time I find myself saying this) through the extraordinary diligence of Andy Kelly, we now have records of each of these seasons, so I thought I would bring them to you, with a bit of commentary.

Here we have the results of Dial Square FC (in match one) and Royal Arsenal FC for the season 1886/7

Date Opponent H/A Result Crowd
11 Dec 86 Eastern Wanderers A 6-0  
8 Jan 87 Erith H 6-1  
15 Jan 87 Alexandra United H 11-0  
22 Jan 87 Eastern Wanderers H 1-0  
29 Jan 87 Erith A 3-2  
5 Feb 87 Millwall Rovers A 0-4 600
12 Feb 87 Alexandra United A 6-0  
26 Feb 87 2nd Rifle Brigade H 0-0  
12 Mar 87 Millwall Rovers H 3-0  
28 Mar 87 2nd Rifle Brigade A 0-1  

So, what are the key points.

First, we can note the symmetry of home and away matches.  This is of particular historical importance, because it is often suggested (Wikipedia being one of the sources for example) that the notion of a balance home/away sequence came from a report in the New York Times of 27 March 1887 stating, “”measures would be taken to form a new football league…[consisting of] a schedule containing two championship games between every two colleges composing the league”.

The Football League was not created until 17 April 1888, so Arsenal’s schedule clearly was not influenced by the League.

As you may have read elsewhere, Arsenal were known as Dial Square in 1886, and Royal Arsenal for the rest of the season.

The team from the off was clearly very strong winning its first five games.  The first defeat of an Arsenal team was on 5 February 1887, in front of the crowd of 600 – the only crowd figure we have for the season.

We don’t know why Arsenal concluded on 28 March.  Maybe they ran out of teams to play, maybe they wanted to balance the home/away symmetry, and didn’t have a way to do this in the one remaining month before cricket took over.

But whatever the reason, the founders could be pleased with themselves.  Arsenal in season one played 10, won 7, drew 1 and lost 2.


The anniversary files have now been re-organised to cope with the fact we now have well over 2000 entries on the files.   Here are the new links




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