I am always hesitant in this age of “we want it all now” sports to discuss Arsenal’s track record over the last decade. Yes, we won the FA Cup last year. Yes, we have not failed to qualify for the Champions League for 17 consecutive years and in that time have reached the second phase of the competition for 15 consecutive years. Yes, in 2003/2004 we matched the record set by Preston North End in 1889 to become only the second side in English football history to go undefeated in a season. Mind you, if they stay on form, Chelsea could very well match that record this year.
Having said all that, my intention is not to complain. Despite the fact that I live on the other side of the world I have seen the Gunners play more times than I have been to professional hockey games in my life. I have had the honour of walking the old field at Highbury when the grounds were empty and been in the old dressing room while several players were still in it. I once accidentally walked headlong into Sol Campbell walking down the tunnel and even got to stand less than an arm’s length from Arsene Wenger while he was being interviewed after a match against Liverpool in 2001.
While I suppose I understand some of the frustration of those supporters that want Wenger gone, and seem to think that by replacing him the club will become some unstoppable force, I’m rather put out by what I feel is a disconnect with the club’s history.
While the Gunners might be the third most successful side in English football history, having won the league 13 times since 1930-31 and placing second eight times, the fact remains that the club’s only period of prolonged dominance was between 1930 and 1938, during which time they won the league 5 times - three times in a row between 1931-32 and 1934-35. At no time in club history has Arsenal since won back to back titles. That record of three consecutive league titles, by the way, has never been outmatched. Only four clubs have done it - Liverpool, Arsenal, Huddersfield Town, and Manchester United.
For those fans that think that last decade has been painful, keep in mind that the club didn’t win a title for 18 years between 1952-53 and 1970-71. In fact, several milestones in my life are directly linked with Arsenal league title victories, and serve as a reminder of the scope of the history of both the club and the game. Arsenal won the double the year that I was born. They would not win the league again until the year I graduated from high school.
If you truly want to pity someone, pity Liverpool supporters. Up until 2009 The Reds were still the most successful club in English football history, and they hadn’t won the league since 1989-90. Between 1972 and 1988 they were almost unstoppable.
Another example to keep in mind is that of Manchester United. For a club that has been likened to the Odin meets Zeus of football, they didn’t win the league between 1966-67 and 1992-93 - a 25 year gap. During that time they were also relegated to the Second Division, something that has never happened in Arsenal’s history. While they are, without question, the most successful club in the game’s history now, it’s only been since 1998 that their myth has been cemented. The truth, of course, is that the likes of Beckham, Giggs, Keane and especially Sir Alex Ferguson did far more to cement the legend of the club than Sir Bobby Charlton ever did.
As for Chelsea and Manchester City, they’ve won eight titles between them in a 77-year period.
So am I going to complain? No, I’m not.