When it comes to English football, not many football clubs have enjoyed the same domestic success as Arsenal. In fact, only two clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool, have won more English top-flight titles than the Gunners’ tally of 13. Of their English titles won, three have been in the Premier League era.
Arsenal have had some genuinely memorable teams down the years. In this article, we will talk about some of those famous teams.
The early titles
Arsenal’s first-ever English title arrived in the 1930-31 season and led to a glorious spell for the Gunners, including winning their first two English league titles under the late great Herbert Chapman. From the years 1931 to 1938, Arsenal won the English league title on five occasions.
However, tragically the great Chapman passed away in the middle of the 1933-34 season. His successors, Joe Shaw and George Allison continued his work by winning titles in 1934, 1935 and 1938, as well as the FA Cup in 1936.
The second world war saw the suspension of the English top flight for seven years. However, Arsenal once again won the English title in season 1947/48 under Allison’s successor Tom Whittaker in his debut campaign as Gunners’ boss.
In season 1952-53, Arsenal recorded their seventh English top-flight title and became the most successful club in terms of titles in England.
Despite that early glory, Arsenal had to wait nearly two decades for their next title, as physio-turned-coach Bertie Mee inspired the Gunners to a league and FA Cup double in 1970-71. Mee’s double-winning team included Scottish international George Graham, who also went on to lead the team from north London to glory as boss. Arsenal also finished as runners-up in the First Division in 1972/73. Once again, they had to wait a while for more league glory.
Graham’s return in the ’80s
George Graham returned to Arsenal as boss in 1986. The Scot led the Gunners to the League Cup in 1987. However, in season 1988/89, the team from north London claimed the title once again after a 16-year wait.
The title-winning team was built on the solid defensive foundations of a back four of Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Steve Bould, who were famous for the number of clean sheets they kept. Their displays are believed to have led rise to the chant of ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’.
The season will go down in history for producing one of the most dramatic finishes to a league season, as a late Michael Thomas goal in a 2-0 win at Liverpool meant that the Gunners won the title courtesy of scoring eight more goals than the Merseysiders, who started the game three points clear of Graham’s team with a superior goal difference of four.
Ironically, Thomas would later sign for Liverpool, spend six and a half years with the men from Merseyside, and still live in the area. He also returned to the club as an academy coach in 2020, having previously founded a security company after he hung up his boots.
Arsenal would win their second First Division title under Graham in 1991 when they suffered just one defeat in the campaign. In 1995, the Scottish boss was sacked when it was discovered that he had taken bribes from a Norwegian agent Rene Hauge to sign some of his clients. His replacement, another former Arsenal player, Bruce Rioch, lasted just one season.
The Wenger years and the Invincibles
When a certain little-known French boss Arsene Wenger arrived at the club in 1996 from Japanese football, many doubted his appointment. However, the former Monaco boss transformed the club in every way possible.
He brought a new attacking philosophy, as well as ideas on the dietary needs of the players and put his economics degree to good use when it came to new signings. It didn’t take long for Wenger to win his first title. In fact, a team containing his compatriots, including the now iconic Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, claimed a league and cup double in season 1997/98. The Gunners then repeated the trick in season 2001/2002.
However, arguably the Gunners’ most memorable league title came in season 2003-04. When Wenger’s side not only claimed the English top-flight title but did it without losing a game. ‘The Invincibles’, as they have since been nicknamed, actually went 49 games unbeaten and are the only team in the Premier League era to win the title without suffering a single defeat in a season.
The nickname was taken from the Preston North End team, which won the inaugural Football League competition in 1889. North End were unbeaten in 22 league games while also winning the FA Cup without conceding a goal in their five matches.
Wenger’s team failed to claim another Premier League title during his reign. However, they got to the Champions League final in 2006, where they suffered a 2-1 defeat by Catalonia giants Barcelona.
The veteran Frenchman won his last trophy as Gunners boss in 2017 when his team recorded a 2-1 victory over London rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Wenger left the north London club in 2018 after over two decades of service. He will go down as one of the best head coaches English football has ever seen for what he brought to not only Arsenal but the English game in general.
Arsenal recovering under former captain Mikel Arteta
Wenger’s successor Unai Emery lasted 18 months. After a short stint with former midfielder Freddie Ljungberg as interim boss, the Gunners appointed former captain Mikel Arteta as head coach in December 2019.
Slowly but surely, the Spaniard has created a young, vibrant team that looks to be moving in the right direction. If Arteta’s team continues to progress his team on their current trajectory, then English title number 14 may not be that unrealistic in the near future.