Victoria Concordia Crescit.
It’s latin. “Victory grows out of harmony”. A nice-sounding expression that promotes prosperity through peace and understanding. Good enough to be the motto of a world famous football club.
Back in 1886, a group of weapon-industry workers created something that would grow to a be respectable reference for football lovers all around the globe. A club that would honour their weaponry heritage and keep an easily recognizable nickname – The Gunners.
After a hard first couple of decades, Woolwich Arsenal (as it was known at the time) moved from the Southeast to the North of London, building a stadium that would be kept for almost 100 years (!), as well as their streak in the top division of English football.
Regarded as a boring, play-it-safe kind of team for a long time, the club would undergo a titles drought that would last for almost two decades, from the early 50’s up until the late 60’s. After that, a new way of thinking sought to turn things around: plans were designed to secure Arsenal a spot among the best. And, as any management textbook will tell you, good planning pays off. From the 70s onwards, the Gunners achieved sustained success that would culminate in an amazing 2003-04 season – Premier League winners with zero losses along the way. “The Invicibles”, they were called. Impressive, considering England’s football culture and unpredictability.
In 2006, Arsenal’s fiercely loyal supporters said farewell to good old Highbury Stadium and welcomed a new era in the Emirates Stadium (sponsor name, a sign of the times), a majestic stage with over 60,000 seats. Since that move, true happiness is still to be found: no Premierships or major european titles since the opening ceremony, 11 years ago.
Nowadays, Arsenal are serious title contenders every year – however, the squad is usually struck with an abnormal amount of injuries that end up weakening their chances. Nevertheless, with world-class players like Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sánchez, they possess all the required tools to upgrade and reach that effective glory. Despite being often overlooked and not having a rock-solid position in the “elite teams” category, their relevance in world football is unquestioned and the resume speaks for itself:
- 13 Premier Leagues (3rd most wins, only beat by Liverpool and Man. United)
- 13 FA Cups (most FA Cup wins)
- 14 FA Community Shields (2nd most wins, behind Man. United)
- 2 League Cups
- 1 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup
- 1 European Fairs Cup
When it comes to the club’s main figures, there are a few people that mandatorily stand out:
- Herbert Chapman – A man whose creativity was ahead of his time. Chapman changed the game itself with revolutionary ideas and tactics (e.g. W-M formation) and pioneered Arsenal’s winning trajectory;
- Bertie Mee – An ex-physiotherapist and a surprising coaching choice, Bertie Mee ended the club’s 17 years titles drought;
- George Graham – A Scottish international player that would be able to return and be equally successful as a manager;
- Tony Adams – Over 20 years with Arsenal’s shirt, this defender and true captain witnessed the transition to a new era that would start with…
- Arséne Wenger – The face of modern Arsenal. Introduced new training methods and is the longest serving football manager in Europe. His second decade wasn’t as successful as the first one , but 10 titles in 21 years (and counting) still give him some credit.
- Thierry Henry – A striker that will hardly ever be forgotten. Technical and tactical skills, strength, pace and at his prime, unparalleled goal instinct. He’s Arsenal all-time top goalscorer.
Currently, the Gunners benefit from a favourable record against eternal rivals Tottenham (80 wins, 62 losses, 51 draws), regular sold-out crowds at their home matches and top-tier structures in both youth and ladies’ squads. With that being said, there are heavy investments that haven’t quite paid off yet and the fanbase is somewhat divided when it comes to the team’s future in the long haul, for example, regarding Arséne Wenger’s tenure.
Will they flunk and fall below the “elite teams” lot, or will they find victory through harmony and get their memorable moment soon?