Records are made to be broken and throughout the Arsene Wenger years, we’ve witnessed a number of the Club’s most iconic landmarks become the property of a new generation of players.
From the obvious examples, such as Thierry Henry becoming the Club’s leading goalscorer and Cesc Fabregas our youngest-ever player, to the slightly more obscure achievements like Jens Lehmann’s record 853 minutes without conceding a goal in the Champions League and the Gunners becoming the first team in English history to field a team made up of 11 different nationalities.
But there are some Arsenal records that, we’re fairly confident, will simply never be beaten; achievements that, in some cases, have repelled all challengers through many decades. These iron horses of the Gunners’ 127-year history deserve some recognition, so here are 10 Arsenal records we think will continue to stand the test of time.
MOST CONSECUTIVE GAMES IN ALL COMPETITIONSBetween April 3, 1926 and December 26, 1929 Tom Parker played in 172 consecutive matches for Herbert Chapman’s Gunners, an achievement spanning every match in every competition for more than three years. The right-back, who skippered Arsenal to the 1930 FA Cup win - the Club’s first major title - and our first league title the following season, was metronomically consistent. After his three-year odyssey, he missed just one game before playing a further 58 consecutive matches, missing another match and then, coincidentally, rattling off 58 more consecutive games without a break. So in just over six years he played 293 of Arsenal's 295 games. The last time an Arsenal player went even one season without missing a game in all competitions was the 1995/96 campaign, when David Seaman, Lee Dixon and Paul Merson each played all 47 matches.
HIGHEST HOME ATTENDANCEDiscounting Arsenal’s brief - and rather forgettable - sojourn at Wembley Stadium to play Champions League games in 1998 and 1999, the highest attendance to watch a home match remains 73,295 on March 9, 1935 when the Gunners hosted Sunderland. An eye-watering amount of people to squeeze into our old home when you consider the capacity when we left was not much more than half that (38,500), the record crowd endured a 0-0 draw between the top two teams in the land. Ten games later, the Gunners finished as Division One winners, retaining their title. Sunderland were to finish second - though did go on to win the league the following season.
TITLE-WINNING CAPTAIN IN THREE DIFFERENT DECADESTony Adams is, of course, the legendary skipper who achieved this feat. Made skipper in January 1988, aged 21, he lead the team to the momentous 1988/89 league triumph and then captained George Graham’s team to the title in 1990/91 and Arsène Wenger’s side in 1997/98 and 2001/02. A job well done, you could say. Could this feat be repeated? It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, but it would seem highly unlikely. It relies on the appointment of a very young captain towards the end of a decade who then remains with the Club, as captain, for a dozen years or more - and not forgetting the titles need winning too!
LEAGUE CUP GOALSCORING RECORDDuring his seven years at the Club, Ian Wright gorged on League Cup goals, grabbing 29 in just 29 appearances in the competition, a Club record by a significant margin (Alan Smith is next in line on 16). By the time Wrighty - who won the competition with George Graham’s team in 1993 - left the Gunners in 1998, the League Cup was already becoming a different animal. The leading clubs, particularly those with European commitments, were blooding younger players in the competition. Now established stars are often not seen until the later rounds and it’s unlikely a leading striker will enjoy the opportunity to play enough games to get close to Wrighty’s record. Robin van Persie for example, scored just six League Cup goals in his Arsenal career and of the current squad, Theo Walcott tops the tree on nine.
FEWEST PLAYERS USED IN AN ENTIRE SEASONWhen Arsenal won the their first ‘Double’ in 1971, they used fewer players than in any season before or since. The Gunners played 42 league games, nine in the FA Cup, five League Cup matches and eight in the European Fairs Cup and successfully came through this heavy schedule using just 16 different players. Goalkeeper Bob Wilson and indefatigable winger George Armstrong played all 64 games, while many of the other stars of the day only missed only one or two games - Frank McLintock, Pat Rice and Ray Kennedy missing just one match, for example. Nowadays, the number of players used each season tends to be double that and more - 38 last season, 35 so far this term. The greater physical demands on modern players dictating that utilisation of far larger squads is a necessity.
LAST MAN TO PLAY AS AN AMATEURWhen a 21-year-old Bob Wilson made his league debut for Arsenal on October 26, 1963 against Nottingham Forest he was an amateur footballer, meaning he was effectively playing for the Gunners for nothing. No wages, just expenses. The legendary ‘keeper had trained to be a teacher, whilst also being affiliated as an amateur with Wolves, and when he accepted a place at Rutherford School, Edgware for his probationary year, he joined the Gunners on amateur terms - an amateur had not played for Arsenal since Icelandic striker Albert Gudmundsson in 1946. Bob’s story is made all the more remarkable by the fact that on the morning of his debut, unbeknown to manager Billy Wright, he honoured a commitment to referee a school match before hot-footing it to Highbury. He eventually signed professional forms for the Gunners in March 1964 and no-one has played for the Gunners first-team without pay since - or is ever likely to.
FASTEST TO 100 GOALSLionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo appear to be proving that scoring a goal a game at the very highest level is possible, but in the history of Arsenal - and recent football in England - no-one has come close to Ted Drake’s feat of scoring his first 100 goals in just 108 games. The closest any Arsenal player has come to Drake’s rapid century was Ian Wright, who took 143 games to reach the landmark. All-time leading scorer Thierry Henry took 181, whilst the most recent inductee to our ‘100 Club’, Robin van Persie, took 238. Drake’s cause was famously helped by seven goals in a game (will this ever be beaten?) against Aston Villa in 1935/36, though his most prolific campaign was the season before when he struck 43 goals in 46 league and cup games. In all Drake netted 139 times in 184 games.
THE LONGEST CUP TIEWhen Terry Neill’s Arsenal were drawn away to Division Three outfit Sheffield Wednesday, under the management of Jack Charlton, they knew they were in for a tough tie - but no-one thought the game would last nine hours. Until multiple replays were abolished for the start of the 1991/92 season, drawn FA Cup matches simply went to a replay and then another replay, and another and so on. So after a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough, it was back to Highbury for an encounter that also finished 1-1, this time after extra-time. With both sides now having had home advantage, a neutral venue was required and so it was to Leicester’s Filbert Street that the teams headed, where they drew 2-2, then 3-3 two days later (both games having extra-time). Finally, on January 22, 1979, goals from Frank Stapleton and Arsenal’s current under-21 coach Steve Gatting, gave Arsenal a 2-0 win. It was worth it - the team eventually beat Manchester United 3-2 at Wembley to win Arsenal’s first trophy in eight years.
THE LATEST FINISHGenerally, in the pre-Premier League days, the league season was done and dusted in the last week of April, leaving just the FA Cup final on the first weekend of May. In more recent times, the league has pushed deeper into May with this season’s May 19 climax the latest yet in the Premier League, and the Champions League final a week later still. Yet, even in non-tournament years, a season ending in June is still a highly unlikely scenario. But it has happened. In 1946/47, the first full season after the Second World War, severe winter weather caused dozens of postponements throughout January and February, pushing the campaign back into June - with the Gunners final fixture a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on June 7, 1947 as George Allison’s team finished 13th. And the season continued, the title was finally decided on June 14 when, coincidentally, Stoke also lost at Bramall Lane to hand Liverpool the title - a full seven weeks after the FA Cup final had been played.
GOING THROUGH A LEAGUE SEASON UNBEATENWe have saved the best until last. Yes, we could match this achievement, but it is certainly unbeatable and, on the eve of its 10-year anniversary, the Invincibles' perfect campaign looks every bit as stunning in retrospect as it did at the time – perhaps even more so. For the record, Arsène Wenger’s peerless Premier League team won 26 and drew 12 of their games, matching the achievement of Preston North End’s Invincibles in 1888/89, though that team only played 22 league games (won 18, drew four). Since 2003/04, no team has come close to producing a similar achievement. The following season, Chelsea lost just one league match, but it was early in the piece (October) and since then, the fewest games lost by any team in the Premier League is four. The Club’s finest achievement looks reassuringly secure.
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