Arsenal were founded as Dial Square in 1886 by workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, and were renamed Royal Arsenal shortly afterwards. They renamed themselves again to Woolwich Arsenal after turning professional in 1891.The club joined the Football League in 1893, starting out in the Second Division, and won promotion to the First Division in 1904. The club's relative geographic isolation resulted in lower attendances than those of other clubs, which led to the club becoming mired in financial problems and effectively bankrupt by 1910, when they were taken over by Henry Norris. Norris sought to move the club elsewhere, and in 1913, soon after relegation back to the Second Division, Arsenal moved to the new Arsenal Stadium in Highbury, North London; they dropped "Woolwich" from their name the following year. Arsenal only finished in fifth place in 1914-5, but nevertheless were elected back into the First Division in 1919 after the end of World War Two. Above the Gunners had been Derby and Preston, who won automatic promotion. Meanwhile, Barnsley and Wolves, who also finished above the Gunners may have felt a bit aggrieved to not achieve promotion instead. But ultimately it was Spurs who felt most bitter.
It had been decided that the top flight would be expanded from 20 clubs to 22, and consequently Spurs thought they’d be automatically re-elected despite finishing bottom in 1914-5. This had happened the previous season. However, the Gunners’ owner Sir Henry Norris successfully canvassed the other major clubs and influential people in football to achieve what seemed impossible. Norris perhaps reminded the League President and owner of Liverpool FC, John McKenna, that the 1914-5 season was one of skullduggery (Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Liverpool being an example of match-fixing). That disputed United victory pushed Chelsea down the league to second-from-bottom. A Liverpool win or a draw would have seen Chelsea finish third from bottom, so in the spirit of fair play the Blues were duly re-elected. Spurs’ position was unaltered by Liverpool-Manchester United result, but what outraged Tottenham was Arsenal’s promotion at their expense. It seems strange that Manchester United were not punished further for match fixing with demotion. Part of McKenna’s argument was Arsenal had been in the top flight for 15 years longer than Spurs. However, a vote was taken at the League’s AGM on which club should make up the last of the 22. It went as follows: Arsenal 18 votes, Spurs 8, Barnsley 5, Wolves 4, while other clubs with no realistic claims for promotion (like Nottingham Forest, Birmingham and Hull) also received votes. The upshot of all this was the bitter rivalry between Spurs and Arsenal was born. It seems strange that Barnsley and Wolves fans seem to have moved on from what happened in 1919, while the hatred from Spurs supporters lingers on.
By 1925, Arsenal appointed Herbert Chapman as manager. Chapman had already won the league twice with Huddersfield Town in 1923–24 and 1924–25, and he brought Arsenal their first period of major success. His revolutionary tactics and training, along with the signings of star players such as Alex James and Cliff Bastin, laid the foundations of the club's domination of English football in the 1930s. Under his guidance Arsenal won their first major trophies – an FA Cup in 1929–30 and two League Championships, in 1930–31 and 1932–33. In addition, Chapman was reportedly behind the 1932 renaming of the local London Underground station from "Gillespie Road" to "Arsenal", making it the only Tube station to be named specifically after a football club.
Chapman died suddenly of pneumonia in early 1934, leaving Joe Shaw and George Allison to carry on his successful work. Under their guidance, Arsenal won three more titles (1933–34, 1934–35 and 1937–38) and an FA Cup (1935–36). As key players retired, by the decade's end, Arsenal had started to fade, and then the intervention of World War II meant competitive professional football in England was suspended.
After the war, under Allison's successor Tom Whittaker, Arsenal enjoyed a second period of success, winning the league in 1947–48 and 1952–53, and the FA Cup in 1949–50. After that though, their fortunes waned; unable to attract players of the same calibre as they had in the 1930s, the club spent most of the 1950s and 1960s in trophy-less mediocrity. Even former England captain Billy Wright could not bring the club any success as manager, in a stint between 1962 and 1966.
Arsenal began winning silverware again with the surprise appointment of club physiotherapist Bertie Mee as manager in 1966. After losing two League Cup finals, the Gunners won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, their first European trophy, in 1969–70. This was followed by an even greater triumph: their first League and FA Cup ‘Double’ in 1970–71. This marked a premature high point of the decade: the Double-winning side was soon broken up and the following decade was characterised by a series of near misses. Arsenal finished as First Division runners-up in 1972–73, lost three FA Cup finals (1971–72, 1977–78 and 1979–80) and lost the 1979–80 Cup Winners' Cup final on penalties. The club's only success during this time was an FA Cup win in 1978–79, with a last-minute 3–2 victory over Manchester United, a game that is widely regarded as a classic.
The return of former Gunner George Graham as manager in 1986 brought a third period of glory. Arsenal won the League Cup in 1986–87, in Graham's first season in charge. This was followed by a League title win in 1988–89, won with a dramatic last-minute goal by Michael Thomas in the final game of the season away against Liverpool. Graham's Arsenal won another title in 1990–91 - losing only one match - the FA Cup and League Cup double in 1992–93 and a second European trophy: the Cup Winners' Cup in 1993–94. Graham's reputation was tarnished when he was found guilty of receiving money as part of a transfer deal by a Football Association inquiry in 1995. It was discovered that Graham had taken over £400,000 in illegal payments from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge to sign players Pal Lydersen and John Jensen. After being sacked by Arsenal following the initial allegations in February, he was found guilty of misconduct by the FA five months later. Graham insisted that he had received "unsolicited gifts" and not an illegal bung from Hauge - an assertion he later repeated in his autobiography. But Graham's claims did not stop him being punished with a year-long ban from football.
Graham’s replacement, Bruce Rioch, lasted for only one season, leaving Arsenal after a dispute with the board of directors.
The Gunners’ success in the late 1990s and 2000s owes a great deal to the appointment of manager Arsène Wenger in 1996. Wenger brought new tactics, a new training regime and several foreign players who complemented the existing English talent. Arsenal won a second league and cup double in 1997–98 and a third in 2001–02. In addition, the club reached the final of the 1999–00 UEFA Cup (losing on penalties to Galatasaray), were victorious in the 2002–03 and 2004–05 FA Cups, and won the Premier League in 2003–04 without losing a single match. The latter achievement earned the Gunners the nickname: "The Invincibles". That Arsenal team went a total of 49 league matches unbeaten, breaking all previous records in the process
Arsenal have finished in either first or second place in the league in eight of Wenger's eleven seasons at the club. The Gunners are one of only four teams (along with Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea) to have won the Premier League since its formation in 1993, although they have failed to retain the title each time they have been champions.
Arsenal had never progressed beyond the Champions League quarter-finals until 2005–06, when they reached the final. Arsenal became the first club from London to do that in the competition's fifty-year history. Reduced to ten men, following Jens Lehmann’s dismissal, the Gunners were beaten 2–1 by Barcelona after taking the lead through Sol Campbell. In July 2006, the Gunners moved into their current ground, the Emirates Stadium, after 93 years at Highbury.