Arsenal reach 125: the six defining moments from the last 25 years

From Michael Thomas to the Emirates, it’s been quite a quarter of a century for the Gunners

Arsenal have chosen Saturday’s visit of Everton to celebrate their 125th anniversary.

Back in 1986, the club marked its centenary with a parade of past legends, such as Ted Drake and Jack Kelsey, prior to a 1-0 home win over Southampton.

A lot has happened in the quarter of a century since – there’s been two Doubles, a first Champions League final appearance and Thierry Henry became the club’s leading all-time scorer.

Here we highlight some significant moments since the club entered its second century ...


What happened at 9.54pm on Friday 26 May, 1989 will simply never be surpassed. Arsenal needed to become the first side for three years to win by two clear goals at Anfield to win the title.

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The Gunners had stuttered to a shock home loss to Derby and a soul-destroying 2-2 draw with Wimbledon while Liverpool, in imperious form since Christmas, hammered West Ham 5-1 in their previous outing.

But Alan Smith gave Arsenal the lead before Michael Thomas squeezed through in the fourth minute of added time to coolly slot past Bruce Grobbelaar and seal Arsenal’s first title for 18 years. Never bettered.


Arsenal’s record in European competition remains a black mark against the club. They may have 14 consecutive Champions League appearances under their belt, but pots matter – this was the last time Arsenal were successful on the continent.

Arsenal had overcome favourites PSG in the semi final to earn their trip to Copenhagen against a Parma side brimming with talent. Tino Asprilla, Tomas Brolin and Gianfranco Zola formed Parma’s stunning attacking triumvirate.

But David Seaman and his back four were in magnificent form and Alan Smith nicked one at the other end with an uncharacteristic 20-yard volley to win the Cup-Winners-Cup on a night of high emotion.


Bruce Rioch is seen as a failure by many, but the Aldershot-born Scot turned the club on its present course.

Calling for a more open, ambitious style, Rioch purchased Dennis Bergkamp – trebling the club’s record transfer fee in one swish of a pen with a �7.5m fee.

Bergkamp’s signing is quite possibly the most significant in the club’s history. And the most exciting.

“Once I knew Arsenal wanted me I didn’t think of any other team,” said the Dutch master.

To acquire a world-class player entering his best years was unheard of and had never been done at Highbury before. His talents were exquisite, his good habits remain to this day.


Nobody had heard of him, not unless you were a dedicated student of continental football.

David Dein had met the former Monaco boss in 1989 and invited the tall stranger back to his house for dinner and a game of charades.

That fateful night would be the beginning of Arsenal’s transformation from English institution to European powerhouse.

Seven years later Wenger arrived and introduced new dietary guidelines, exceptional training facilities, an enlightened outlook top foreign signings and, of course, trophies.

He is the most successful manager in the club’s history and changed the perception of the club forever.

Arsenal’s 14 years of Champions League football is extraordinary. The club is now in the best stadium in the country, will be free of debt in a few short years and is completely self sufficient.

Without Wenger, where would Arsenal be?


Some are pondering whether Manchester City can do it this season. The likelihood is remote.

Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost 0. Read it and read it again. It DID happen – in 2003/04. Arsene Wenger produced a team, full of pace and power, silk and steel, it was the perfect marriage of art and artisans.

In fact, the Gunners went 49 unbeaten before Wayne Rooney had other ideas. But it remains a staggering achievement.


Ten years ago Ashburton Grove was a dump. Quite literally – it was Islington’s main waste transfer station.

The 12 acre site next to Holloway Road was discovered by a well-heeled fan using a pair of scissors and an A to Z. It would secure Arsenal’s future in Islington for the next 100 years.

It did, of course, mean leaving the Art Deco glory of Highbury – sad but necessary.

Arsenal said goodbye to the old place on a wonderful May afternoon in 2006, Thierry Henry firing a hat trick to seal Champions League qualification at Spurs’ expense, with Roger Daltrey singing My Generation...

As for Highbury, our children and their children can still get a sense of what was once there.

The iconic East and West stand facades remain, now housing Islington’s next generation.