Liverpool F.C. were formed as a direct result of Everton’s dispute with their landlord at Anfield (the Toffees original home ground) in 1892 - John Houlding – and in their opening season won the Lancashire League. The Reds were accepted into the Football League one year on to replace fellow Merseysiders Bootle, who resigned from the League due to financial difficulties, and Accrington F.C., who after being relegated from the first division, decided to resign from the League rather than play in the Second Division. The other newly inducted side to the Second Division of the Football League for the 1893/94 season were Woolwich Arsenal, as the very first side to enter the Football League based south of Birmingham. The two sides met for the first time in the league at the end of October 1893 at Arsenal’s old Manor Ground in Plumstead.
Liverpool topped the old Second Division at the time and were unbeaten after eight games. Arsenal on the other hand stood eleventh with just two wins from six games. In front of a crowd of 7,000, Liverpool managed an impressive 5-0 away win. The match gave a debut for Liverpool’s first full England international Harry Bradshaw, who tragically died on Christmas Day six years later at the age of twenty six as a result of Tuberculosis. The match day referee received a poor review from London newspaper the Pall Mall Gazette, who stated he: ’was the same gentleman who ordered two players off the field in the Arsenal v Walsall match. Many people considered that he acted in an extremely harsh fashion on that occasion. On Saturday he went to the other extreme and was too lenient. Hence the rough play’.
The return fixture at Anfield came on New Year’s Day 1894. The Merseysiders still topped the table and were unbeaten, with thirteen wins and four draws from seventeen games. Arsenal on the other hand stood in ninth place. A crowd of 5,000 turned out for Arsenal’s first ever visit to Anfield. The Merseysiders ran out 2-0 winners. Liverpool FC finished their first season as unbeaten Second Division champions (one of only three English sides to go unbeaten all season - the other two being Preston North End in 1888/89 and Arsenal in 2003/04). Arsenal meanwhile finished their first ever season in the Football League in ninth place.
Despite this, at the time the Second Division Champions needed to win a test match against the bottom placed side in the First Division. Liverpool went on to beat Newton Heath (later renamed Manchester United) 2-0 at Blackburn's Ewood Park, to take their place in the top flight. As Liverpool were now playing in the First Division, there would be no League fixtures between the two teams for 1894/95, however a friendly fixture did take place in late February at what was Arsenal’s first ever game in North London, which took place at Nightingale Lane, close to Alexandra Park (adjacent to Alexandra Palace). The reasons for why it was played here was because Arsenal were banned from playing matches at their then home in Plumstead due to a spectator attacking a referee. Arsenal won the friendly 4-3, in front of a crowd of 1,500.
Liverpool finished the season second from bottom of the table and were relegated back to the second division after losing a test match to Bury 0-1. After falling back into the second tier, Liverpool’s first visit back to Woolwich Arsenal in mid-November 1895. Liverpool stood second in the table, while Arsenal were one place behind in third but with two games in hand. In front of a crowd of 10,000, Arsenal keeper Harry Storer played his final game for Arsenal before moving to Liverpool a few weeks later. Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners, with Harry Bradshaw among the scorers. The result took Liverpool to the top of the table.
The return fixture took place the following January at Anfield. Liverpool still topped the table with a four point gap over second place Bolton Wanderers, though having played three games more. Arsenal meanwhile were fourth. Liverpool secured a 3-0 victory with two goals for Jimmy Ross. Liverpool finished the 1895/96 top of the table and won promotion back to the top tier by way of a test match. Arsenal meanwhile finished seventh. It would be the last time the two sides would play each other during the nineteenth century and another nine years before the two sides would be competing within the same division, after Arsenal won promotion to the old First Division for the first time in 1905.
In the meantime, its a little known fact is that it was Woolwich Arsenal's Manor Ground and not Liverpool's Anfield that would be the first to term their home end as the 'Spion Kop' in 1904. The term is in reference to the Battle of Spion Kop during the Boer War in Natal, South Africa in 1900 (the Kop basically being an enormously steep hill). This military term was recognisable in Woolwich, being as it was and still is home to Royal Artillery barracks. The term was also recognisable on Merseyside as many of the local regiments were engaged in the Battle, suffering many losses and so, on opening their new embankment at Anfield in 1906 it became known under this name.
At the start of the 1905/06 season, Arsenal’s very first top flight game came in early September at Plumstead’s Manor Ground. Reigning Champions Liverpool were the visitors that day. Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners in front of a crowd of 20,000. On target for the Gunners was Charlie Satterthwaite who helped Liverpool to their first ever League title in 1900/01. Unfortunate Liverpool forward Jack Parkinson broke his wrist during this game and didn't feature for the Reds’ first team for the next six months. Liverpool also missed a penalty and ended the game with just nine players on the field. That was Arsenal first ever win over Liverpool, however it would take them a lot longer to even attain a point at Anfield.
Arsenal travelled to Anfield for the return fixture for their final game during the calendar year of 1905, in the interim between Christmas and New Year. Liverpool by now topped the First Division table at the half way mark, Arsenal meanwhile sunk to sixteenth in the table. Liverpool ended the year with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over the Gunners. Liverpool finished 1905/06 as League Champions for the second year on the bounce, Arsenal meanwhile had climbed to mid-table safety in twelfth place. The two sides met the following October for their first fixture against each other for 1906/07. In defending their title, Liverpool had won just one of their first six games. Arsenal meanwhile were second having won four from six games.
In front of a crowd of 25,000 at Plumstead, Liverpool’s misery continued. The Merseysiders took the lead with a debut goal for Bill McPherson, but two goals for David Neave gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory. Liverpool’s inconsistency continued up until the following February when the two sides met again at Anfield. A couple of weeks prior, Liverpool played out a 5-5 draw away at Sunderland. Arsenal meanwhile stood in fourth place and were five points off of Everton at the top of the table, but with two games in hand. Arsenal’s inability to pick up points at Anfield continued with a thumping 4-0 victory for Liverpool.
Arsenal finished the season in seventh place and seven points off of Champions Newcastle, while Liverpool languished in fifteenth place and six points off of the relegation zone. In 1907/08, the first meeting between the two came again in October. After eight games, Liverpool were sixth having won four games. Arsenal meanwhile won just two from eight and stood in seventeenth place. Two goals for Harold Lee gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory. Arsenal went to Anfield the following February having dropped to fifteenth in the table. Liverpool however were a point behind in sixteenth, but with three games in hand.
Arsenal’s Anfield hoodoo continued with a thumping 4-1 win for Liverpool and a hat-trick for Liverpool’s Joe Hewitt, who a just year prior suffered the harrowing experience of trying to save his neighbour who burned to death after her nightdress caught fire according to local news reports. Liverpool finished 1907/08 in seventh place, while Arsenal languished in fourteenth. Arsenal finally bagged their first point at Anfield in October 1908. The two sides were separated by one point after nine games, with Liverpool and Arsenal in ninth and tenth place respectively. A goal from former Liverpool star Charlie Satterthwaite bagged Arsenal a 2-2 draw. The following February, Liverpool had climbed to fifth place in the table and nine points behind leaders Newcastle United. Arsenal meanwhile were sixteenth, but with a seven point cushion from the relegation zone.
In front of a crowd of 15,000 at the Manor Ground in Plumstead, an Albert Beney helped Arsenal to a thumping 5-0 victory. Arsenal finished 1908/09 in sixth place and fifteen points behind champions Newcastle, while Liverpool had sunk to sixteenth place and just a two point cushion separated them from the relegation zone. In the interim between Christmas and New year in 1909, the two sides met for the first time during the 1909/10 season at the Manor Ground in Plumstead. Liverpool were in fifth place and two points behind league leaders Blackburn Rovers. Arsenal meanwhile were just one point above the relegation zone in seventeenth.
In front of a crowd of 15,000, Arsenal took the lead two minutes before half time. Arsenal were denied a chance to double their lead with a penalty saved by the Liverpool keeper, before Liverpool equalised ten minutes before time. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. The two sides met again at Anfield on New Year’s Day 1910. Two goals for Sam Bowyer and a hat-trick for Jack Parkinson meant that Liverpool started the 1910s with a thumping 5-1 win. Liverpool finished 1909/10 as runners up, five points off of Champions Aston Villa, while Arsenal avoided relegation with a two point cushion over London rivals Chelsea who suffered the drop due to a defeat to Spurs on the final day.
The two league meetings between Arsenal and Liverpool in 1910/11 came in mid-April around the Easter weekend. The first was on Good Friday at the Manor Ground. At the time, the two sides were only separated by goal average, with Liverpool in twelfth and Arsenal in thirteenth. The best the two sides could manage however was a goalless draw. On Easter Monday back at Anfield, Arsenal took the lead after twenty five minutes. The Gunners however were denied their first victory at Anfield when Jack Parkinson equalised for Liverpool fifteen minutes from time for a 1-1 draw. For Liverpool, it was also their final home game of the season and also doubled up as a benefit game for their keeper Sam Hardy. A crowd of 20,000 turned out for the game.
Arsenal finished 1910/11 above Liverpool in tenth, the Merseysiders just a point behind in thirteenth. Both sides however were quite some distance off of champions Man United. Liverpool returned to Plumstead for the opening game of the 1911/12 season in front of a crowd of 12,000. The game was captured by the earliest known newsreel footage of a football game, by Gaumont Pictures. After a goalless first half, Arsenal took the lead with a goal from Pat Flanaghan. With seventeen minutes to go, Liverpool scored twice in three minutes to take the lead. A goal from Jackie Chalmers three minutes from time however secured a 2-2 draw for the Arsenal.
The return fixture at Anfield would be the last match of the calendar year of 1911, in the interim between Christmas and New Year. Arsenal stood in fifteenth, while Liverpool were a point behind in sixteenth. The Gunners however had a game in hand over Liverpool. Arsenal’s inability to win at Anfield however continued with a 4-1 victory for Liverpool. Arsenal finished the season in tenth, while Liverpool languished in seventeenth. Arsenal returned to Anfield for the second game into the 1912/13 season. Still no luck for the Gunners, as Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners. The return fixture at the Manor Ground again took place in the interim between Christmas and New Year. Liverpool stood in thirteenth place, meanwhile Arsenal were rock bottom of the table with just one win to their name.
In front of a crowd of 15,000, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw. They were however to meet again before the close of the season as they would be drawn together in the second round of the FA Cup at the Manor ground at the start of February 1913. A hat-trick for Arthur Metcalfe helped Liverpool to a 4-1 win. Liverpool lasted just one more round before losing to Newcastle United after a replay. It would be the last time that the two sides would meet each other for six years. Liverpool finished the season twelfth, however Woolwich Arsenal finished the season rock bottom and relegated for the only time in the club’s history, winning just three games all season (a record low which would remain until Derby County surpassed it in 2007/08 with just one victory).
Football would be halted at the close of the 1914/15 season, due to the ongoing First World War. Liverpool’s final fixture winning the title for Everton with a 2-0 away win over Oldham. Woolwich Arsenal meanwhile moved from South of the river to the Highbury area of North London, where they would remain to this day. The Gunners finished the 1914/15 season fifth in the second tier. Football resumed with the 1919/20 season, with Arsenal controversially elected back to the top flight. Two games into the new season, the two sides met at Anfield. Arsenal finally ended their Anfield hoodoo on a Monday evening on the first day of September 1919. The Gunners pulled off a 3-2 win over Liverpool, with goals from Billy Blyth and two for Henry White.
The return fixture came just one week later,, with Liverpool’s first ever visit to Highbury. Arsenal bagged a Double over Liverpool for the first time. A goal for Jock Rutherford (Great Grandfather of London 2012 Olympic long jump champion Greg) gave Arsenal a 1-0 victory. Liverpool finished 1919/20 in fourth place, while Arsenal ended the season tenth. The two sides had to wait until the final two games of the season to play each other in 1921/22. The two sides played out a 0-0 draw in front of 17,000 spectators at Highbury on a Monday evening. The following Saturday saw the return fixture at Anfield, where Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners. Liverpool finished the season fourth, while Arsenal were ninth.
In 1921/22, the first meeting came in late February at Anfield. Liverpool held a five point cushion at the top of the table with a game in hand, while Arsenal were twentieth and hovering two points above the relegation zone. A hat-trick for Dick Foreshaw gave Liverpool a thumping 4-0 win. One month on, Liverpool still had a four point cushion while Arsenal were rock bottom of the table and four points adrift of safety, but with two games in hand. The two sides met at Highbury, where a goal for Alf Baker gave Arsenal a much needed 1-0 victory in front of 12,000 spectators. Liverpool won the League title in 1921/22, while Arsenal ended up five points clear of safety in seventeenth.
Arsenal met Liverpool at Anfield on the opening day of the 1922/23 season. A hat-trick for Dick Johnson gave Liverpool a 5-2 victory. The return fixture occurred one week later at Highbury in front of a crowd of 20,000. A first half penalty for Arthur Hutchins gave Arsenal a 1-0 win. The two sides met in the First Round of the FA Cup the following January at Anfield. Arsenal must have felt that their Anfield luck had changed with a 0-0 draw, meaning a replay back at Highbury. The game drew a crowd of 40,000 despite taking place at 2.15PM on a Wednesday afternoon.
Just past the hour mark, Arsenal were trailing 1-2 when Arsenal keeper Robson was chased by a stray dog while carrying the ball and kicked it straight to Johnson who added a third for Liverpool. The Gunners crashed to a 1-4 defeat. Liverpool reached as far as the Fourth Round, before crashing to a defeat to Huddersfield Town. The Reds however retained their league title with a six point cushion over second place Sunderland. Arsenal meanwhile finished 1922/23 in eleventh place. The first meeting between the two sides in 1923/24 took place at the start of March at Highbury. Liverpool stood in fourteenth place, while Arsenal were just two points above the relegation zone in twentieth. Two goals for Harry Woods gave Arsenal a 3-1 win.
A month later, the sides met again at Anfield where a goalless draw was played out. Liverpool finished the season in twelfth place, while Arsenal missed out on relegation by one point in nineteenth position. In 1924/25, Liverpool came to Highbury two games into the season. Two goals for Harry Woods gave Arsenal a 2-0 win. The return fixture came at Anfield three days into January 1925. Liverpool were in fifth place and four points off of league leaders West Brom. Arsenal meanwhile were twelfth. Liverpool ran out 2-1 winners in front of a crowd of 24,000.
After thirty years of fixture between Arsenal and Liverpool, the Gunners had managed just one away win over Liverpool during that time. Liverpool had also won four league titles, where Arsenal’s best season was finishing in sixth place in 1908/09, having never previously won a major trophy. All that however was about to change, as Arsenal Chairman Henry Norris pulled off a coup by poaching the manager of that season’s League Champions – former Spurs player Herbert Chapman. As will be seen tomorrow, this appointment would bring the Gunners a change of fortune – not only when visiting Anfield, but with regard to their chances of winning silverware too.
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*Published 24th August 2017