As Arsenal play Spurs this weekend, I thought it might be fun to look at press reports from some of their earliest meetings, but I didn’t expect to find two games that went unnoticed by stat collectors.

The Arsenal team at the start of the 1895-96 season

A quick look at the North London Derby wikipedia page will tell you that the sides first met in a friendly in 1887, although the rivalry never really got going until some 17 years later when Arsenal moved to Highbury.

According to 11 v 11, Arsenal and Spurs first played each other in November 1896. There is no mention of two 3-1 encounters earlier in the year, but they were played.

I checked other sites too. They weren’t there, but the rest of the fixtures they listed with what was also written in the 1896 report I’d come across, fit.

The publication I have in front of me, The Kentish Mercury, is dated 3 April 1896. That was Good Friday, and, like used to be the case, Easter was a time for lots of football.

The report, entitled ‘Arsenal club notes,’ gives away the date if you pay a little attention and get out a 1896 calendar.

The Spurs v Arsenal match at Northumberland Park took place on Thursday, 26 March 1896. Arsenal v Spurs, at Plumstead Common, was played on 12 March.

If you like Arsenal history, you should really enjoy this, even if they don’t go into too much actual match detail.

Full Article from 3 April, 1896:

The Kentish Mercury, 3 April 1896

The play in the return match with Tottenham Hotspur at Northumberland Park on Thursday last week, was fast and exciting.

As was generally expected, with a stronger team, the Arsenal wiped out their defeat at Plumstead a fortnight earlier, and, strange to say, by the same margin (3 to 1) which then gave Hotspur victory.

The better team won, and they thoroughly deserved their success, but Tottenham were far from disgraced.

After a fortnight’s illness Buchanan again turned out for the Arsenal, taking the place of Boyd (who was given a rest) as centre forward. He gave a very creditable display, as did the whole the team.

The Arsenal visited Millwall on Saturday for the second time this season, and inflicted further defeat on the Dockers, singularly enough by the same margin (3 goals to 1) as when they met on September 9th last year.  

The play was not over brilliant, and partook largely of the rush and kick order. What there was good in the display was discounted by the doubtful tactics of certain performers both sides, and free kicks as a consequence were numerous.

The better team won, but the “go easy” style adopted by the Arsenal on crossing over did not find favour with their supporters, and might have brought about defeat after all.

The results the first team’s engagements up to Wednesday are: – Played 50, won 32; lost 15; drawn, 3; goals for, 144 : against, 65. At the same time last year they had played 53, won 32, lost 13 and drawn 8, scoring 147 goals to their opponents’ 85.

The Arsenal Reserves acquitted themselves very creditably at the Manor Grounds on Saturday. To defeat the Training Battalion by 6 goals to 2 in their return Kent League match was certainly a meritorious performance.  

After the first five minutes (during which Howat had the misfortune to seed the ball through his own goal) the junior “Reds” played in neat-methodical fashion. The backs and half-backs tackled and kicked in judicious style, enabling the forwards to utilise their cleverness almost to its fullest extent. The victory was fully deserved.

To-day (Good Friday) Dundee will be seen at the Manor Grounds, the kick off being fixed for 3. As this is the first appearance of this well-known Scotch combination at Plumstead the match should prove exceedingly attractive.   

To-morrow (Saturday) the return League match with Grimsby Town will take place at Grimsby and the “Reds” will have all their work cut out to repeat their victory in the opening match of the season or even to avert defeat. A large number will avail themselves of the excursion run by the Great Northern under the direction of Messrs. Leaney and Co., leaving the Arsenal Station at 7 Saturday morning.

On Monday, Newcastle United will visit the Manor Grounds for their return League match. They hold a slightly better position in the competition than the “Reds,” and although they proved victorious in the first encounter the is match being anticipated with considerable interest. Given fine weather the largest gate seen at the Manor Grounds this season is expected, for which special arrangements are, being made. The kick-off is fixed for 3.

Freemantle will visit the Manor Grounds for the first time on Saturday. When the teams met at Southampton at the beginning of the season Freemantle won a goal to nothing, but the junior “Reds” should have no great difficulty in reversing that decision. The kick-off will be at 3.

Next Wednesday the Arsenal are to send their first team to Gravesend to meet the town club. Seeing that the Reserves have beaten them already, twice out of three times this season, it looks very much like a “walk over.”  

The teams to do duty for the Arsenal in the foregoing matches will be selected from : – Fairclough, Gilmer, Powell, Caldwell, Howat, A. Powell, Gordon, Jenkyns, Davis, Hogben, Boyle, Kingston. Crawford, Mills, Buchanan, Haywood, Boyd, O’Brien, Mortimer, Meade, Duff, McAvoy and Chalmers.

It might also be worth noting that Jenkyns, listed above, was sold to Newtown Heath, the side that would go on to become Manchester United, the next month.