1904-1913: First Division and the financial meltdown
Woolwich Arsenal were now in the big league and the club brought in Charlie Satterthwaite and Bobby Templeton that year to cope with First Division football. The club finished in a respectable 10th place in their debut season in the top flight with Satterthwaite scoring 11 goals.
The next season ended on a similar note with Arsenal in 12th place, although that season will be best remembered for their scintillating Cup run, where they beat Watford, Sunderland and Manchester United to reach the semi-finals, where they lost to Newcastle United. The 1906/07 season saw Arsenal finish in 7th place in addition to another semi-final run in the FA Cup.
However, things took a turn for the worse in the financial department as fans were displeased with Manager Phil Kelso’s rigid playing style. George Morrell took up the managerial responsibilities in 1908 and he was forced to offload Bert Freeman, Tim Coleman, Jimmy Sharp, Jimmy Ashcroft and Billy Garbutt over a 12 month period to survive in the First Division. Surprisingly, Arsenal achieved their best finish in the top flight, ending the season in 6th place.
However, results eventually took a hit and Arsenal narrowly avoided relegation by finishing in 18th place in the 1909/10 season. In 1910, Henry Norris bought a majority stake in Woolwich Arsenal and unsuccessfully tried to merge the club with Fulham, where he was already the chairman. Results stabilized for a while with identical 10th place finishes in 1910/11 and 1911/12 season. But the drop was naturally coming and Arsenal returned to the Second Division, finishing 20th in the 1912/13 season and by this time, Norris had made up his mind to move the club to a more populated and well-connected area to save the club from bankruptcy.
Read Also: Arsenal Beginnings Part 1