Book Review: Arsenal - The Official Illustrated History 1886-2010

Last updated : 26 November 2010 By Chris Parry
I've reviewed this book a number of times previously and it has over the course of it's history appeared under a variety of differing titles, at least this was certainly the case in it's earlier editions. The reason that there have been so many editions is that as comprehensive Arsenal histories go it is simply the best and its continued popularity speaks for itself. Not only is it a well written and enjoyable read but its historical accuracy is the benchmark against which many other Arsenal related volumes are measured. So if you're seeking a single volume to both explain and illustrate the illustrious history of Arsenal Football Club look no further.

My personal Arsenal library stretches to the best part of 100 different volumes and these include many books covering specific aspects or era's of the Club's history. There are many titles crammed with statistics on the Club, indeed there are a multiplicity of volumes covering the various players, campaigns, managers and trophy triumphs. There are Arsenal encyclopaedias, miscellanies, quiz books, player and Club biographies, period pieces and even reprints of Arsenal related titles published many decades ago. Our recent move to the new stadium was the cause of many a fine Highbury biography appearing on the market but this title covers the whole shooting match from the start to 2010 in is very comprehensive. So if I was only allowed to take only one of all the Arsenal books I own to a desert island this would be the one.

From Dan Danskin to Tomas Vermaelen. From Dial Square to Highbury House. From an open boggy field on the Isle of Dogs to the pristine turf of the Emirates Stadium. From Plumstead
Common to the Bernabeu. From Elijah Watkins to Ivan Gazidis. From Herbert Chapman to Arsene Wenger. From a group of enthusiastic workers in the Royal Arsenal munitions factory to a multinational group of superstars appearing in all the world's top stadiums. From one man and his dog to an audience of millions. This is the story.

It would, in my view, be an exceedingly difficult, maybe impossible, task to offer a more comprehensive story of the Club in just 300 or so pages. Certainly not one that would come close to matching the many fabulous historic photographs afforded within these pages. This is the one book against all other Arsenal histories are judged. And at £20 quid it is far less than you'll pay for a seat at Arsenal these days. Not only that, but this book will last you a hell of a lot longer than 90 minutes. This title is a rarity then for Arsenal fans because it is a must have volume, a very reliable reference work that is highly readable and quite enthralling if you care at all about the Club. If you've never previously delved into its history you really should.

If you want a better illustrated Arsenal history there is only one, but you'll need £3,000 to buy the 'Arsenal Opus'. If you already own a recent edition of 'Arsenal - The Official Illustrated History' or any of its variable titles you won't really need a new one, but you will be aware of how good it is and may wish to send another Gooner, young or old, along the path of historical enlightenment - got to be worth a thought with Christmas looming.

Arsenal: The Official Illustrated History of Arsenal 1886-2010
Phil Soar and Martin Tyler with a foreword by Arsene Wenger
Price £20.00 - which is still the same price as earlier editions
Published by Hamlyn in October 2010

Any decent bookseller will order it in for you if you quote the following reference: ISBN 978 0 600 62187 4. Or it can be obtained from the Club shops or any of your favourite online bookstores, often at a much cheaper price.