Luton Town and Arsenal
Hartson turned professional in 1992 and made his first team debut as a substitute in a 1–0 League Cup defeat to Cambridge United on 24 August 1993. In January 1995 he joined Arsenal for £2.5 million, a British record fee for a teenage player at the time. He was one of George Graham's last signings before his sacking in February 1995, along with Chris Kiwomya. He made his Arsenal debut on 14 January 1995 and was a regular in his first season, the highlight of which was scoring Arsenal's 75th minute equaliser in the 1995 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final against Real Zaragoza; however a last-minute goal from 40 yards by Nayim over David Seaman meant Arsenal lost the game 2–1. He was strike-partner to Ian Wright, being favoured ahead of Kevin Campbell by filling the gap left by the injured Alan Smith, who retired at the end of the season.
With the signing of Dennis Bergkamp, who was preferred up front to partner Ian Wright, Hartson featured less under Graham's successors Bruce Rioch and Arsène Wenger. With Wenger angling for the signing of Nicolas Anelka in early 1997, he made it clear Hartson was surplus to requirements and in February 1997 he was sold to West Ham United for £3.2 million. At the time, he was the most expensive player to be signed by West Ham. It had initially been reported that the deal was worth £5million.
In total he had played 70 times (15 as substitute) for Arsenal, scoring 17 goals.
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