by Tony Attwood
So, looking back at the opening of other seasons…
The opening two games resulted in two defeats and Arsenal were 17th. We ended the league in 5th, 1 point off 4th place.
We started with a 4-3 home win over Leicester followed by a 1-0 away defeat to Stoke. We ended the league in 6th, 12 points off Liverpool in 4th. But we won only four away games all season, and that opening defeat set the approach for the whole season.
We started off poorly with a home defeat to Liverpool and a goalless draw with Leicester. We ended in fifth, one point off fourth place. After the 1 point from the first two games we went on an unbeaten run of 19 games in the League and Champions League. So bad starts don’t mean it is all immediately over.
After winning the Community Shield we lost at home to West Ham and won away at Palace. We ended the season in second place.
These recent four years are enough to show that opening in a blaze of glory is not normal for Arsenal. So when did we last do well in opening games?
Going back to 2013/14, we opened with a lunatic home defeat to Villa 1-3 in which the refereeing decisions were so inept that even Match of the Day asked the odd question about what was going on, but then quickly dropped the subject. But thereafter we won the rest of the first seven league games plus 3 Champions League matches before drawing with West Brom in the League. Our first defeat was away to Manchester United in league match 11 on 10 November.
The League table going into that 11th match was
Even after that opening defeat we were still top but that lead couldn’t last, although we did win the FA Cup, having come fourth in the league.
But going back, modest starts are more common than good starts. Two goalless draws saw us kick off 2012/13, with a goalless draw and a defeat in the league the year before that.
So when was the last time we won the opening two league games of the season? It was 2009/10 with a 6-1 away win over Everton and a 4-1 home win over Portsmouth. Sadly we then lost the next two games.
The almost unbeaten season of 1990/1 when we lost only once did start with two wins – over Wimbledon and Luton, but this was followed by two draws.
Going back further, although self-evidently the Unbeaten Season involved an unbeaten start, and indeed it was a winning start it was not that sensational at least in the first match, a 2-1 win over Everton. The second game was better – a 4-0 win over Middlesbrough.
The best winning start – at least since the second world war – was in 1947 when Arsenal won the first six games and went on to win the league.
All of which suggests that although winning the opening games is nice and encouraging it doesn’t actually tell us much about what is to come.
If we conclude this little round up with a look at the double seasons, in 1970/71 we started off with two draws, 2-2 against Everton and a goalless draw with West Ham. 1997/8 started with a draw with Leeds and a 2-0 win over Coventry. In that season the first league defeat was 0-3 away to Derby on 1 November.
2000/1 started with a defeat away to Sunderland 0-1 (that was the one we all got lost on the way to Sunderland’s new ground), followed by a 2-0 win over Liverpool.
So we can perhaps conclude that while great openings to seasons are nice, they are by no means essential when going out to win the league.
On the other hand the under 23 league is also looking rather good at the time of writing with two straight wins. And that is significant, given the number of players that the under 23s have lost either to loans or to moving up to the first team.
Anyway, does the start of a season predict anything? Probably not, but I’d still rather have a couple of wins than the usual sort of start we get.
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