by Tony Attwood
As you may know we are, throughout this season keeping track on how Arsenal has done in its campaigns across the 100 years the club has spent in the top division.
And in case you missed it, and are thinking “wasn’t there something dodgy about the way Arsenal got into the first division 100 years ago?” you might like to read our earlier series on how that promotion was gained. It is I believe the most detailed analysis of the period ever. And it is a bit of a shame that Arsenal can’t be bothered to make more of this anniversary.
But as they are not doing much, we’re trying to do something.
So I also thought it might be interesting to look at this season as it unfolds from the perspective of other seasons, as the matches progress. In other words, at this point, what was going on in other seasons, after six games.
To start at the bottom, we can look at 1921 where after six games we were in a mess.
One win and the rest were defeats – it doesn’t get much worse than that. Interesting however that joining us in the bottom seven at that moment were three other members of the group of clubs currently called the “top six”.
Chapman’s first season of 1925/6 had us in fourth after six games behind Leicester, Birmingham and Sheffield United. But by 1929 we were really thinking big – being top of the league after sixth.
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Unfortunately, we got distracted by the FA Cup that year we went on and finished 14th, showing just how far a club can slip. But that FA Cup in 1930 was Arsenal’s first major trophy and it set the way for the magnificent 1930s.
The following season gave us another good start – we were second after six games and went on to win the league for the first time ever, and with what was then a record number of points.
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That progress continued through the 30s although not every season started well. In 1933 we won just two games in the first six, and were sixth in the league at that point, but still went on to win the league.
Moving on, of course nothing can beat 1947/8 in which we won all six of our opening games scoring 19 goals along the way – and now let’s skip forwards to some other title winning seasons to see just how we were doing in the opening parts of the campaign.
After six games in 1970 (played across just 16 days) no one was talking of us as champions as we were sixth.
Moving on again to 1988, which as you will know resulted in the season being won in the last moments of the last match, we were sixth.
Millwall incidentally ended up 10th.
1990/91 was the season in which the league notoriously deducted 2 points from Arsenal seemingly because we were getting too far ahead of anyone else. That season we lost just one game and won the league by seven points (or nine if you exclude the invention of new rules allowing the league to manipulate the table in order to try and help Liverpool). After six matches we were second, four points behind Liverpool.
So on to the Wenger years. In 1997/8 we were 4th after six games
but with a gap opening up and complaints about our draws with Leeds, Southampton and Leicester; already we were slipping behind. We won the league by one point, beating Man U into second.
In 2001/2 we started with a couple of fine 4-0 wins but also managed to lose to Leeds. And here I’d like to run the whole of the top 10 after our six games. Just look and see who is there…
Bolton and Sunderland of the third tier, Leeds and Blackburn of the second… all four teams not only in the top league but also in the top half of the table; it shows no one can take a place at the top table as a right.
And lastly among the title winning seasons, the glorious 2003/4. We were top but Chelsea had a game in hand.
The point of course is that being top at this point doesn’t mean the club goes on to win the league. We were also top the following year after six games but ended up second.
I am not trying to argue that therefore we are now going to win the league, but rather to say that some of the comments that have been hurled at Arsenal players and the Arsenal manager after just a handful of games into the season are utterly ludicrous.
In 2005 we were 7th after six games but ended up fourth, five points behind Charlton in second. In late September 2006 we were ninth, and again caught up to be fourth. In 2007 we were top of the league with a game in hand, and this time slipped back. In 2011 after six games we were 11th and correspondents were writing in claiming this was the worst start for Arsenal ever and that we were quite likely heading for relegation.
My point is simple – where we are after six games doesn’t always tell us where we are going to end up. What we should be doing is celebrating something that no other team comes near: 100 consecutive years in the top division.