100 years in the top division; what six games tells us about where we’ll end up.

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.

Pos Team P W D L F A G.Av Pts
16 Tottenham Hotspur 6 2 1 3 8 8 1.000 5
17 Blackburn Rovers 6 1 3 2 7 7 1.000 5
18 Huddersfield Town 6 1 3 2 8 9 0.889 5
19 Chelsea 6 1 3 2 4 8 0.500 5
20 Manchester United 6 1 3 2 4 9 0.444 5
21 Arsenal 6 1 0 5 5 12 0.417 2
22 Cardiff City 6 0 0 6 3 14 0.214 0

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.

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Arsenal 6 5 0 1 17 6 2.833 10
2 Derby County 6 4 1 1 13 6 2.167 9
3 Middlesbrough 7 4 1 2 21 12 1.750 9
4 Birmingham City 6 4 0 2 17 10 1.700 8
5 West Ham United 7 3 1 3 18 15 1.200 7

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.

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.

Pos Team P W D L F A GAvg Pts
1 Leeds United 6 5 1 0 12 2 6.000 11
2 Manchester City 5 3 2 0 5 1 5.000 8
3 Nottingham Forest 6 2 4 0 10 5 2.000 8
4 Chelsea 6 2 4 0 8 6 1.333 8
5 Liverpool 5 2 3 0 8 3 2.667 7
6 Arsenal 6 2 3 1 8 4 2.000 7

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.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Millwall 6 4 2 0 13 7 6 14
2 Norwich City 6 4 1 1 11 8 3 13
3 Liverpool 6 3 2 1 10 5 5 11
4 Southampton 6 3 2 1 10 6 4 11
5 Manchester United 6 3 2 1 7 3 4 11
6 Arsenal 6 3 1 2 17 11 6 10

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

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Manchester United 6 5 1 0 10 1 9 16
2 Blackburn Rovers 6 4 1 1 18 8 10 13
3 Chelsea 5 4 0 1 17 5 12 12
4 Arsenal 6 3 3 0 13 6 7 12

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…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Leeds United 6 4 2 0 9 1 8 14
2 Bolton Wanderers 7 3 3 1 10 4 6 12
3 Arsenal 6 3 2 1 14 5 9 11
4 Manchester United 6 3 2 1 17 10 7 11
5 Newcastle United 6 3 2 1 11 9 2 11
6 Aston Villa 5 2 3 0 7 3 4 9
7 Chelsea 5 2 3 0 9 6 3 9
8 Liverpool 5 3 0 2 8 7 1 9
9 Blackburn Rovers 7 2 3 2 8 8 0 9
10 Sunderland 7 2 3 2 6 7 -1 9

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.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 6 4 2 0 11 3 8 14
2 Chelsea 5 4 1 0 15 6 9 13
3 Manchester United 6 4 1 1 9 2 7 13
4 Southampton 6 3 3 0 8 3 5 12

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.

7 Replies to “100 years in the top division; what six games tells us about where we’ll end up.”

  1. Fair play to you guys for this article, I hadn`t even realised it was a whole 100 years!! Shame the club aren´t making more of it.

  2. As the history of all clubs shows us no one club dominates forever – one can look at Liverpool’s era of success, and the fact that they have not won the Premier League ever, or Manchester City’s run from 1968 to 2011 without winning the league, and so on. For myself, I found getting the record number of FA Cup wins in the era of not winning the league was a fairly good achievement.

  3. I note what you say, but are you not, somewhat, missing the point?

    People, like myself, are concerned at the way we are playing. As far as that is concerned that is more important than the points at this stage because it does not auger well for the next 32 games.

    Just like last season, the 22 games unbeaten run misled many into believing we were playing well, when, in truth, we weren’t.

    Now, I accept that you have the advantage over me, in that I have not been to any games and have only watched a couple on TV.

    However, in your heart of hearts, can you honestly say that you are happy with the current situation and standard of play that our team has produced this season?

    Whilst you are to be admired for your positivity, are you not also concerned at the way the team is being managed, whether by UE or by the multi-tiered level of managers and directors?

    Can you honestly say that you enjoy the matches and are not nervous whenever the ball enters our half?

    I suspect that we have all got the message now that the number of points after 6 names is not an indicator as to how the season will end.

    What I for one, would like to know your real thoughts about how the team is playing and how you see the season will go if they continue to play like this.

  4. Xhaka as captain…I think we can all agree that he makes mistakes on the pitch and sometimes big ones. What we cannot agree on, because we do not sit in the dressing room, is his place on the team amongst his teammates. Being captain is far more than being the best player on the pitch. I think the loudly disaffected should accept that they do not have a clue about the inside workings of our team and SHHHHHHHHH.

  5. An ongoing blathering point in the medja, has been player confusion. NPR has an article _today_ about how over-training can impact decision making by athletes.


    There is no reason to think that our players are any more confused than other team’s players; the medja has an interest in bashing us. But it is interesting to see that over-training can affect decision making ability.

    Another thing to keep in mind, is the point where any given person starts to exhibit over-training is unique. What I used to look at, was resting heart rate. If someone’e resting heart rate had risen 10% above baseline, it was an indication of over-training. A day of rest was called for.

  6. Tony,

    Not being football fans, I don’t think the current ownership understands the difficulty, and therefore, the significance of staying in the top division for 100 years. Unfortunate because it truly is something to celebrate. And thanks for the work putting together the tables. So, so many of the clubs on the the lists haven’t had a sniff of the Premier League or even the First Division. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Jigsol.
    On The 22 matches unbeaten run Last Season, it comes to an abrupt end because of Negative football on display at Old Traford when Jose Mourinho set up his team not to play but only to be kicking Arsenal FC players around, They only comes alive to Play whenever Arsenal scored. We left O.T with 2 goals for, 2 goals against, 1 Point, but with Lots of Injuries to some and knocks to some of our Players that will later become full injury to most of them. And eventually end to our decent run in the league then.
    We are on a Decent run that some called unbeaten run then, before the Old Traford tie, after that, our season come to an end gradually and dramatically.
    I remember one Man U midfielder pulling Guendouzi hairs as he gained Ball in midfield. I hope that will not happen this time around.

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