By Tony Attwood
So now we know; after three games Arsenal are out on their own: three games, three wins, two points ahead of our nearest rivals.
|5||Brighton and Hove Albion||3||2||1||0||4||1||3||7|
But what does that mean in terms of the rest of the season?
Last season, the media implied throughout all their hyperbole after the first three matches, that the first three games of the season were somehow extra important, as if they told us how the season would develop and end. The calls for the manager to be sacked suggested that the season would continue in the same course unless he were to leave.
He didn’t leave, as we know, and Arsenal did not end at the foot of the table. In fact we ended up fifth, and have started this season rather well.
And now that Arsenal are out on their own the media have, of course, changed their tune although the Mirror has renewed its “Saka to Liverpool” tale, not because it’s true, but, well, just in case we felt things had gone too far with the current set of results.
For the one thing about the media is that they never learn. Just as no one bothered to look at what happened to a club that has lost its opening three matches in the Premier League, so I have also not seen anyone enquire as to what happens to clubs to win their opening three games. One question is, “how often does it happen?” and another is “how often do they go on and win the league?”
Yet one of the key arguments against the hype concerning last season’s opening three games was that the opening three games don’t always tell you very much. And indeed that turned out to be the case last season. But it really would be helpful to know what the media is very much not telling us (once again). Do the first three games actually mean anything in relation to how the season ends?
And since they won’t do the work, as usual we’ve had to by going back through the last ten years to work out which clubs have won their first three games, and where they ended up at the end of the season.
Last season the tiny totts were top with three straight wins without conceding a single goal, which was impressive stuff. But they then lost their fourth game 3-0 away to Palace and their fifth game in the league 3-0 at home to Chelsea as well as losing their next game 3-1 away to, well, since you ask, Arsenal. In fact, including games in the Europa Conference league Tottenham started out with just one goal conceded in their first five games, and their first three matches in the league showed…
But in fact by 26 September they had sunk down to 11th in the league with a goal difference of minus five. It is a good reminder to us all that winning the first three games don’t mean a thing. Especially if you are Tottenham Hots.
It is worth pausing at this point because yes it really is true Everton won their opening three games – but they finished 10th in the league. So this winning the opening games lark might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Except that sometimes it is!
This season we really did have four clubs getting maximum points in three games, but none of them won the league!
And yes it seems hard to imagine that Watford won their opening three games. Yet they finished the season in 11th, losing more games than they won!
I know it seems funny to think of Manchester United winning three games in a row, but in the old days they tended to win a few things. Not now of course. And in 17/18 they came second.
And yes in the days before we realised that Russians were our enemies and weren’t allowed to own our football clubs, they could win the first three games, and win the league.
Manchester City were fourth at the end of the season 15 points behind Leicester City. Arsenal finished runners-up.
And so another unlikely name in the “winning the first three games” charts: Swansea City. They finished 8th that season. Last season they finished 15th in the Championship.
So now we know. In three of the last ten years three of the 18 clubs that are unbeaten in the first three games have won the league. It happens, but it is not guaranteed. Five of the 18 have not even finished in the top four – so even that aim is not yet guaraanteed.
But given the choice, I’d sooner have us win the first three games than not.
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