By Tony Attwood
On 7 April 2004 the headline in the Daily Mirror was “Arsenal’s season in ruins”. Arsenal had just lost at home to Chelsea in the champions league but were about to go on to be the only team since the 19th century to go through a season undefeated.
Well, with a history like that the Mirror is likely to say anything about the current situation so it might be a good idea to set the record straight before they seek to do any more malicious damage.
The last time we won the four opening league games of the season it was the 2004/5 season, and so was part of the 49 games undefeated run in the league.
In fact that season we won the opening four games, and then one more (against Fulham) before dropping our first points in the sixth league game with a draw against an appalling Bolton Wanderers side that brought rotational fouling to the fore. Bolton kicked Arsenal off the pitch, but the unbeaten run in the league went on for nine games before on 24 October we lost 2-0 to Manchester United away. Here’s that run… only Premier League games have been included.
|15 Aug 2004||Everton v Arsenal||W||1-4|
|22 Aug 2004||Arsenal v Middlesbrough||W||5-3|
|25 Aug 2004||Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers||W||3-0|
|28 Aug 2004||Norwich City v Arsenal||W||1-4|
|11 Sep 2004||Fulham v Arsenal||W||0-3|
So a win in our next game – at home to Villa on Wednesday night – would equal that opening from 2004/5
But not to get ahead of ourselves, here is how the league table looked in 2004 after four games…
I’m always struck, how curious it is that teams can be so high up the league at one moment and then down a little while later. Bolton, Middlesbrough, Villa, Everton, Charlton – all in the top eight!
Bolton are now in League One – they are 10th and Charlton are there with them, in eighth place. Villa and Everton are in the Premier League; Villa are 15th, Everton are 18th.
But if we compare the situation then with that today we would find that this season we have scored five goals fewer, and conceded three more, so it doesn’t seem we are yet up to the standards of that earlier era.
But we could well be getting too far ahead of ourselves. What about Arsenal now compared with Arsenal after four games in previous seasons…
Quite clearly this is not just a better season than most, it is considerably better. It is not the fact that the club has won four games in a row, but rather that the nearest we have come to 12 points in four games at the start of the season across the last ten years, is nine points.
And in eight of the last ten years we have scored six, seven or eight goals in the opening four games. This season it is 11. As for the defence, only once in those past ten years has the club conceded fewer goals – in 2012 when we conceded one.
And even more extraordinarily look at the turnaround between this season and last season..
That’s the biggest change from one season to the next in terms of the first four games.
But let’s go back to that rather pleasing 2003/4 season. That began…
So the difference is one goal. Those first four games were
|16 Aug 2003||Arsenal v Everton||W||2-1|
|24 Aug 2003||Middlesbrough v Arsenal||W||0-4|
|27 Aug 2003||Arsenal v Aston Villa||W||2-0|
|31 Aug 2003||Manchester City v Arsenal||W||1-2|
Incidentally in 2003/4 Manchester City ended up 16th.
To be clear, I am not trying to make comparisons that say this team is as good as 2003/4, but rather to say, we’re doing ok, and, if you do want to make a comparison, we have scored one more goal than in 2003/4 and conceded one more. Otherwise it is much the same.
As for the starting lineup for the fifth game that was…
Cole Keown Toure Lauren
Ljungberg Gilberto Vieira Pires
But surely every season is different. And yes I would agree with that, which is why last season I was fairly fed up with the way the mainstream media and the little bloggettas made so much fuss about the first three games.
I am not sure the first three games tells us anything. But since the bloggers and the journalists enjoyed doing it so much last season with the opening three defeats, I thought I’d do the hard work for them this season. But they probably won’t mention it.
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