After the first 10 games, Arsenal are doing better than the unbeaten season




by Tony Attwood

Over a quarter of the season has now gone, and from what I can see in the history books this is the first time ever Arsenal have won nine of the first ten league games.

And it was while I was looking back at the records that I started to wonder once again how our performance this season has compared with that across recent years.  So I went back to a couple of tables we’ve produced a few times so far this season…

The first shows who was top of the league after ten games and what their record was like.  The second shows where Arsenal were after 10 games.

So how often have Arsenal been top of the league after 10 games in recent seasons? 

Arsenal have been top twice after 10 games, in the last 10 seasons – this current season and 2013/14.  But how does the points table this season compare with what the top team got in recent seasons?

In fact in two seasons in the last 10, the top team after ten games had scored 28 points – as compared with our 27 points.  To get the 27 points, the results of course were nine wins and one draw, compared with our nine wins and one defeat.

Four times a team has been top after ten and scored more goals than Arsenal this season.    The highest record was 28 goals.  Arsenal have so far scored 24.  The lowest for a top team after ten games was Tottenham with 21 in 2020.

The best defence was Chelsea and Manchester City with just three conceded.  Our ten conceded compares with just one club: Chelsea again, in 2014.

Tottenham were top of the league in 2020/1 with a goal difference of 12, the worst in the last ten years for the team that was top after 10 league games.  So if we want to sharpen up, the key area of “concern” is the defence.

But there is a second pointer here, before we start getting worked up about our rubbish defence.  The best defence in the league this season is Newcastle’s and they have conceded nine.  Four teams (ourselves, Manchester C, Tottenham and Chelsea) have conceded ten.  So yes, compared with the past we are letting in the goals, but compared with our rivals this season, the situation is not a disaster.

Here is a list of the record of the top team, season by season across the last ten years.


Season Team P W D L F A GD Pts
2022/23 Arsenal 10 9 0 1 24 10 14 27
2021/22 Chelsea 10 8 1 1 26 3 23 25
2020/21 Tottenham Ho 10 6 3 1 21 9 12 21
2019/20 Liverpool 10 9 1 0 23 8 15 28
2018/19 Manchester City 10 8 2 0 27 3 24 26
2017/18 Manchester City 10 9 1 0 35 6 29 28
2016/17 Manchester City 10 7 2 1 24 9 15 23
2015/16 Manchester City 10 7 1 2 24 8 16 22
2014/15 Chelsea 10 8 2 0 26 10 16 26
2013/14 Arsenal 10 8 1 1 22 9 13 25


As for the comparison with Arsenal’s position after 10 games in other seasons, that is quite revealing also…  The improvement over the past three seasons is astonishing…


season Arsenal POS P W D L F A GD Pts
2022/23 1st 10 9 0 1 24 10 14 27
2021/22 6th 10 5 2 3 12 13 -1 17
2020/21 14thl 10 4 1 5 10 12 -2 13
2019/20 5th 10 4 4 2 15 14 1 16
2018/19 4th 10 7 1 2 24 13 11 22
2017/18 5th 10 6 1 3 19 13 6 19
2016/17 2nd 10 7 2 1 23 10 13 23
2015/16 2nd 10 7 1 2 18 8 10 22
2014/15 4th 10 4 5 1 18 11 7 17
2013/14 1st 10 8 1 1 22 9 13 25


So looking back at Arsenal in the last ten years this is the best opening performance.   Looking at all Premier League clubs in the last ten years only two teams have achieved more – and that was one point more in each case.

But what has caused this change, apart from the obvious answer “we’ve won more matches.”

In 2019/20 Arsenal got an astonishing 86 yellow cards (more than any other team) and five red cards (again more than any other team).

This compared with, for example, 38 yellow and one red card for Liverpool, and 41 yellow and three red cards at Leicester.    To believe this to be a fair representation of reality means that one has to accept that Arsenal were committing fouls each week at over double the rate of Liverpool and Leicester, or with well over double the nastiness.

In 202/21 Arsenal changed their tactics totally and this caused the defence a lot of problems – we were 14th after ten games as you can see above.  The aim was dramatically to cut the yellow cards from referees by cutting the level of tackling.

As a direct result, Arsenal’s tackling level declined this season, but it took until one-third of the way through the campaign for the system to work, in part because the players had to unlearn the old ways, and (as we have argued before) referees give cards in part through habit.  Currently, Leeds are seen as a dirty team, so a tackle that might be just a foul for another side, is a yellow card tackle for Leeds.  In 2019/20 Arsenal were afflicted by the same refereeing attitude.

We’ll continue exploring these factors (not least because no one else will) but for now, let’s finish with the start unbeaten season of 2003/4 and how that looked after ten games…


Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 10 7 3 0 19 8 11 24
2 Chelsea 10 7 2 1 20 9 11 23
3 Manchester United 10 7 1 2 18 6 12 22


So, we have 27 points this season after ten games.  In the unbeaten season we “only” had 24.

8 Replies to “After the first 10 games, Arsenal are doing better than the unbeaten season”

  1. Tony,

    yesterday, Leeds had NO yellow card for 10 fouls
    Arsenal had 2 yellows for 9 fouls
    No idea about tackles.

    So for this game, the Leeds numbers are way out of synch I’d say….

  2. Arteta and the boys are doing something really special this season, and deserve every drop of our support.

  3. Although the “unbeaten season” is often held up as an example of ultimate achievement, what is often overlooked is that we gave up 24 points in achieving a total of 90 which has been passed 7 times since.
    Breaking the 100 points barrier and staying undefeated should be our target now.
    Good to be top with a healthy goal difference and air now between us and chasing pack

  4. Chris, … and that sort of ratio for Leeds is what has been happening since they returned to the Premier League. Teams that commit lots of fouls get fewer of them penalised and fewer of them penalised with cards than teams that commit few fouls. The fewer tackles a team undertakes the higher the number that are considered fouls.

  5. From Nitram

    As I said a couple of weeks ago and to Chris yesterday: “Isn’t it funny how once we start to get the media a little more on our side (Thanks I think mainly due to our young players, especially Saka, young AND English, and the style of our play) the officials are no longer so afraid to give us the benefit of the doubt, the 50’50’s, and even some more contentious decisions that we would never of got a couple of years ago. By and large, if you get the media on-side, you get the officials on-side”. And so, it seems.

    I have no doubt that cutting down on tackles has contributed to our reduction in cards, but I believe the medias softening approach towards us has had an even greater contribution, in as much as it feeds into a softening of approach towards us from the referees, and dare I say it, VAR. Despite all yesterday’s controversy I decided to brave watching MOTD, something I very rarely do. Well not watching MOTD per se, but the post-match analysis, and again they were all over us.
    They didn’t contest a single call that went our way. Now having seen them for myself they had no reason to. Their disallowed goal was a foul. The overturned Red/Pen was the correct call. Despite that, as one of the guys said the other day (siesmic I think) it is still very odd to listen to and I have no doubt that in the not-too-distant past they would have found a way to have a go at us.
    Even so, and being pedantic, they still didn’t highlight what was a clear off-side in the build up to their missed penalty. It was mentioned in passing during commentary but not post-match. And a comment regarding the last-minute Red/Pen incident did make me roll my eyes.
    Remember, there was a clear push on Gabriel. And okay Gabriel did react, but it was nothing. He barely made contact. It was a reaction deserving of a yellow at most. And adding insult to injury Bamford’s theatrics was a clear attempt to cheat his way to a penalty, and worse, his gross exaggeration was a clear attempt to get Gabriel sent off. Despite all that being obvious to anyone watching (except the linesman of course) he said: “Arsenal self-destructing right at the end of the game”
    Not a word of criticism of the officials who were, until VAR intervention, getting it spectacularly wrong. The commentator even said: “Bamford had a shove on Gabriel” so he knows it was an initial foul by the Leeds player. I guess old habits die hard. All that being said, Arsenals defense did its job. VAR did its job.

  6. I couldn’t get a stream yesterday so I had to follow the action via the BBC website and if you think the TV coverage was biased you should have seen the comments made by Pat Nevin, who I thought previously was insightful and balanced, I can only imagine that he must be a closet Leeds fan because being one-eyed doesn’t begin to describe his biased opining. Mind you it made the end result sweeter still…

  7. It’s a long season, especially with midweek games. To be successful the team has to win games like these. In recent seasons they might not have but they have the grit and will to see it through. It can’t be ‘the beautiful game’ every week. Too many factors mitigate against that. But if they can tough out games like this one the season will be very successful.
    We all enjoy and praise the attack. Rightfully so. I’d like to praise the back five. They’re coming on as a unit. Ramsdale is bossing it and the versatility of White and Tomiyasu and Zinchenko allows them to execute Arteta’s tactics. It’s great to see. There’s been a lot of praise for our centre back pairing of Saliba and Gabriel both of whom are strong lads. They’re so young. Imagine what they’ll be like with a few more years experience. Frightening, I think.They’ve both made costly mistakes, but not a worrisome number. And Saliba’s poise under pressure permeates the back line and gives it a confidence we haven’t seen back there in years. Just think, they’ll only get better. COYG!

  8. Gooner since 72.

    I echo your comments about our defence. I would also acknowledge the contributions of Tierney and Holding, who have played their part when called on.

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