Arsenal have been top of Premier League table seven times since Invincibles: What happened next?

Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring for Liverpool in a 5-1 Premier League win over Arsenal Credit: Alamy
Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring for Liverpool in a 5-1 Premier League win over Arsenal Credit: Alamy

You might have noticed that Arsenal are top of the league. And they have a very good chance of remaining top of the league going into the World Cup.

Could Mikel Arteta’s side really actually do this? It’s been 18 years since Arsenal won the title and they’ve had a good few cracks at it since. Ignoring a few seasons where they were top after just a game or two and then never again (because anyone can do that; even Spurs can do that) there have been seven seasons in the barren years where Arsenal have at some vaguely meaningful point of the season been top for a bit. Sometimes quite a long bit. So what happened in those seasons? This is what happened in those seasons – consider it a giddiness-check for Arsenal fans and a big old dose of copium for Spurs fans…

 

2004/05 – The Invincibles’ Last Stand
Eight wins and a draw in the first nine games took the Invincibles’ unbeaten run to 49 games, with just a nice easy trip to Old Trafford to negotiate to bring up 50 games unbeaten. We all know what happened there, but it was the two draws that followed against Southampton and Palace that would cost Arsenal their place at the summit, a place they would never regain from eventual runaway winners Chelsea.

How it started…

1. Arsenal P11 W8 D2 L1 GF31 GA12 Pts 26
2. Chelsea P11 W8 D2 L1 GF16 GA3 Pts 26
3. Everton P11 W7 D2 L2 GF14 GA10 Pts 23
4. Bolton P11 W6 D4 L2 GF18 GA13 Pts 21

How it ended…

1. Chelsea P38 W29 D8 L1 GF72 GA15 Pts 95
2. Arsenal P38 W25 D8 L5 GF87 GA36 Pts 83
3. Man United P38 W22 D11 L5 GF58 GA26 Pts 77
4. Everton P38 W18 D7 L13 GF45 GA46 Pts 61

 

2007/08 – Third in a Three-Horse Race
Went top in September and stayed there until March, when a damaging run of four straight draws against Birmingham, Villa, Wigan and Middlesbrough slammed the brakes on their title charge, and defeats to both rivals for the crown – Chelsea and Manchester United – during the run-in left them third.

How it started…

1. Arsenal P29 W19 D9 L1 GF57 GA21 Pts 66
2. Man United P28 W20 D4 L4 GF58 GA15 Pts 64
3. Chelsea P27 W17 D7 L3 GF42 GA17 Pts 58
4. Liverpool P29 W15 D11 L3 GF53 GA20 Pts 56

How it ended…

1. Man United P38 W27 D6 L5 GF80 GA22 Pts 87
2. Chelsea P38 W25 D10 L3 GF65 GA26 Pts 85
3. Arsenal P38 W24 D11 L3 GF74 GA31 Pts 83
4. Liverpool P38 W21 D13 L4 GF67 GA28 Pts 76

 

2008/09 – The Fourth-Place Trophy
Took top spot with four wins in the first five. Lost top spot instantly with a 2-1 home defeat to Hull, and three defeats in four in November ended meaningful title hopes. The rest of the season was spent in familiar late-Wenger style scrapping for fourth, which was ultimately secured comfortably enough thanks to a run of eight wins in the last 11 games

How it started…

1. Arsenal P5 W4 D0 L1 GF11 GA2 Pts 12
2. Chelsea P5 W3 D2 L0 GF10 GA3 Pts 11
3. Liverpool P5 W3 D2 L0 GF5 GA2 Pts 11
4. Aston Villa P5 W3 D1 L1 GF10 GA7 Pts 10

How it ended…

1. Man United P38 W28 D6 L4 GF68 GA24 Pts 90
2. Liverpool P38 W25 D11 L2 GF77 GA27 Pts 86
3. Chelsea P38 W25 D8 L5 GF68 GA24 Pts 83
4. Arsenal P38 W20 D12 L6 GF68 GA37 Pts 72

 

2010/11 – Fourth is the New Second
A 2-1 win over Fulham nudged Arsenal a point ahead of Manchester United, who had a game in hand. Arsenal promptly lost to United in their very next game and never regained top spot. Were second for most of the season before three defeats in the last five years meant another fourth-place finish.

How it started…

1. Arsenal P16 W10 D2 L4 GF34 GA18 Pts 32
2. Man United P15 W8 D7 L0 GF35 GA16 Pts 31
3. Chelsea P16 W9 D3 L4 GF30 GA11 Pts 30
4. Man City P16 W8 D5 L3 GF21 GA12 Pts 29

How it ended…

1. Man United P38 W23 D11 L4 GF78 GA37 Pts 80
2. Chelsea P38 W21 D8 L9 GF69 GA33 Pts 71
3. Man City P38 W21 D8 L9 GF60 GA33 Pts 71
4. Arsenal P38 W19 D11 L8 GF72 GA43 Pts 68

 

2013/14 – The Other Slip
Lost to Villa on the opening day but went top during a run of five straight wins that followed. Briefly slipped to second with a 0-0 draw against Chelsea in December but were pretty much top from September to February and spent more time top of the league than any other team that season. The title charge fizzled out in February and March with thrashings at Liverpool and Chelsea as well as defeat at Stoke in run of two wins in nine games that dropped them to the now-familiar fourth place where they remained despite a five-match winning run to end the season.

How it started…

1. Arsenal P24 W17 D4 L3 GF47 GA21 Pts 55
2. Man City P24 W17 D2 L5 GF68 GA27 Pts 53
3. Chelsea P24 W16 D5 L3 GF44 GA20 Pts 53
4. Liverpool P24 W14 D5 D5 GF58 GA29 Pts 47

How it ended…

1. Man City P38 W27 D5 L6 GF102 GA37 Pts 86
2. Liverpool P38 W26 D6 L6 GF101 GA50 Pts 84
3. Chelsea P38 W25 D7 L6 GF71 GA27 Pts 82
4. Arsenal P38 W24 D7 L7 GF68 GA41 Pts 79

 

2015/16 – Let’s All Laugh at Tottenham
Ended the season having a good old giggle at knocking silly old Spurs into third place in a two-horse race, but should really have been looking at themselves and wondering how they let it become a two-horse race without them in the first place. Arsenal beat champions Leicester home and away and, although they ended up 10 points off the pace, surely the identity of their rivals here meant they’d let their best post-Invincibles title chance slip through their fingers. Were top at the turn of the year and were still until losing at home to struggling Chelsea in late January.

Leicester City mural Credit: Alamy
Leicester City mural Credit: Alamy

 

How it started…

1. Arsenal P22 W13 D5 L4 GF37 GA21 Pts 44
2. Leicester P22 W12 D8 L2 GF39 GA26 Pts 44
3. Man City P22 W13 D4 L5 GF43 GA21 Pts 43
4. Tottenham P22 W10 D9 L3 GF38 GA18 Pts 39

How it ended…

1. Leicester P38 W23 D12 L3 GF68 GA36 Pts 81
2. Arsenal P38 W20 D11 L7 GF65 GA36 Pts 71
3. Tottenham P38 W19 D13 L6 GF69 GA35 Pts 70
4. Man City P38 W19 D9 L10 GF71 GA41 Pts 66

 

2016/17 – St Totteringham’s Day is Cancelled
Twice briefly held top spot only to be swiftly replaced by first Manchester City and then Chelsea. Victory over Stoke took Arsenal top in December but eight days later they were fourth after back-to-back defeats at Everton and Manchester City. Got back up to second by the end of January but then lost four in five to disappear from the picture, eventually missing out on the top four altogether. Which has also been true of every season since. Until now?

How it started…

1. Arsenal P15 W10 D4 L1 GF36 GA15 Pts 34
2. Chelsea P14 W11 D1 L2 GF32 GA11 Pts 34
3. Liverpool P14 W9 D3 L2 GF35 GA18 Pts 30
4. Man City P15 W9 D3 L3 GF32 GA19 Pts 30

How it ended…

1. Chelsea P38 W30 D3 L5 GF85 GA33 Pts 93
2. Tottenham P38 W26 D8 L4 GF86 GA26 Pts 86
3. Man City P38 W23 D9 L6 GF80 GA39 Pts 78
4. Liverpool P38 W22 D10 L6 GF78 GA42 Pts 76
5. Arsenal P38 W23 D6 L9 GF77 GA44 Pts 75

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