When Arsenal last won their first four games – & what happened next
Arsenal have made a brilliant start to the 2022-23 season, winning their first four Premier League games for the first time in almost 20 years.
The Gunners have been infamously slow starters in recent years and often need to respond to early setbacks. They famously lost 8-2 to Manchester United in August 2011, but that’s not the only occasion they’ve been required to bounce back from a bump in the road.
Last season, Mikel Arteta’s side were 16th in the Premier League after four games. They recovered and finished just two points behind Tottenham in the end, but those early dropped points ultimately cost them a top-four finish.
So it’s a major step forward that Arsenal have maintained their 100% start are now nine points ahead of where they were at the same stage last term.
New faces William Saliba, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus have started every game so far and the early evidence is that they’ve taken Arsenal up another level.
“No, it’s the start of the season,” Arteta said after the 2-1 win over Fulham when asked if his side were in a title race. “This is a long marathon. Be humble, and hungry.”
But what does the superb start mean for Arsenal’s prospects this season? We’ve taken a look at the only other two times they’ve won their opening four league matches in the Premier League era – and what happened next for those sides.
The start of something great.
A 3-2 home loss to Leeds United in the run-in the season before was immensely painful for Arsenal. They used that as motivation and a catalyst for ensuring they wouldn’t experience the bitter taste of defeat again for quite some time.
The 2003-04 season began in an inauspicious way, with Sol Campbell sent off after 25 minutes in the opener against Everton. The remaining 10 men went on to grind out a 2-1 win, which was an early indicator of their winning mentality that year.
A 4-0 win at Middlesbrough followed before they recorded a 2-0 home victory against Aston Villa. The Gunners then came from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1, making it four wins from four in the league in August 2003.
Arsene Wenger had been roundly mocked for comments made in September 2002.
“It’s not impossible to go through the season unbeaten and I can’t see why it’s shocking to say that,” the Arsenal manager told reporters.
“Every manager thinks that but they don’t say it because they’re scared it would be ridiculous.”
It proved not to be ridiculous. Arsenal maintained the standards they set at the beginning of the 2003-04 season and just kept going. And going. And going.
📺How it Happened Match 3, 2003 August 27
🔥 #Arsenal 2 Aston Villa 0#PremierLeague 🏆 #Invincibles #Throwback #FlashbackFriday pic.twitter.com/esaBYdqGRS
— Arsenal History From Highbury To The Emirates (@4949Undefeted) March 4, 2022
The Invincibles began their campaign to retain their Premier League title in fine fettle.
Wenger’s men kicked off the 2004-05 season with an impressive 4-1 victory at Everton followed by a madcap 5-3 home win against Middlesbrough
Arsenal had a comfortable 3-0 win against Blackburn Rovers at Hghbury and then travelled to Carrow Road, where they beat Norwich City 4-1.
Veteran Gunners legend Dennis Bergkamp scored three in those four games, while a youngster by the name of Cesc Fabregas was showing the future was bright by notching in the Blackburn win alongside Thierry Henry and Jose Antonio Reyes.
The free-scoring side extended that winning run to five after beating Fulham and they took 25 points from the first 27 available. At that point, they looked well on their way to retaining the title.
Then came a trip to Old Trafford and one of the most ill-tempered and controversial defeats in Premier League history. Manchester United won 2-0, ending the Invincibles’ unforgettable 49-match unbeaten streak.
Losing in Manchester precipitated a major wobble. Arsenal won just two of their next seven, and by that point Jose Mourinho’s imperious Chelsea were in the driving seat. The Blues never let up, winning the title with a then-record 95 points and still-unbeaten and scarcely believable defensive record of just 15 goals conceded.
Wenger’s Gunners finished runners up, 12 points behind. They did win the FA Cup, though.
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