In the first of a new regular column on Arsenal.com, Josh James examines the facts and figures from our pre-season schedule and their connection with Premier League scoring stats.
Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Benfica in Portugal was only the Club’s fifth pre-season defeat of the last ten years.
It was also the first reverse in two years - a run of 11 unbeaten fixtures - since Valencia won 2-0 at the Mestalla on the last day of the 2009/10 friendly schedule. The other three pre-season defeats since 2002/03 were against Juventus (1-0, 2008/09), Red Bull Salzburg (1-0, 2007/08) and Peterborough United (1-0, 2003/04).
That last defeat at London Road was notable for it being Gael Clichy’s first ever appearance in an Arsenal shirt, and it also featured Matteo Guardalben (remember him?) in the Gunners goal for the one and only time.
In fact Arsenal’s pre-season form that year was particularly shaky (P7, W3, D3, L1) yet of course the Gunners went on to complete an unbeaten league season that term.
This pre-season the Gunners won two, drew three and lost one of their six warm-up matches, a win rate of 33 per cent compared to an overall success rate of 71 per cent for the 66 friendlies in the last ten years.
This was also the lowest scoring close-season programme (11 goals) since 2003/04. However the standard of opposition was arguably much stronger this summer, than that faced eight years ago.
|New York Red Bulls||1-1||Van Persie|
|Boca Juniors||2-2||Van Persie, Ramsey|
|Malaysia XI||4-0||Ramsey, Walcott, Vela, Rosicky|
|Legia Warsaw||6-5||Eboue 2, Chamakh, Gibbs, Emmanuel-Thomas, Nasri|
|Celtic||3-2||Vela, Sagna, Nasri|
|Neusiedl||4-0||Walcott, Emmanuel-Thomas, Chamakh, Vela|
|Sturm Graz||3-0||Nasri 2, Lansbury|
|Barnet||4-0||Simpson 2, Arshavin, Nasri|
|Rangers||3-0||Wilshere 2, Eduardo|
|Atletico Madrid||2-1||Arshavin 2|
|Szombathelyi||5-0||Eduardo 2, Bendtner 2, Van Persie|
|SC Columbia||7-1||Ramsey 2, Bendtner 2, Van Persie 2, Gallas|
|Ajax||3-2||Adebayor 2, Bendtner|
|Huddersfield Town||2-1||Watt, Barazite|
|Stuttgart||3-1||Vela, Bendtner, Wilshere|
|Burgenland XI||10-2||Bendtner 4, Vela 3, Wilshere 2, Walcott|
|Inter Milan||2-1||Hleb, van Persie|
|Red Bull Salzburg||0-1|
|Genclerbergi||3-0||Van Persie 2, Walcott|
|AZ Alkmaar||3-0||Gilberto, van Persie, Adebayor|
|Schwadorf||8-1||Van Persie 2, Adebayor 2, Toure, Djourou, Hleb, Bendtner|
|SV Mattersburg||2-1||Hoyte, Aliadiere|
|Utrecht||3-0||Pires, Henry, Reyes|
|SC Ritzing||5-2||Reyes, Bergkamp, Henry, Hleb, Larsson|
|SC Weiz||5-0||Henry 2, Flamini, Bentley, Bergkamp|
|Barnet||4-1||Hleb, Bergkamp, Henry, Hoyte|
|Sturm Graz||2-0||Reyes 2|
|Grazer AK||2-1||Bergkamp, Van Persie|
|NK Maribor||3-2||Aliadiere, Bergkamp|
|Barnet||10-1||Reyes 3, Jeffers 3, Bergkamp 2, Van Persie, Owusu-Abeyie|
|Rangers||3-0||Lauren, Edu, Kanu|
|Austria Vienna||2-0||Bergkamp, Jeffers|
|Munich 1860||3-1||Henry 3|
|Neuberg||7-2||Henry 2, Aliadiere 2, Bergkamp, Wiltord, Edu|
|Stevenage Borough||6-1||Edu, Juan, Barrett, Brown, Chilvers, Paulinho|
Robin van Persie scored in each of the last three pre-season friendlies (against Boca Juniors, New York Red Bulls and Benfica) to become the leading scorer from the six-match schedule.
This bodes well as the Dutchman goes into Saturday’s game at St James’ Park looking to extend his record of scoring in consecutive Premier League away matches (currently nine).
Last year Samir Nasri topped the preparation-game scoring tally with five goals (including two direct free-kicks). He then went on to net 15 goals in the regular season - his best seasonal tally to date for the Gunners.
Similarly, in 2008/09 Nicklas Bendtner top scored in pre-season with six goals. That year he too went on to net 15 competitive goals for Arsenal, also his best goalscoring campaign to date.
So, how does pre-season form translate into early-season form?
The answer is that, generally, there does appear to be a correlation.
Last season Arsenal won four and drew one of their final five warm-up games. They then repeated that form in the opening five matches of the season proper - albeit in a different order (starting with a draw at Liverpool, then winning four on the spin).
The previous season (2009/10) the record was exactly the same in pre-season as it was for the first five games of the competitive action (WWWWL). The two preceding seasons also had similar records for the last five friendlies, and first five games of the regular campaign.
The noticeable exception was in 2005/06. That season the Gunners won each of their last five friendlies (indeed six out of six in pre-season) but then lost three of their opening five fixtures proper, including the Community Shield to Chelsea.
For the three seasons prior to that year though, the records were again, very much alike. The team were unbeaten in each of their last five warm-up games, and each of their first five regular season games, between 2002/03 and 2004/05.
And finally, for those looking for lucky omens ahead of Saturday’s game with Newcastle, over the last ten years Arsenal have always won their opening game of the season when they have failed to win their last friendly (three occasions).
*Community Shield counted as competitive
Josh James also provides the stats for the Arsenal Analysis pages of the matchday programme. To subscribe, or buy online, click here.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source