In the first article of the new season, our statistician Josh James looks at the significance of opening-day results.
Saturday's goalless draw with Sunderland made it 12 consecutive seasons without defeat on the opening day for Arsenal, extending the club record.
The last time the Gunners tasted defeat on the first day of a league season was 2000/01, when Sunderland beat them 1-0 at home. The previous longest unbeaten sequence was seven seasons, set between 1932/33 and 1938/39 - the glorious thirties era. And perhaps it's no coincidence that the two longest runs of undefeated opening-day games coincide with the Club's two most successful ever periods.
History shows that the first result of the season can indeed set the tone for the rest of the campaign.
At every level at which Arsenal have played, the average finishing position is appreciably higher in seasons in which they won the first game, compared to those in which the opening game was drawn or lost.
Prior to this season, the Gunners' all-time record for opening-day matches was P108, W50, D22, L36 F178, A151.
Of those 50 seasons with winning starts, the average finishing position was 5.44, more than three places higher than the average final place in seasons that kicked off with a loss (8.75).
Campaigns which Arsenal began with a draw resulted in an average finishing position of 6.55.
Looking solely at the Premier League era, the pattern is repeated with the average finishing position being 3.25 after starting with a win, 3.4 after a draw and 5.33 for the three seasons in which Arsenal started with defeat.
So it's fair to say that the opening game can give an indication of what is to come - and in fact Arsenal have never recovered to win the league after losing the opening game of the season.
Saturday was the 23rd time Arsenal have kicked off with a draw, and the sixth time in Premier League history (including the last three in a row).
Arsenal were traditionally slow starters in the old Division One era, averaging just 1.39 points per opening game, compared to 1.54 points per game for the era as a whole (assuming three points for a win).
Since the Premier League began in 1992/93 however, the trend has reversed. Arsenal have taken exactly two points per opening game in this time, compared to 1.88 points per Premier League game overall.
Looking at the first three games of each season though reveals that Arsenal do not often get off to a flying start.
Only twice in the 20 seasons of Premier League football (2003/04 and 2004/05) have the Gunners had a 100 per cent record from the opening three fixtures, and in 13 of those seasons (65 per cent) Arsenal have suffered at least one reverse in the first three games.
The average points tally from the first three games of the Premier League era is 5.7.
Arsenal's first three games of the season
|1992||Arsenal 2-4 Norwich|
|1993||Arsenal 0-3 Coventry|
|1994||Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City|
|1995||Arsenal 1-1 Middlesbrough|
|1996||Arsenal 2-0 West Ham United|
|1997||Leeds United 1-1 Arsenal|
|1998||Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest|
|1999||Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City|
|2000||Sunderland 1-0 Arsenal|
|2001||Middlesbrough 0-4 Arsenal|
|2002||Arsenal 2-0 Birmingham|
|2003||Arsenal 2-1 Everton|
|2004||Everton 1-4 Arsenal|
|2005||Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United|
|2006||Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa|
|2007||Arsenal 2-1 Fulham|
|2008||Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich Albion|
|2009||Everton 1-6 Arsenal|
|2010||Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal|
|2011||Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal|
|2012||Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland|
Looking at all league football, Arsenal have remained unbeaten after the first three games in 27 seasons (25 per cent). Long unbeaten runs at the start of the season are very rare.
Arsenal have lost their first game in 33.3 per cent of the 108 complete league seasons so far, and lost at least one of their first two matches in 60.2 per cent of seasons.
In fact the team taste defeat for the first time each season an average of 3.66 games into the campaign. Only nine times out of 108 seasons (8.3 per cent) have they reached double figures before succumbing to the first loss.
Arsenal's longest unbeaten run from the start of a league season is of course 38 games – the whole of the 2003/04 'Invincibles' campaign.
The Club's best ever winning start to a season though remains the eight consecutive victories at the start of the 1903/04 season, when Arsenal were in the old Division Two. Harry Bradshaw's team scored 35 goals and conceded just three in that incredible run, though the team only finished second that term.
The Club's best winning start to a top-flight season was six, in the title-winning 1947/48 season.
When Arsenal suffer first league defeat of the season
Stats correct as of August 20, 2012.
Josh James also provides the stats for the Arsenal Analysis pages of the matchday programme.
Copyright 2013 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 21 Aug 2012