Arsenal’s Premier League Opening Day Record

The Gunners go into their opening weekend fixture against Liverpool this weekend, hoping to make up for some recent stutters on the opening day

Arsenal’s Premier League Opening Day Record
West Ham's Cheikhou Kouyate gives the Hammers the lead in last season's opening weekend

Arsenal kick off the new Premier League season this Sunday when they host Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium, looking for a good start to their hopeful title challenge.

The Gunners have a mixed record in their previous 24 Premier League opening games, most of which have usually dictated how their season is going to take place.

Early woes

Their first two opening day’s in the Premier League era would see heavy defeats, first to surprise packages Norwich City where despite Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell putting the hosts 2-0 up, a Canary comeback via two goals from Mark Robins, and winners from David Phillips and future Tottenham winger Ruel Fox gave the East Anglia side an unlikely victory.

Arsenal’s first season in the newly formed Premier League was a mixed one, they would finish 10th but would lift both the FA Cup and League Cup, the first team to achieve such a feat, their opponents Norwich would be surprise title challengers under Mike Walker but would eventually finish 3rd, their highest ever Premier League finish.

There would be no opening day joy for the Gunners in their second season either, when Coventry City thrashed Arsenal 3-0 thanks to a hat trick from striker Micky Quinn.

Arsenal would recover to finish 4th at the end of the season and won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in Copenhagen with an unlikely 1-0 win over a Parma side that had the exciting trio future Premier League players of Faustino Asprilla, Gianfranco Zola and Tomas Brolin in the final.

They would finally gain their first opening day victory in 1994-95 when they put three passed Manchester City thanks to goals from Campbell and Ian Wright as well as an own goal from Steve McMahon.

However, it would lead to a heartbreaking season at Highbury which saw manager George Graham ousted following a scandal that uncovered he had taken illegal payments from an agent for two players, winger Paul Merson undergo treatment for drug and gambling addictions and a loss in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final to a last minute stunner from former Spurs midfielder Nayim for Real Zaragoza.

Former Spurs midfielder Nayim winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup for Real Zaragoza
Former Spurs midfielder Nayim winning the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup for Real Zaragoza

Bruce Rioch would eventually replace Graham the following season but he failed to win his only opening game, drawing 1-1 with recently promoted Middlesbrough who were put ahead by Nick Barmby, before Wright equalised five minutes later.

After several seasons of cup success, the 1995-96 season was rather nondescript as Arsenal crashed out of the FA Cup in the 3rd Round and miss out on the League Cup after losing to eventual winners Aston Villa on away goals in the semi-finals, they finished 5th on the last day of the season thanks to summer signing Dennis Bergkamp’s late winner, enough for a UEFA Cup spot.

Wenger success

Rioch was surprisingly relieved of his duties days before the start of the 1996-97 season with Stewart Houston again put in caretaker charge, and goals from John Hartson and a penalty from Bergkamp were enough to beat West Ham United.

1996 would become a significant year for Arsenal as they hired legendary and current manager Arsene Wenger in October and put together their first substantial title challenge in the Premier League era but a mid-season loss of form meant they would have to settle for 3rd place, missing out on the UEFA Champions League on goal difference.

Wenger, like Rioch would only draw his opening game of the next season against Leeds United. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would cancel out Wright’s opener but an unbeaten record that ran from Boxing Day 1997 to the 4-0 win over Everton that settled the title, would be enough to lift the Gunners from 6th at the end of the calendar year to win their first league title since 1991.

An FA Cup success followed, delivering Arsenal’s first League and Cup double since 1971.

Arsene Wenger celebrates with both the Premier League & FA Cup following Arsenal's 1998 double success
Arsene Wenger celebrates with both the Premier League & FA Cup following Arsenal's 1998 double success

An all-Champion affair began Arsenal’s defence of their crown as they faced winners of the First Division, Nottingham Forest. A rare Emmanuel Petit goal opened the scoring before Geoff Thomas levelled the scoring in the last fifteen minutes. A typically blistering counter attack led by Marc Overmars won the game for Arsenal.

Sadly the season finished in heartache for Arsenal who were put out of the FA Cup by Manchester United in one of the best semi-final replays ever played, capped by a sensational solo winner from Ryan Giggs.

An unbeaten run that started in mid-December looked like it might win them the title but a shock 1-0 defeat at Elland Road in their penultimate game gave Manchester United the initiative and they would win the league title by one point and one goal, the first leg of their historic 1999 treble.

They were rather timid in their opener against Leicester City the following season, where it took own-goal specialist Frank Sinclair putting into his own net to complete a comeback for all three points, after Tony Cottee had put the Foxes ahead before Bergkamp equalised eight minutes later.

The league title would be settled and remaining at Old Trafford by April, yet Arsenal did have the solace of a UEFA Cup final in Copenhagen but they would lose on penalties to Galatasaray following a 0-0 draw.

New millennium

The new Millennium didn’t bring much cheer either, former Gunners striker Niall Quinn scored the winner in an ill-tempered game at the Stadium of Light which saw Patrick Vieira controversially dismissed and several key chances go begging in front of goal.

The season didn’t go much better; a 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford in February ended any hopes of the title that remained in Manchester as well as another cup final defeat, this time to Liverpool who turned around a one-goal deficit late on through 2001’s Ballon D’or winner Michael Owen who scored twice in the last seven minutes.

Arsenal finally rediscovered some form in 2001, a 4-0 win at Middlesbrough under their new manager Steve McClaren set up a season to remember in North London.

Thierry Henry opened the scoring just before half time and then the roof caved in, in the last three minutes, first Robert Pires tucked home a penalty, then Bergkamp scored a brace to help the home side romp to victory.

Thierry Henry jumps highest in celebration after opening the scoring in Arsenal's 4-0 rout of Middlesbrough to start the 2001-02 season
Thierry Henry jumps highest in celebration after opening the scoring in Arsenal's 4-0 rout of Middlesbrough to start the 2001-02 season

Spurred on by some cup final and league heartache, Arsenal went unbeaten away from home as they secured the league title at Old Trafford, days after avenging the FA Cup final defeat of the year previous, beating Chelsea 2-0 in Cardiff.

Like in 1998, Play-off winners Birmingham City would be the first team of Arsenal’s title defence, Henry opened the scoring within 10 minutes with a perfectly executed free kick and Sylvain Wiltord who secured the title at Old Trafford added a second 15 minutes later.

Despite continuing their unbeaten record from the previous to 30 games before defeat at Goodison Park in mid-October, a slight blip in April cost them the title to Manchester United again, an FA cup would be their only solace, defeating Southampton 1-0 at the Millennium Stadium.

Invincibles and beyond

Everton greeted Arsenal for the next two seasons, both games finished in Arsenal victories, the first at Highbury finished 2-1 to the Gunners despite Sol Campbell’s early dismissal, Henry and Pires opened their accounts for the season, Tomas Radzinski’s goal proving scant consolation.

Arsenal would go the entire league season unbeaten and regained the league title in April 2004 with a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane.

The Toffees couldn’t stop rampant Arsenal the following season either, Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes, Freddie Ljungberg and Pires all got on the score sheet at Goodison Park with only Lee Carsley replying for the hosts in a 4-1 defeat for David Moyes’ team.

An FA Cup final win on penalties over Manchester United would accompany a second place finish in 2005 as Chelsea ran away with the title.

They left it late but Arsenal did win their final opening day fixture at Highbury, Henry tucked in a penalty and Robin Van Persie settled the game with a second as they beat 10 man Newcastle United 2-0.

There would be no substantial title challenge as Chelsea ran away with it, they would also lose another final late on, as FC Barcelona came from a goal down to deny Arsenal the UEFA Champions League in Paris.

Emirates era

It would be late goals at the start of the new era at the Emirates, the first competitive game at the new stadium nearly went visitors Aston Villa’s way when Olof Mellberg put them ahead but Gilberto Silva levelled the game with 5 minutes to go. The season didn't go much better, despite a League Cup final, that sadly ended in defeat to Chelsea, the Gunners finished fourth for the second successive season.

David Healy opened the scoring in less than a minute but Robin Van Persie and Alexander Hleb won the game for Arsenal in the last six minutes in 2007-08, despite losing only three games all season however, a slump over February and March following a heartbreaking injury to striker Eduardo saw them miss out on the league by four points.

Summer signing Samir Nasri scored the only goal after four minutes in the 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in 2008 but Arsenal finished the season in fourth yet again and crashed out of both the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League at the semi-final stage to Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.

2008 Summer signing Samir Nasri opens his account for the Gunners in his Premier League debut against West Brom
2008 Summer signing Samir Nasri opens his account for the Gunners in his Premier League debut against West Brom

They ran away with their first opening day fixture away from the Emirates since it opened, smashing six past a hapless Everton with goals from Denilson, summer signing Thomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, two from captain Cesc Fabregas and Eduardo.

Three defeats and one draw in their last five games ended any hopes of the title in April as Arsenal finished 11 points behind Chelsea however.

Recent struggles

The Gunners have notably struggled in their opening games in recent seasons. They met this weekend’s opponents Liverpool at Anfield in 2010 and David NGog put the hosts in front during the second half before Marouane Chamakh bundled an equaliser in that was given as a Pepe Reine own goal.

Arsenal lost the League Cup final again late on to Birmingham City, they also had a terrible run of form in the second half of the season that saw them fall from main title challengers to fourth place.

Neither Arsenal nor Newcastle United found the net in their opening encounter in August 2011 at St. James’ Park, a game that saw eight players booked and Gervinho sent off on his Premier League debut.

An 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford two weeks later saw Arsenal go on a last day shopping spree that eventually helped them finish 3rd over rivals Spurs, however, they were 19 points behind the top two Manchester clubs.

Another 0-0 draw with a North East team began their following season as the controversial sale of Robin Van Persie began to show from the off. Arsenal did finish fourth ahead of Spurs again however but there was no title challenge and they were knocked out of both domestic cups by lower league opposition.

They suffered their first opening day defeat since 2000 when they lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa in 2013. The defeat was met by jeers from the Arsenal fans but they would celebrate their first trophy in nine years later that season when Arsenal came from 2-0 down to win the FA Cup in May 2014.

Brede Hangeland gave Crystal Palace the lead as Arsenal laboured to a late 2-1 win over their fellow London side, with goals from Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey winning Arsenal's only opening game in the last six years, they retained the FA Cup in emphatic style the following May with a 4-0 win over Aston Villa.

Last season West Ham United thoroughly outplayed the Gunners with a classy 2-0 victory, thanks to Cheikhou Kouyate and Mauro Zarate’s goals, another mid-season slump would see the title go out of their reach but they would finish second, their highest finish since 2005.