It’s been nearly 13 years since Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal last enjoyed success in the Premier League. Since then it has been a tottering ride which replicates itself season after season. From starting the season with a bang and creating myriad belief all around North London that a league title is finally on the way, to a miserable November which dismantles their title charge, the Gunners have been in ‘repeat’ mode ever since their undefeated domestic triumph in season 2003-04.
Their Premier League title challenge has once again replicated a familiar pattern, i.e. hot and cold performances. Every year, chants of WengerOut by fuming fans surface on social media at this time of the year when they realise that their team is well and truly out of the title race.
It remains to be seen whether they can end the season on a high like they’ve always done to improve their final position, but after the recent defeat at Chelsea, it is clear that the North Londoners are yet again out of the title race and on course to fight for the usual top four finish.
Though Arsene Wenger has made sure that his side finishes in the top four on a consistent basis and compete in the Champions League year after year, but it is still unclear whether the board takes the bold decision to replace him or to stick with him at the end of the season, considering the repercussions of what happened at Manchester United, after long-term manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Nonetheless, we depict Arsenal’s 5-step cycle of doom replicated in Premier League campaigns over the years:
Step 1 – SLUGGISH BEGINNING
Be it their 0-2 opening day defeat against West Ham at home in the 2015/16 season or their 3-4 defeat to Liverpool at home this season, the Gunners have a habitual record of commencing their league campaign on a wrong note. The team seems to lack the mental preparation coming into the first match of the season. Arsenal have won only one of their last five opening day fixtures and to add to that, they’ve recorded only two wins out of five attempts on Matchday 2. Start as you mean to go on, doesn't apply to the Gunners, or does it?
Step 2 – IMPOSING AUTUMN
In spite of a slow start, the Gunners usually fly high between the months of September and October, until early November. This season, they recorded an undefeated September which included a stunning 3-0 victory over Chelsea followed by an undefeated October, which included seven wins out of eight Premier League matches. Though Arsenal also remained undefeated in November in the league, cracks had already started to emerge with successive draws. Wenger’s men logged a similar fall last season, winning six of their seven league games during the months of September and October, with the only defeat coming at Chelsea.
Step 3 – NOVEMBER NIGHTMARE
Arsenal's inconsistency starts to rear its ugly head during the month of November, which is branded as the London club’s worst month. After an impressive two months, their title charge started to crash after consecutive draws against Tottenham and Manchester United in the league this season. They were then knocked out by Southampton in the EFL Cup on the last day of November. Their title hopes then suffered serious damage with back to back defeats at Everton and Manchester City in mid-December, which drifted them further away from the summit. Last season they recorded a winless November in the league and December could’ve been perfect but was distorted by their wretched 4-0 loss at Southampton.
Step 4 – LATE JANUARY DIP
Arsenal enjoyed a merrier new year in and seemed to have recovered from their setbacks at Everton and Manchester City with 3 wins out of 4 in the league. But their defeat at home to Watford raised many eyebrows which was followed by defeat to cross-town rivals Chelsea, to begin February. Last season it was in January where the wheels came off when they collected 5 points out of a possible 12 in the league.
Step 5 – LATE RESURGENCE
Arsenal tends to end the season on a high and improve their league standing at the final stages of the league. The Gunners remained undefeated in the last 10 games of last season, winning 5 and drawing 5 in the process. Though their 2nd placed finish was more because of Spurs’ meltdown, but they did their bit by remaining unbeaten in the final games.
In the 2013-14 season, they were outdone only once over the course of April and May. In the 2012-13 season, they won eight of the final 10 games in the league. They might emulate the same scenario this season as well and though it won’t be enough to win the league, it may prove vital for the same old top four considering the hefty competition for those places this season.