With Monday's 2-1 victory over Manchester City came the predictable title talk. But as we approach Boxing Day and a visit to Southampton, I thought it might be worth walking back through the last decade and re-visiting where Arsenal stood heading into the holiday and how they came out.
|Season||Pre-Boxing Day||Final Result|
In each of the first five pairs of matches of the season, Arsenal won a game and dropped points the next. It was the the three successive losses leading into Boxing Day that dropped Arsenal to 8th place.
A late season scramble as we bid adieu to Highbury and Dennis Bergkamp (all while balancing a run to the Champions League Final) saw Arsenal creep into fourth place on the final matchday.
Too close for comfort.
Stumbled into the holidays, bumbled to the end. Arsenal's record over their final 10 games? 3-4-3. The end of the Invincibles was never going to come easy.
Perhaps the most mediocre Arsenal of the last decade, the 08-09 squad never really challenged the top three with a spate of early losses. Dropping out wasn't a huge worry either with a 21-game unbeaten streak from November 30 to May 2 sealing Champions League qualification. That 21-game streak, though, included just 12 victories.
A tough, top-heavy season in which Everton's 61 points were only good enough for 8th place, Arsenal were in the mix heading into April. At the start of the month, Chelsea led Manchester United by two points and Arsenal by just three. We would lose three of our last five, though, withering firmly into third place. Perhaps more memorable was Liverpool's finish outside the top four for the first time in five years ending the run of the established "Big Four" and inviting the ascendance of Manchester City.
Perhaps the most competitive Premier League season in the last decade as Manchester United took the title with just 80 points. A 2-6-3 run to close the season ensured Arsenal never threatened the top trio.
Arsenal stumbled hard out of the gate with four losses in our first seven games including the 2-8 thrashing by Manchester United that prompted (or didn't) a rash of signings in the closing days of the summer transfer window. February and March went well enough to hold on to third place in the end, though just six points separated third place Arsenal and sixth place Chelsea. If the painful tug of positive nostalgia is more your thing, Robin van Persie's 30 goals and the return of the King are your season memories worth keeping.
Oh, and Manchester City won the title with not a whole lot of time left in the season.
Arsenal stumbled hard out of the gate with...hey, not this again. Sadly, yes. Just five wins in 15 games set up a perilously close fight with some other team for fourth place to finish the season. Arsenal won 12 of their final 14 games to finish fourth by a single point over Other Team People.
This was the second season in a row Arsenal re-scheduled their Boxing Day match due to a tube strike.
It was all a dream. Months spent in first place. The arrival of Mesut Özil. The sale of Gervinho. It was all lined up so nicely.
And here we are. Favorites to win the league heading into Boxing Day. Second place behind Leicester as everyone expected.
Arsenal have had seasons of early stumbles saved by runs down the stretch. Arsenal have had calamities in the spring that ruined early season setups.
Whither are we headed?