“Who is it this week?” – Opening Day Preview

Welcome to another edition of WIITW!

Here’s the most recent post: A preview of the Community Shield.

Ahead of the first game of the new season, I decided to have a look back at Arsenal’s record on the opening day in the Premier League era. Let’s get to it!

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Santi’s ready! Are you?

Arsenal on the Opening Day

  • The Gunners have won a little over half of opening day games in the Premier League era – 13 wins out of 25.
  • Of the other 12 games, there have been six draws and six defeats.
  • Recent form is not in Arsenals favour though – three of those six losses have come in the last four years!
  • Arsenal have actually won just once on the first day of the season in the last seven years – that was at home to Palace in 2014.
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Aaron Ramsey celebrates his winner vs Palace in 2014
  • The Gunners have kicked off the new campaign with a home match on 18 occasions, winning ten of them. Five of the six defeats suffered on the first day of the season have come at home.
  • There have been five times that Arsenal have failed to score on the opening day – three of them coming in the last six seasons.
  • The Gunners have been involved in a goalless draw on the first day of the season just twice – both were against teams from the North-East and they came in consecutive seasons too. The opponents were Newcastle in 2011 and Sunderland in 2012.

First up…

  • This will be the first time that Arsenal have faced a side that have previously won the Premier League on the opening day of the season. The Gunners have faced Leicester and Man City in the opener before but neither had won a Premier League title at the time.
  • Leicester finished 12th last season. Of Arsenal’s 25 Premier League openers, only seven have been against teams that finished in the top half of the table the season before.
  • Four of those seven games came against Merseysiders – two each against Liverpool and Everton.
  • In 2009, Arsenal started the season away to Everton. The Toffees had finished 5th the previous season. That’s the highest finish of any team that Arsenal have gone on to face on the opening day of the following season.
  • Sticking with the Toffees (get it?), Arsenal have begun their League campaign against Everton three times before – more than any other team. The Gunners have faced Liverpool, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Newcastle and West Ham twice each. Leicester will be joining that group on Friday, having played Arsenal on the first day of the 1999-00 season.
  • There have been four occasions where Arsenal have started the new season against a newly promoted team. All four were home games and Arsenal won three of them. The four teams were Middlesbrough (1995-96), Nottingham Forest (1998-99), Birmingham City (2002-03) and West Brom (2008-09). Boro were the only Premier League new boys to get something off Arsenal on the first day – they left Highbury with a point in 1995.
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Samir Nasri scores the only goal against newly promoted West Brom in 2008

Beginners Luck?

  • With a new season comes new players and plenty have made their Premier League debut on the opening day of the season in the past. Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette will be hoping to do so on Friday night.
  • Just two players have made their debut and scored on the opening day of a Premier League season for Arsenal. Samir Nasri was the first to do so when he got the only goal against West Brom in 2008. A year later, Thomas Vermaelen repeated the feat by scoring in the 6-1 rout of Everton at Goodison Park.
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Thomas Vermaelen celebrates his debut goal at Everton in 2009
  • Technically, Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell were making their Premier League debuts when they scored against Norwich on the opening day in 1992, but they had both been at Arsenal for a few years at that stage.
  • Quirky fact of the day: Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Robert Pires, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud have all made their Arsenal League debut on the opening day of the season and then gone on to score on the opening day of the following season.
  • Laurent Koscielny and Gervinho are the only players to have made their League debut on the first day of the new season to have also been sent off in the same game. Koscielny did it at Liverpool in 2010 and Gervinho at Newcastle a year later. Funnily enough, Koscielny was also sent off against Villa on the first day of the 2013-14 season.
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Newcastle duo Steven Taylor and Joey Barton welcome Gervinho to the Premier League back in 2011
  • 2006 saw Arsenal move into their new stadium and Aston Villa were first up on the opening day. Theo Walcott made his Premier League debut in that game, having signed for Arsenal in January 2006. He set up Gilberto Silva for the first Arsenal goal at the Emirates.

Starting with a bang!

  • Dennis Bergkamp has scored more opening day goals for Arsenal than anyone else in the Premier League era. The Dutchman has five first day goals – one more than Thierry Henry.
  • Bergkamp is also one of just two Arsenal players to find the net more than once on the day the Gunners began a League campaign. He got two goals at Middlesbrough in 2001. Cesc Fabregas is the other player, bagging a brace at Everton in 2009.
  • Just two players have scored in consecutive Premier League openers for Arsenal. Robert Pires found the net on the opening day in 2003 and 2004. Thierry Henry went one better, scoring on the first day of the season in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The club record goal scorer also started the 2005-06 campaign with a goal.
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Thierry Henry converts a penalty vs Everton on the opening day of the 2003-04 season
  • When Theo Walcott scored our first goal of the opener with Liverpool a year ago, he became the first Englishman to score for Arsenal in the first game of the season since Ian Wright in 1997!
  • All three of our goal scorers against Liverpool last season were English (London busses and all that…). This hadn’t happened in a League opener since 1995, when Kevin Campbell, Ian Wright and Alan Smith all found the net on the opening day against Man City.
  • Between Wright’s goal against Leeds in 1997 and Walcott’s strike vs Liverpool last season, Arsenal scored 32 opening day goals in the Premier League. Aaron Ramsey was the only British player to score in that time. Honourable mention goes to Frank Sinclair, who scored an own goal for Leicester against Arsenal in 1999. Sinclair was born in England but represented Jamaica at international level.
  • That Frank Sinclair own goal in 1999 isn’t the only time Arsenal have benefit from a player putting the ball in his own net on the opening day of the season. Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina bundled the ball over the line at Anfield in 2010, handing Arsenal a late equaliser and a point to start the new campaign.
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Chamakh watches on as Reina gifts Arsenal a point at Anfield in 2010

How about some goals? 

  • Arsenal have scored some 42 goals in their Premier League openers over the years. Here’s just a select few:
  • 1992-93: Arsenal 2-4 Norwich: Alright, so we lost this one. But it’s still worth having a look at the first goals Arsenal got in the newly branded Premier League. Current assistant boss Steve Bould got the very first.
  • 1995-96: Arsenal 1-1 Middlesbrough: Dennis Bergkamp makes his League debut for Arsenal on the opening day in 1995. The Dutchman was an instant hit, providing the assist for Ian Wright’s equaliser against Premier League new boys Boro.
  • 1998-99: Arsenal 2-1 Nottingham Forest: The Gunners began the defence of their title with a victory against Forest, promoted after winning the Championship. The raw pace of Overmars in the build up to his goal is quite something.
  • 2001-02: Middlesbrough 0-4 Arsenal: One of our biggest opening day wins but the scoreline could be a little deceptive. It was just 1-0 heading into the final five minutes before a Boro red card, Pires penalty and Bergkamp brace made it a comfortable start to what would be a successful season for Arsenal.
  • 2003-04: Arsenal 2-1 Everton: Robert Pires and Thierry Henry were both on the mark for Arsenal on the first day of an historic season. Sol Campbell was sent off in this one too.
  • 2006-07: Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa: Trivia time – who scored the first Premier League goal at the Emirates Stadium? ‘Twas one Olaf Mellberg, of Aston Villa fame. Gilberto Silva got a late equaliser for the Gunners.

And that’s that… 

So there you have it – a little something to tide you over ahead of the big kick-off. Recent history isn’t on our side in terms of starting with a win but hopefully we can remedy that on Friday night. No, the title isn’t won or lost on the opening weekend. But it’d be nice to not have to play catch up from the get go.

Keep an eye out for my preview to the Leicester City match over the next day or so.

As always, thanks for reading!

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Until next time…

 

 

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