3 days to go, and the excitement is rollicking, and the tension is palpable. Another topsy-turvy season dawns upon us, and there will be a return of nerves, joy, ecstasy and dissapointment served in equal measures next season. Arsenal go into their first game of the season, at home to Sunderland. Here is a look at the last 10 opening days in the Premier League for Arsenal.
10. Arsenal 2-0 Birmingham City, 18th August 2002, Highbury
(Arsenal – Henry 9, Wiltord 16)
Arsenal started the defence of their league title, with a relatively comfortable win over newly promoted Birmingham City at Highbury. Henry opened the scoring after just 9 minutes, though the goal could be attributed to a poor piece of goalkeeping from Paul Vaesen. Wiltord doubled the lead 7 minutes later. Arsenal failed to hold on to the league, as Manchester United pipped them at the very end. However, the FA Cup did provide some consolation.
9. Arsenal 2-1 Everton, 15th August 2003, Highbury
(Arsenal – Henry 35, Pires 58; Everton – Radzinski 84)
Arsenal started a historic campaign with a hard fought 2-1 win over Everton. They were down to 10 men after just 25 minutes, when Sol Campbell was given his marching orders for a foul on Thomas Gravesen, to add more fuel to an already growing controversy after he kicked Eric Djemba-Djemba of Manchester United in the Community Shield. Thierry Henry cheekily won and scored a penalty and Arsenal’s dominance was rewarded when Pires scored in front of an empty net. Tomasz Radzinski’s late strike did provide some flutters though. Arsenal won the entire league campaign without losing.
8. Everton 1-4 Arsenal, 15th August 2004, Goodison Park
(Everton – Carsley 64; Arsenal – Bergkamp 23, Reyes 39, Ljungberg 54, Pires 83)
The Gunners started off where they had left from the previous campaign, with another opening day win over Everton. Dennis Bergkamp scored at the end of a sweeping move, as Cesc Fabregas became the youngest Arsenal player in the league. Reyes headed in a Ljungberg cross to make it 2-0, while the Swede himself got on to the scoresheet 9 minutes into the second half. Lee Carsley and Thomas Gravesen linked up brilliantly to set up Everton’s consolation, but it was Pires who added the finishing touches to the game. Chelsea would go on and win the league that year, as Arsenal had to contend with the FA Cup, which would go on to be their last trophy for the coming 7 seasons.
7. Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United, 14th August 2005, Highbury
(Arsenal – Henry 81, van Persie 87)
Arsenal started their last league campaign at Highbury with a hard-fought 2-0 win over a dogged Newcastle, who were down to 10 men after just 32 minutes, when Arsenal target Jermaine Jenas was sent off for a tackle on Gilberto. The post-Vieira period got it’s first goal, when Henry scored a penalty in the 81st minute, and the lead was doubled when van Persie scored from the narrowest of angles, 6 minutes later. It was a hard league campaign as the Gunners just about pipped Sp*rs to 4th spot on the final day of the season, and there was more heartbreak as they lost the Champions League final to Barcelona in Paris.
6. Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa, 19th August 2006, Emirates Stadium
(Arsenal – Gilberto 84; Aston Villa – Mellberg 53)
Emirates Stadium opened its doors for the first time for a league match, with Aston Villa paying a visit. However, it took Arsenal some time to settle into their new surroundings, as Villa captain Olof Mellberg headed the Birmingham club ahead on 53 minutes. Only a late Arsenal spurge allowed Gilberto to equalize 6 minutes from time. Arsenal struggled in the league again, finishing 4th whilst also losing the League Cup final to Chelsea.
5. Arsenal 2-1 Fulham, 12th August 2007, Emirates Stadium
(Arsenal – van Persie 84 (pen), Hleb 90; Fulham – Healy 1)
Arsenal left it late to snatch all 3 points from Fulham’s hands. This was the first league game since the departure of Thierry Henry to Barcelona, and the onus had completely fallen over the club’s young players. Fulham took a surprise lead in the first minute when Northern Ireland striker made most of a Jens Lehmann error. Arsenal went on to dominate the whole match, but were thwarted by Fulham keeper Tony Warner. Patience was finally rewarded when van Persie slotted home a 84th minute penalty, and Alexander Hleb won the game, with seconds to go. Arsenal mounted a serious title challenge, but finished 4 points short of winners Manchester United.
4. Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich Albion, 16th August 2008, Emirates Stadium
(Arsenal – Nasri 4)
Arsenal started off their 2008-09 campaign with a narrow win over newly promoted West Brom. New signing Samir Nasri opened the scoring after just 4 minutes, but the Gunners were made to slave for 3 points, as the Baggies put up an enterprising and energetic display. Despite much promise, Arsenal had to contend with 4th spot again.
3. Everton 1-6 Arsenal, 15th August 2009, Goodison Park
(Everton – Saha 92; Arsenal – Denilson 26, Vermaelen 37, Gallas 41, Fabregas 48, 69, Eduardo 88)
The Gunners began the 2009-2010 campaign with a bang, as they hit Everton for a 6, at Goodison Park. Brazilian midfielder Denilson opened the scoring with a delicious curling effort, and new boy Thomas Vermaelen headed in the second 11 minutes later. William Gallas headed in the third, before half-time. Cesc Fabregas scored the fourth and fifth goal, and dedicated them to his close friend, Espanyol midfielder Jarque, who had passed away recently. Croatia striker Eduardo scored the 6th late on, but Everton got their consolation late on as Louis Saha scored an easy one. Arsenal looked strong throughout the campaign, but derailed soon, and ended up finishing 3rd.
2. Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal, 15th August 2010, Anfield
(Liverpool – N’Gog 46; Arsenal – Reina (O.G)- 91)
Arsenal were handed one of their toughest opening games of the season as they travelled to Anfield to face Liverpool. In a closely contested game, Liverpool new boy Joe Cole was sent off for a foul on Arsenal’s own new signing Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman himself got a red card later in the game. Despite being down to 10 men, it was the Reds who took the lead when young striker David N’Gog scored from the narrowest of angles. Arsenal looked out of sorts, but were gifted a goal late on, when Roscky’s late cross, appeared to come off Chamakh, into Reina’s hands, who spilled it into the net. Arsenal at one stage were challenging on all 4 fronts, but it all came to a bitter end.
1. Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal, 13th August 2011, St. James Park
Arsenal had a disastrous start to their 2011-2012 campaign, post the departures of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy. Newcastle away was the opening day fixture, and a weak Gunners’ side had to stay dogged throughout to hold on to a draw. With little chances in the game, it boiled down in the end, when Arsenal debutant Gervinho was sent off for slapping Joey Barton right in the face. Arsenal finished the season with a flurry, securing 3rd spot.
So, opening days have provides us with their fair bit of excitement. All we can hope is for more of the same, with 3 points of course!
Jai Arsenal 🙂