Arsenal feature twice in eight Premier League leads lost with seven to go…

Sarah Winterburn
Arsenal have cocked it in April before.
Arsenal have cocked it in April before.

Arsenal are top of the Premier League table with seven games to go, and Jurgen Klopp is trying to turn up the heat and force another seven-game bottling.

It’s happened eight times since football was invented in 1992, with Sir Alex Ferguson throwing it away more often than he would like you to remember.

Let’s start with the most recent and get that out of the way, Arsenal fans…


2022/23: Arsenal lost a four-point lead
First, Manchester City had a game in hand, but that still left the title race in Arsenal’s control as they entered the final seven games, despite back-to-back draws against Liverpool (fair) and West Ham (a sh*t-show). But all would surely be fine because a home clash with bottom club Southampton was next on the agenda.

As we said as they entered the top 10 bottle jobs ranking: ‘The escalation of their collapse was glorious: a 2-2 draw from 2-0 up at Liverpool was neither ideal nor cataclysmic; a 2-2 draw from 2-0 up at West Ham, with a missed penalty to boot, was slightly more ruinous yet still the Gunners were technically in front; a 3-3 draw from 2-0 and 3-1 down at home to Southampton confirmed the obvious, before a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City underlined it.’

The Saints game was the real killer and we suspect that roughly 28 seconds into that game was the precise moment that Mikel Arteta realised that he could not win the Premier League with Aaron Ramsdale. Now we will find out if he can win it with David Raya.


2013/14: Chelsea lost a one-point lead
Jose Mourinho talked an awful lot about being ‘a little horse’ in this Premier League title race, but there was nothing pony about the 6-0 tw*tting Chelsea gave Arsenal to ruin Arsene Wenger’s 1000-game celebrations.

Mourinho – keen throughout that season to emphasise that Chelsea were definitely not in a title race – would have argued that Manchester City were just three points behind with two games in hand, but the Blues had the best defensive record in the Premier League by some margin and a very kind-looking run-in. But then they somehow contrived to lose 1-0 to Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace. And yes, we too had forgotten that Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace was ever a thing.

Less than a month later they were cast as the spoilsports of Liverpool’s own bottle job, but after 31 games, it was that little horse Chelsea who were top of the pile.


2011/12: Man Utd lost a five-point lead
There were no games-in-hand shenanigans here, just Manchester United absolutely f***ing it up.

Beating QPR was easy and earned them an advantage of eight points with six games left, with Manchester City their only remaining opponent in the top six and Everton the only other residing in the top half.

A defeat to relegation-fighting Wigan nudged the door open, a 4-4 draw with Everton after leading by two goals as late as the 82nd minute blew it off, and City walked straight through with a nervous win at the Etihad.

There was some final-day giddiness that you might remember, but United deserved nothing after that collapse.


2009/10: Man Utd lost a one-point lead
The seven-game run-in started with a 4-0 cruise v Bolton but then Chelsea came to Old Trafford in what was a genuine title decider.

Without Wayne Rooney, United were deservedly beaten 2-1, though controversy dogged the game; two of the three goals would have been ruled out by VAR. United had ceded control in the title race and a 0-0 draw at Blackburn a week later (“I think it has slipped away from us,” said Ferguson) ensured that Chelsea could even afford a defeat to Tottenham in their run-in before lifting the title.

It turns out that winning four titles in a row is really, really hard.


2002/03: Arsenal lost a two-point lead
“Of course we want to win the league but I think the most difficult thing for the club is to be consistent and we have been remarkably consistent. We are in the cup final; we lose the league to a team who spends 50% more money every year – last year they bought a player for £30m pounds when they lost the championship.”

We hear you Arsene, but you really should have won it. Even after back-to-back draws with Aston Villa and the chasing Manchester United, it was still in the Gunners’ hands. But throwing away a 2-0 lead v Bolton was terminal to their title challenge, as Wenger found out that Pascal Cygan does not a Premier League winner make.


2001/02: Man Utd lost a one-point lead
This is when you realise that Premier League football used to be dead exciting.

Manchester United were far from convincing leaders but they had twice come from behind against West Ham to claim top spot from an Arsenal side a point behind and with a precious game in hand. The Gunners were phenomenal in the run-in and may never have been stopped anyway, but United’s meek 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough handed them the initiative.

By the time Manchester United met Arsenal in early May, the jig was basically up. As the BBC report says: ‘Arsenal kept their composure in the face of a fierce early physical assault from United as Ferguson’s side relinquished their crown in graceless fashion.’


1997/98: Man Utd lost a six-point lead
In truth, that six-point lead was worthless because a juggernaut of an Arsenal side had three games in hand and had just won 1-0 at Old Trafford. But Sir Alex Ferguson really tried to turn up the pressure with some basic mind games: “If they win their games in hand they will go ahead of us, but they will find out they start dropping points towards the end of the season, there’s no question about that.”

But it was United who dropped points with back-to-back draws v Liverpool and Newcastle, taking the pressure off as Arsenal logged 10 straight wins before they finally started losing long after the fat lady had started singing.


1992/93: Aston Villa lost a one-point lead
Aston Villa were not actually top of the table after their 35th game of a 42-match season, but Norwich had played an extra game and were never the favourites to win ahead of Villa on 64 points and Manchester United on 63. It was in Villa’s hands.

So it’s a massive shame that they cocked it with a 0-0 draw at home to Coventry that handed the initiative to United. They were just one point behind with three games to play but somehow got battered 3-0 by Blackburn. Another two defeats followed and the final gap would be 10 points, and a title tilt was largely lost to history outside of the West Midlands.


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