Where every PL season’s longest unbeaten side finished…

Date published: Monday 10th December 2018 12:36

1992/93
The last side to lose?
Ipswich
How many games did they go unbeaten? Eight
Where did they finish? 16th

The first Premier League season was one of two halves for Ipswich. They lost just twice in 22 games from August to December, and won just three times in 20 games from January to May. John Lyall’s side drew six of their opening eight matches, including stalemates against Aston Villa and Liverpool at Portman Road, and Manchester United at Old Trafford. The good start would come in handy: they would eventually finish just three points clear of relegation.

 

1993/94
The last side to lose?
Coventry
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Eight
Where did they finish?
11th

Coventry picked up the mantle in impressive fashion the following season. They drew five of their opening eight games, with surprise wins coming against Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool. They rose as high as seventh before falling back into mid-table mediocrity, finishing the season sandwiched between Aston Villa and Norwich.

 

1994/95
The last sides to lose?
Newcastle and Nottingham Forest
How many games did they go unbeaten?
11 each
Where did they finish?
6th and 3rd respectively

Newcastle really did f*** it. Kevin Keegan led them to nine wins in their opening 11 Premier League games, with only Liverpool and Blackburn able to temporarily stop this juggernaut in its tracks. It took Manchester United’s best efforts to inflict upon them a first defeat, yet they were still top with a two-point gap. That Nottingham Forest’s own unbeaten run ended that same day at the hands of Blackburn meant they could not capitalise on what was then the rarest of slips. By May, both United and Rovers would usurp the young pretenders at St James’ Park and the City Ground, who could not keep the pace for long enough.

 

1995/96
The last side to lose? Nottingham Forest
How many games did they go unbeaten?
12
Where did they finish?
9th

Forest managed to repeat the trick a year later, but were uncontested for the longest unbeaten start this time around. Under Frank Clark’s guidance, they drew half of their opening 12 games, rising no higher than third at any point due to the sheer brilliance of Newcastle and Manchester United. Forest’s first defeat came in November, and it was Blackburn once more who stopped them in their tracks. And boy, did they stop them: a 7-0 victory at Ewood Park was quite the spectacular end.

 

1996/97
The last side to lose? Manchester United
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Nine
Where did they finish?
1st

It took until the Premier League’s fifth season for the longest unbeaten start to provide a title-winning platform. Manchester United were only fourth by the time they suffered their first defeat in 1996/97, drawing four of their opening nine games. But when they lost, they bloody well lost. Newcastle ended their run with a 5-0 win at St James’ Park, which was followed by the 6-3 defeat to Southampton and a 2-1 loss to Chelsea. Ouch.

 

1997/98
The last side to lose? Arsenal
How many games did they go unbeaten?
12
Where did they finish?
1st

Like north London buses, the eventual Premier League champions started the season with the longest unbeaten run for the second consecutive year. Arsene Wenger’s first full campaign saw them go unbeaten from August to October, with their first defeat coming on November 1. Patrick Vieira missed an early penalty against Derby, who capitalised with goals through Paulo Wanchope and Daniel’s uncle Dean Sturridge in a 3-0 win at Pride Park. Arsenal’s response? They beat leaders Manchester United 3-2 in their next game.

 

1998/99
The last side to lose? Aston Villa
How many games did they go unbeaten?
12
Where did they finish?
6th

The goals of Dion Dublin (5), Julian Joachim (3), Paul Merson (3) and Ian Taylor (3) guided John Gregory’s solid Aston Villa side to the top of the Premier League table by November. But theirs was a gentle start, with Leeds the only team they faced in their opening 12 games who would go on to finish in the top six. By the time they hosted Liverpool, their luck had run out: Robbie Fowler scored a hat-trick and Stan Collymore was sent off in a 4-2 defeat.

 

1999/2000
The last side to lose? Manchester United
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Nine
Where did they finish?
1st

They drew their opening game against Everton, embarked on a six-game winning run that included victories over Arsenal, Leeds and Newcastle and a Jamie Carragher own-goal double, then were held by both Wimbledon and Southampton. By the time October rolled around, Manchester United were unbeaten in nine games, above second-placed Chelsea by one point. But as has become customary, the impressive start only led to a remarkable collapse: Chelsea hammered them 5-0 at Stamford Bridge to go top on October 3. Two league defeats for the rest of the season was a fine response from the European champions, mind.

 

2000/01
The last side to lose? Leicester
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Eight
Where did they finish?
13th

Leicester rocking the Premier League applecart by not only keeping the pace with the established elite, but setting it ahead of them? Where have we heard that before? Peter Taylor was Claudio Ranieri before it was cool, Ade Akinbiyi offered the worst impression of Jamie Vardy ever, and the Foxes were top of the table after eight games after winning four and drawing four. It’s a good job: they lost nine of their last ten games to drop all the way to 13th.

 

2001/02
The last side to lose? Leeds
How many games did they go unbeaten?
12
Where did they finish?
5th

A matter of months after reaching the Champions League semi-final, Leeds rode the crest of that wave all the way to the top of the Premier League table. David O’Leary’s band of merry young men showed plenty of Harte and were all too Keane to make an impression against the Kewell kids. But a Kevin Phillips-inspired Sunderland ended their run at 12 games, and they would eventually fall away. Even now, they are one of the best Premier League teams to never win a trophy.

 

2002/03
The last side to lose? Liverpool
How many games did they go unbeaten?
12
Where did they finish?
5th

Liverpool have been here before. But last time, their reaction to such dizzying heights was a dangerous bout of vertigo. They won nine of their first 12 games before failing to win any of their next 11, crashing from top with a four-point gap to 7th and 14 points behind leaders Arsenal.

 

2003/04
The last side to lose? Arsenal
How many games did they go unbeaten?
38
Where did they finish?
1st

A 3-2 defeat to relegation-battling Leeds triggered something in the collective Arsenal mind in May 2003. They would not taste Premier League defeat again until October 2004: a run of 49 games and 17 months that has set the benchmark against which every unbeaten start has been measured since.

 

2004/05
The last side to lose? Arsenal
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Nine
Where did they finish?
2nd

Arsenal’s air of invincibility lingered long enough to make them the side with the longest unbeaten start to the following season. Wayne Rooney’s birthday tumble finally exposed a chink in the armour that Jose Mourinho fully exploited come May. Chelsea broke records in winning their first Premier League title, with their only defeat coming after eight games to Manchester City.

 

2005/06
The last side to lose? Chelsea
How many games did they go unbeaten?
11
Where did they finish?
1st

It turns out that the longest winning run to start a Premier League season is one of the longest unbeaten starts too. Go figure. Chelsea did not even concede until their seventh game, never mind come close to losing. By the time they did slip – against Manchester United in November – Wigan were second, Bolton were fourth, Charlton were fifth and West Ham were sixth. This was only just over a decade ago.

 

2006/07
The last side to lose? Aston Villa
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Nine
Where did they finish?
11th

In the first season under the ownership of massive sex education fan Randy Lerner, Aston Villa were initially hard to beat. Martin O’Neill’s side drew six of their opening nine Premier League games, and it was not until a trip to Liverpool that they would first taste defeat. They would eventually finish firmly ensconced in mid-table in 11th, but were never higher than fifth at any point despite their solid start.

 

2007/08
The last side to lose? Arsenal and Liverpool
How many games did they go unbeaten?
15 each
Where did they finish?
3rd and 4th respectively

Liverpool really have been here before. Unlike when they set the pace five years prior, they were being matched stride for stride by Arsenal in 2007. Both were unbeaten after 15 Premier League games, with Arsenal winning 11 and drawing four, and Liverpool winning nine and drawing six. And both met their demise at the hands of unlikely sources: Middlesbrough ended Arsenal’s run, while Reading ably tripped Liverpool up. Manchester United and Chelsea overtook them both by May, both domestically and in Europe.

 

2008/09
The last side to lose? Liverpool
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Ten
Where did they finish?
2nd

Everyone is familiar with the story of jungle King Harry Redknapp’s rescue mission at Tottenham. Spurs had -427 points from 52 games when he was parachuted in to replace Juande Ramos in October 2008, and he dragged them from non-league to eighth in the Premier League in a single season. His actual achievement of taking them from bottom to eighth come May was rather impressive, mind, and part of it was to inflict upon Liverpool their first defeat of the season in November. Liverpool would lose just once more all campaign, yet a series of disappointing draws saw them finish four points behind Manchester United.

 

2009/10
The last side to lose? Chelsea
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Six
Where did they finish?
1st

The title of joint-shortest longest unbeaten start to a Premier League season is still held by Chelsea. Carlo Ancelotti’s six straight victories to begin a Premier League managerial career remains a record to this day, a run that stalled when Titus Bramble led Wigan to a 3-1 victory as early as September. The Blues would soon get themselves back on track, just about resisting Manchester United’s own charge to win the crown.

 

2010/11
The last side to lose? Manchester United
How many games did they go unbeaten?
24
Where did they finish?
1st

With the second-longest unbeaten start to a Premier League season, Manchester United never looked in particular danger of being pipped to the post in 2010/11. By the time they reached February, their only defeat in any competition came in the League Cup against West Ham. But little old Wolves sprung quite the surprise with a 2-1 win at Molineux that did not even lift the hosts off the bottom of the table. George bloody Elokobi scored.

 

2011/12
The last side to lose? Manchester City
How many games did they go unbeaten?
14
Where did they finish?
1st

After a gradual rise from 10th to 5th and then 3rd in the previous three seasons, Manchester City were ready to come of age in 2011/12. Sergio Aguero would deliver a dramatic first top-flight title in 44 years, but it might never have happened without 12 wins in their first 14 games. That gave City breathing space, something which five defeats from December to April almost wasted. But they ended the season as they started it, winning their final six games with the squeakiest of posteriors.

 

2012/13
The last side to lose? Manchester City
How many games did they go unbeaten?
15
Where did they finish?
2nd

City went one better but finished one worse the following season. Determined to keep their crown, Roberto Mancini’s men won nine and drew six of their opening 15 games, yet were still second behind Manchester United by the time they hosted their bitter rivals in December. Robin van Persie’s stoppage-time winner sent United six points clear, and they never looked back.

 

2013/14
The last side to lose? Everton
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Six
Where did they finish?
5th

Arsenal (1st) lost their opening game. Liverpool (2nd) were beaten in their fourth. Tottenham (3rd) suffered defeat in their third, Chelsea (5th) lost their fifth, and Southampton (6th) fell in their third. Which left fourth-placed Everton as the Premier League’s only unbeaten team after six games in 2013/14. Manchester United had already lost three times by the time Manchester City finally ended Roberto Martinez’s reign in October.

 

2014/15
The last side to lose? Chelsea
How many games did they go unbeaten?
14
Where did they finish?
1st

Chelsea went top of the table with a 3-1 win over Burnley in their opening game of the 2014/15 Premier League season, and they would not relinquish that spot for the rest of the campaign. But the Blues could not quite avoid defeat throughout the entire second half of the year. Newcastle inflicted just one of three losses all season, with a Papiss Cisse double ending their 23-game unbeaten run.

 

2015/16
The last side to lose? Leicester
How many games did they go unbeaten?
Six
Where did they finish?
1st

Wins over Sunderland, West Ham and Aston Villa, combined with draws against Tottenham, Bournemouth and Stoke, were hardly enough to convince the world of Leicester’s Premier League title credentials. A 5-2 defeat to Arsenal in September felt like their uppance had finally come, yet the Foxes lost just twice more in the subsequent 30 games to seal the most miraculous of title wins.

 

2016/17
Who was the last side to lose? Tottenham
How many games did they go unbeaten?
12
Where did they finish?
2nd

‘The only positive is that the unbeaten run has finally fallen,’ read one of 16 Conclusions from Tottenham’s first league defeat of the 2016/17 season. ‘Draws and narrow victories have papered over the cracks of a season’s worth of poor performances littered with brief spates of excellence.’ Any issues were soon sorted, and only a phenomenal Chelsea run kept Tottenham from going top with 12 wins from their final 13 games.

 

2017/18
The last side to lose? Manchester City
How many games did they go unbeaten?
22
Where did they finish?
1st

The pretenders to the Invincibles’ crown looked the most likely team to match Arsenal’s 2003/04 achievements in some time. They won 20 of their first 22 games, sweeping aside any and every side that dared stand in their way. But they did not account for the whirlwind that was Liverpool, whose three goals in nine second-half minutes of a 4-3 win stunned City just long enough to prevent a response. That defeat cut City’s lead at the top to a tiny 12 points with 15 games remaining. They somehow held on to win the title.

 

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