By Brian Sears
24 September 2010
Four teams remain unbeaten in the Premier League after five rounds of matches and three of them are the “usual suspects” in that Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have done it the most often of all the Premier League clubs. But Fulham have now achieved the feat for the first time in their 10 Premier League seasons, unbeaten in five thanks to a home win, a home draw and three away draws. Tomorrow they host Everton, without a win yet this season.
Last season was very different. For the first time in the Premier League era (since 1992), only one side – Chelsea – went as long as five games before tasting defeat. Chelsea, of course, went on to be champions to register the 10th time out of the 18 completed seasons that the eventual champions had gone at least their first five games unbeaten.
What does this tell us statistically? That the eventual champions, more often than not, have started with five unbeaten games. That would suggest this season’s champions will come from Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal . . . or Fulham.
Seven current Premier League clubs have yet to achieve the feat of starting with five unbeaten games.
Here’s the list with the number of seasons they have been trying in brackets: Bolton (12), Sunderland (10), Wigan (6), West Brom (5), Stoke (3), Wolves (3) and Blackpool (1).
In all, 57 sides in the 19 seasons of Premier League football (or an average of three sides per season) have now managed to go the first five games of a season unbeaten; famously in 2003-04, Arsenal went the whole season without a defeat and then nine games into the next season.
That Arsenal season of seven years ago saw the only time that as many as five sides were unbeaten for at least the first five games. Those teams (with eventual run of unbeaten games in brackets): Arsenal (38), Chelsea (8), Birmingham (6), Southampton (6) and Portsmouth (5).
Here’s the list of clubs that have achieved the first five games unbeaten and the number of times they’ve done it.
FIRST FIVE GAMES UNBEATEN IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE 1992-2010
10 times: Chelsea
8 times: Arsenal
7 times: Man Utd
5 times: Liverpool
4 times: Aston Villa, Blackburn
Twice: Everton, Leeds, Nottm Forest, Portsmouth
Once: Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Fulham, Ipswich, Leicester, Man City, Newcastle, Southampton, Tottenham, West Ham
Early avoidance of defeat is not a sure guarantee of eventual success. Five seasons ago, Manchester City began with three wins and two draws but ended up 15th. And in 1994-95, Aston Villa had three draws and two wins to begin their campaign but subsided to 18th by the season’s end. But so far no side has managed five unbeaten opening games and then got itself relegated.