Charting Arsenal's Repeated Spring Collapses
Arsenal's springtime collapse this season is nothing new.
Unfortunately, the Gunners have a nasty habit of falling away at the business end of the season. In this piece, we look back at some of the seasons in which Arsenal have stumbled before the finish line.
Go to the first slide to see how this troubling tendency to capitulate all began.
Arsenal’s first late-season collapse came way back in 2003.
On 2 March, Arsenal held an eight-point lead over the rest of the Premier League. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power even paid out on them as title-winners.
However, shortly afterwards, Arsenal suffered their first defeat of the calendar year against Blackburn Rovers. It would start a spiral that would end with Manchester United lifting the title in their stead.
Own goals played a crucial role in Arsenal’s demise. Kolo Toure stabbed in to his own net to gift Aston Villa a draw. A late backward header from Martin Keown allowed Sam Allardyce’s Bolton to grab a late equaliser.
The final straw came when Arsenal suffered a 3-2 defeat at home to Leeds United. Arsenal had needed a win to retain any hope of finishing top.
In 2007-08, Arsenal led the Premier League for the majority of the campaign, only to fall away and finish in third place.
Arsenal had sold Thierry Henry in the summer of 2007, but suffered few ill-effects. Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up brilliantly to replace him, and would go on to score 30 goals across all competitions.
Defeat against Sevilla in November brought an end to an impressive 28 match unbeaten run.
However, it was not until February that things really collapsed. In that very same month, the Gunners had held a five-point lead. Nevertheless, they came undone at St. Andrews, losing to Birmingham. Perhaps more significantly, they lost Eduardo to a horrific leg injury.
Four consecutive draws in the league followed, and Arsenal’s title challenge faltered.
In 2009-10, Arsenal lost three of their last five games.
Once again, their poor run seemed to be precipitated by a body blow at Birmingham. On this occasion, an equaliser in stoppage time from Kevin Phillips knocked Arsenal's confidence and slender title ambitions.
In the resulting run-in, Arsenal also managed to allow a two-goal lead to slip to lose at Wigan. Never has one match so painfully illustrated this team's capacity for capitulation.
2010-11 might be the season in which Arsenal imploded most spectacularly.
Once again, Birmingham City featured prominently. They seem to hold the power to jinx Arsenal from almost any position, and send them plummeting toward disaster.
On this occasion, the two sides met in the League Cup final. A six-year wait for a trophy was surely about to end. However, a late mix-up between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny allowed Obafemi Martins to pounce and win the cup for the midlanders.
Arsenal lost the final on 27 February. After that, their season collapsed. Arsenal had been within just a point of league leaders Manchester United, but their poor form allowed United to canter in to the distance.
After that, the Gunners won just two of their remaining 11 games.
In the past couple of years, Arsenal's seasons have had the inverse look to them: They have started poorly but finished strongly.
This season, they've been back to their old tricks. Having led the table for much of the campaign, they've come unstuck in the crucial spring period. Injuries have once again played a massive part, but the primary factor has been their inability to cope with matches against the big teams. The 6-0 defeat away to Chelsea might just be the nadir of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal reign.
There is hope of a reprieve: an FA Cup final date awaits. If Arsenal can end their long wait for a trophy at Wembley, this season could yet be spared from ending on a diminuendo.
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