When the 22-year Arsene Wenger era at Arsenal came to an end in the summer, many people expected 2018-19 to be a difficult season of transition for the Gunners under new boss Unai Emery.
The former PSG coach began the Premier League campaign with back-to-back losses against Manchester City and Chelsea, while plenty of questions were being asked about the north Londoners’ defence after they conceded eight goals in their first four league matches.
Since then, Emery’s side have conceded just three goals in five matches, making them one of the league’s most difficult defences to play against, and the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have started to recreate their best form going forward during a run of seven consecutive league wins (10 in all competitions).
After nine league games, the Gunners occupy fourth place and share an identical record (W7 D0 L2) with rivals Tottenham, in fifth place, with just two goals separating them in the table.
Spurs’ form isn’t all that surprising, given that they have qualified for the Champions League in each of the last three seasons, but it is still incredible to think that two teams with such impressive records after nine games are not even in the top three.
So, with Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham all separated by only two points, should we really be considering the two north London clubs as serious title contenders?
Let’s take a look at the four previous teams who have had the same record as the Gunners and Spurs at this stage (W7 D0 L2) to see how they went on to finish the season.
1996-97: Newcastle United
After nine games (1st): A few months on from his infamous “love it” rant, Kevin Keegan led his Newcastle side to the top of the table with seven wins and two losses from nine games.
End of the season (2nd): Following a bad run of one win in 10 games between October and December, Newcastle made huge improvements in the second half of the campaign but they were unable to catch Manchester United.
After nine games (2nd): Despite an impressive tally of 21 points from nine games, there were doubts about Chelsea’s consistency following surprising defeats away to Wigan and Aston Villa.
End of the season (1st): Carlo Ancelotti’s men scored 103 goals in 38 Premier League games to win the title. They handed out thumping victories over Sunderland (7-2), Portsmouth (0-5), Aston Villa (7-1), Stoke (7-0) and Wigan (8-0) along the way.
2012-13: Manchester United
After nine games (2nd): A few months after losing the title in the final seconds of the 2011-12 season to Manchester City, Manchester United picked up some impressive victories at the start of 2012-13, notably away to Chelsea (2-3), but questions were being asked following losses against Everton and Tottenham.
End of the season (1st): Manchester City and Chelsea fell away midway through the campaign and United cruised to their final title under Sir Alex Ferguson, ending 2012-13 11 points clear of second-placed City.
2015-16: Manchester City
After nine games (1st): Shocking defeats against West Ham at home (1-2) and Tottenham away (4-1) put a dampener on Manchester City’s table-topping start to the season, but they were still seen as the favourites to win the title.
End of the season (4th): City suffered a terrible run of form between November and March, winning six matches out of a possible 16, and Leicester ran away with the title in one of the most surprising Premier League seasons in history.
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