4 November: Arsenal’s day of catastrophe

On 4 November, in 2001, Arsenal went four down in 20 minutes in the worst half at home in Arsène Wenger years. It ended  Arsenal 2 Charlton 4. 

So why am I mentioning this on our site that promotes all the glory of Arsenal?

Because despite this being a catastrophe this was nonetheless League match 11 of the third Double season.  Which just goes to show – you can’t base everything on one game – although a lot of newspaper reporters do exactly that.

This was the season that Sol Campbell joined Arsenal, playing his first game for us on 18 August 2001.  We beat Middlesbrough away 4-0.

After that game Thierry Henry said, “I saw something today I never saw last season – we played as a team.  It’s the most important thing in football.”

Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and two late goals from Dennis Bergkamp had got the season going against Middlesbrough who had Steve McLaren as their new manager.

This result raised some eyebrows because the previous season, Arsenal’s away form had been poor losing seven matches, and failing to win a single game against any of the top 12 clubs in the league!  How the press and broadcasters had loved that stat – it was quoted day after day, week after week rather like Arsenal’s failure to beat the rest of the “top 6” in recent times.

In fact in 2000/1 Arsenal only won five away games – failing even to beat Bradford City who came bottom.  But this double season of 2001/2 was to be the reverse.

For while in 2000/1 Arsenal lost only one and drew just three home games, in the Double season of 2001/2 the home and away results were… lost three at home, lost zero away.   It was the Unbeaten Away Season.

And I think it is fair to say that Arsenal started their romp through the Boro defence because Pires and Henry had found out exactly how to play together.  The ball was crossed to Henry, Ehiogu headed it (which simply ensured it reached Henry perfectly), Henry chested it down and volleyed it in.

Even Parlour’s sending off for two yellows didn’t hurt and Arsenal kept pressing.  Cole was tripped by Ehiogu who was sent off, Pires scored from the spot and that was that…

… Except Denis Bergkamp who came on as a sub wanted to make his mark.  His first goal was from a tap in after a cross from Cole, his second was a tap in after a cross from Pires.

The team:


Cole, Adams, Campbell, Lauren

Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Parlour,

Wiltord, Henry.

Subs: Jeffers, Bergkamp, van Bronckhorst, Grimandi, Wright

As a season’s opener, it all looked so fine and promising with that away form jinx of the previous season now put to bed once and for all.

Except… Arsenal don’t do it by the book.  In the next game we had a 1-2 home defeat to Leeds.

In fact although Arsenal went top of the league after the 5th match – a 3-1 away win over Fulham on 15 September, it wasn’t until game 32 that Arsenal hit top spot for good, staying there until the end of the season.  The final run involved 20 games without defeat, and 12 straight victories to end the season.

But the strangeness of that season, with its magnificent away record, were the three defeats.  Not defeats against top teams but home defeats to Leeds, as noted above, and then Charlton 2-4 on this day, 4 November, and Newcastle on 18 December, 1-3.

Which really does prove the point.  If you draw conclusions based on one, two or even three defeats, you might not necessarily draw the right conclusions.

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

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