November: the day of ending the scoring records

30 November is one of those curious days in which two linked events across different years happen.  Most curiously those events happened just one year apart.
November 2002:
Arsenal entered this season as league and cup holders, but without Tony Adams who had retired.  On 28 September 2002 Arsenal beat Leeds 4-1 away, to break the record by scoring in 47 consecutive games and making it 22 away games without defeat.
The record run had begun on on 19 May 2001 with a 3-2 away win at Southampton.
Arsenal ended the 2002/3 season coming second in the league but retaining the FA Cup.  They also started the 49 consecutive games without defeat run against Southampton on 7 May 2003.
November 2003:
We are in the unbeaten season – the greatest season ever in the club’s history where the club recorded 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 defeats, to win the league.
But although the season was a triumph November 2003 contained the end of a record.    Arsenal 0 Fulham 0 was the first failure to score in 46 matches at Highbury. The last time it had happened was in the match against Middlesbrough on Saturday 14 April 2001 where Arsenal lost 0-3.  The sequence of scoring at Highbury started on 21 April 2001 with Arsenal 4 Everton 1).
The Guardian called Arsenal, after the draw with Fulham on 30 November 2003, “strong in the string section but short on percussion,” after the game.   But it was in fact only one of four occasions in which Arsenal failed to score in the season, the others being 0-0 draws with Birmingham, Newcastle, and Manchester United.

What makes the 0-0 draw with Fulham interesting is that it followed one of Arsenal’s great triumphs – the 5-1 win at Inter Milan.   Arsenal could have won the game, but Edwin van der Sar in the Fulham goal chose this moment to pull out all the stops, and shots that would have gone in on any other day, were saved.

It is also worth noting that we had Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp on the pitch but there was quite an injury list with Ray Parlour, Patrick Vieira, Sylvain Wiltord, out and Martin Keown and Lauren both suspended.   Kolo Toure played at right back and Pascal Cygan was centre half.   Moritz Volz, on loan from Arsenal, started at right back for Fulham.

But despite the absences Arsenal played well, and totally dominated most of the game.  The reporters however were just getting into a new theme for criticising Arsenal.  “Their only failing seemed to be a tendency to over-elaborate at the vital moment,” said the man from the BBC.

In the end Arsenal brought on Kanu along with Bergkamp and Henry and it seemed the goal had to come, but it just wouldn’t.  Van der Sar played the game of his life and the run was over.

The records:

  • Consecutive games at home, scoring in every game
  • Consecutive games, home and away, scoring in every game
  • Away games without defeat

14 April 2001 Arsenal 0 Middlesbrough3.  The last game without an Arsenal goal at Highbury before the run.

21 April 2001 Arsenal 4 Everton 1 – the start of the sequence of scoring in every game at Highbury.

19 May 2001  Southampton 3 Arsenal 2 – but Arsenal launch the record of scoring in 47 consecutive games.

18 August 2001 Middlesbrough 0 Arsenal 4 – the start of the run of away games without defeat.

28 September 2002 Leeds 1 Arsenal 4 breaking the record by scoring in 47 consecutive games.  And…

28 September 2002 Leeds 1 Arsenal 4 – 22 away games without defeat.

30 November 2002 Arsenal 3 Aston Villa.  The last game of the sequence of Arsenal games without failing to score

7 December 2002: Man U 2 Arsenal 0

30 November 2003 Arsenal 0 Fulham 0 – the first failure to score in 46 matches at Highbury.


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