Chelsea’s bid to set a new Premier League record for most consecutive matches won in a single season fell short last time out, as the Blues lost 2-0 to Spurs at White Hart Lane. After winning thirteen Premier League games in a row and equaling the single-season record set by North London rivals Arsenal in 2002, Chelsea had to settle for a share of the spoils and the record. But who did it better? Answering this question is mandatory because the teams involved are Chelsea and Arsenal.
I agree that the answer to this question is subjective as I believe there is always a bigger story to be told in football. However, let’s try to answer this question as objectively as possible, using the available parameters.
*The final points are simply twice the teams’ tallies after Matchweek 19.
Chelsea’s winning streak, which is still fresh in our memory, will be long remembered, perhaps as much for the change in formation as the wins themselves. Conte’s response to the back-to-back losses against Liverpool and Arsenal had been more emphatic and successful than anyone’s wildest dreams could’ve envisioned it, with Chelsea collecting 39 points out of an available 39 and rising from eighth to six points clear in first.
*The fixtures were not synchronous as matches were postponed due to FA Cup, due to which not all teams played the same number of matches at the end of a gameweek
Arsenal’s winning streak came at the tail end of the 2001-02 season. The Gunners were in a closely contested title race and were in fourth place at the start of it, three points behind league leaders Manchester United with a game in hand. During the run of thirteen victories, Manchester united dropped eight points, Liverpool dropped five, and Newcastle suffered a massive outage and dropped a whopping 17 points to hand the title to Arsenal. It should be noted that during the run, Arsenal had to visit Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend of the season. Arsenal needed only a draw to win the title but a Sylvain Wiltord goal at the hour mark secured the three points as well as the continuation of the winning streak.
Given the timing and circumstances of both streaks, it’s fair to say that Arsenal’s run was more important. It came at the business end of the season, with the title on the line. That said, the Premier League of 15 years ago was a bit more top heavy, a bit easier without all the money in mid-table and smaller clubs as well. The difference in the quality of squads of Manchester United or Arsenal and the rest of the league was significantly higher than compared to today’s Premier League.
In contrast Chelsea’s run probably came in the toughest domestic league in the history of professional football. In addition, Chelsea faced opponents who had more points per game (1.393) and a better average league position (10.462) than Arsenal’s opponents had (1.339 and 10.615, respectively) when Arsenal faced them. Chelsea also scored more goals (32 vs. 29) and conceded fewer (4 vs. 8). Arsenal’s winning streak propelled them to the title, but there’s a good chance Chelsea’s winning streak will have proven just as useful by the end of the season.
In conclusion, the answer is Chelsea, of course. With the disclaimer that if we don’t win the title, the winning streak will be far less likely to be remembered.