At the start of the 21st century, Arsenal were one of the very best teams in the world.
Arsene Wenger helped turn the Gunners’ fortunes around at the end of the 1990s and put them back on the footballing map for good.
However, it’s been a while since Arsenal’s glory days, which featured the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira. It’s a different club in a different landscape.
Here’s the lowdown on when Arsenal have won the Premier League, why they haven’t won it since their last triumph, when they could next become champions of England and more.
The last time that Arsenal won the Premier League was in the 2003/04 season, back when it was called the ‘Barclaycard Premiership’.
This campaign is widely known as the Gunners’ ‘Invincibles’ year, going unbeaten in their 38 league games, winning 26 of them. It remains the only occasion in Premier League history where a team has gone the entire campaign without defeat and only the second time in English top-flight football, with Preston North End recording such a feat all the way back in 1888/89.
To mark that achievement, Arsenal were awarded a special all-gold Premier League trophy. This was gifted to Wenger upon his departure in 2018.
Before that, Arsenal also won Premier League titles in 1997/98 and 2001/02, while they took home the old Division 1 crown on ten occasions.
Only Manchester United (13), Manchester City (6) and Chelsea (5) have won the Premier League more often than Arsenal, while Liverpool (19) have also won total English top divisions on more occasions.
Arsenal’s Premier League finishes & how many points they finished behind the champions
1992/93: 10th on 56pts; 28pt deficit*
1993/94: 4th on 71pts; 21pt deficit*
1994/95: 12th on 51pts; 38pt deficit*
1995/96: 5th on 63pts; 19pt deficit
1996/97: 3rd on 68pts; 7pt deficit
1997/98: 1st on 78pts
1998/99: 2nd on 78pts; 1pt deficit
1999/00: 2nd on 73pts; 18pt deficit
2000/01: 2nd on 70pts; 10pt deficit
2001/02: 1st on 87pts
2002/03: 2nd on 78pts; 5pt deficit
2003/04: 1st on 90pts
2004/05: 2nd on 83pts; 12pt deficit
2005/06: 4th on 67pts; 24pt deficit
2006/07: 4th on 68pts; 21pt deficit
2007/08: 3rd on 83pts; 4pt deficit
2008/09: 4th on 72pts; 18pt deficit
2009/10: 3rd on 75pts; 11pt deficit
2010/11: 4th on 68pts; 12pt deficit
2011/12: 3rd on 70pts; 19pt deficit
2012/13: 4th on 73pts; 16pt deficit
2013/14: 4th on 79pts 7pt deficit
2014/15: 3rd on 75pts; 12pt deficit
2015/16: 2nd on 71pts; 10pt deficit
2016/17: 5th on 75pts; 18pt deficit
2017/18: 6th on 63pts; 37pt deficit
2018/19: 5th on 70pts; 28pt deficit
2019/20: 8th on 56pts; 43pt deficit
2020/21: 8th on 61pts; 25pt deficit
2021/22: 6th on 69pts; 24pt deficit
One of the major factors behind Arsenal’s inability to win the Premier League since 2004 is ironically linked to a motive to help them remain at the top.
After establishing themselves as the rivals to Manchester United in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Gunners realised their comparative lack of matchday revenues was holding them back. They decided to leave their spiritual home of Highbury for the state-of-the-art Emirates Stadium.
However, Arsenal spent the first decade or so at their new home paying off the debt they incurred to build the arena in the first place, meaning they often had to sell key players to try to balance the books. In the mean time, Man Utd’s revenue streams continued to grow and Roman Abramovich pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into Chelsea prior to the implementation of Financial Fair Play rules.
Once Arsenal had largely paid off the stadium debt – around the time they made big moves for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in 2013 and 2014 respectively – the Premier League landscape was completely different. Manchester City had also been taken over and turned into a powerhouse, while Liverpool and Tottenham were beginning to spend smarter.
The back end of the Wenger era suggested that while he did well to guide the club through their debt-ridden years, they were in need of fresh ideas. However, Unai Emery didn’t seem to be the right replacement and Mikel Arteta has had to take Arsenal a few steps back in order to get them moving forward again.
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As mentioned, Arteta has at least overseen some progress in N5.
Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification by two points at the end of the 2021/22 season, though admittedly did have their fate in their own hands and squandered a top-four finish down the final stretch.
But Arteta has clearly got the respect of everyone within the club and is moulding a team in his own image. If Arsenal can at least spend money on a level comparable if not just a little lower than their ‘big six’ rivals, then they can continue to close the gap.
That said, winning the Premier League is no easy feat and it would probably also require the other top sides to make some poor decisions to open the door for another successful Arsenal title challenge. By the end of the 2020s, the Gunners should have at least worked themselves back into a position to compete for the crown.