The short answer to when Arsenal last won the Premier League is during the 2003/04 season. However, in this piece, we will look at their performances since then, in the almost 20 years since they claimed the biggest domestic trophy. Arsenal have always been regarded as one of the Premier League’s big six clubs, and before that one of the established big four. As such, they have been considered a dangerous opponent to play against and one that should be challenging for the title.
However, since their last Premier League championship success in the 2003-04 season, they have gone somewhat downhill and have not found title-winning form for a long time. This is down to a number of factors, however, it is hard for many fans to accept how it happened, especially after coming off the back of a league-winning “invincible” season, which some consider to be the most impressive run of any Premier League team ever.
Arsenal Managers Over the Years
After winning their latest Premier League title the manager at the time, Arsène Wenger, stayed with Arsenal for a further 14 seasons. Looking back, that may surprise many, given their relative lack of success. However, that period was filled with a mixture of title challenges, upsets, and frustration for the fans.
Wenger’s Rise & Demise
Although Wenger had some success in the FA Cup and the Community Shield, many supporters grew restless about not winning European titles or league titles during his time at the club. A lot of this came down to losing senior players through retirement and transfers away from the club to seek success elsewhere, and the toll of this can be seen in the downfall of Arsenal’s league finishes over the years.
After Arsenal’s title win in the 2003-04 season, Wenger managed to get the club to finish second twice, third four times, fourth six times, fifth once, and sixth once. For many clubs, this would be a period of remarkable consistency but when you are accustomed to challenging for the title almost every season, it is not enough.
Fans Grow Disatisfied – ‘Wenger Out’
It certainly failed to satisfy the fans, with a steady decrease in their league finishes leading many to call for Wenger to leave the club. This came to a head with finishes of fifth and sixth in Wenger’s last two years at the club. Finishing third or fourth, which the Gunners did every year between 2006 and 2015, was bad enough, but missing out on the Champions League was even worse. Perhaps more importantly, for the owners, it was very damaging financially.
Many supporters had a lot of faith in Wenger after he led the Gunners to the title in the 2003-04 season, especially when it was an invincible season where they managed to play the whole campaign without losing a game in the Premier League. However, things can change quickly in football and in many ways the most surprising thing about Wenger’s demise is how he clung on for so long.
During his last year at the club, many Arsenal fans adopted the phrase ‘Wenger Out’ as a protest for the club owners to sack him and get a new manager and it worked. With Wenger’s team finishing sixth in the 2017-18 season, he was sacked and replaced by Unai Emery a Spanish manager who moved from the French club PSG.
Enter Unai Emery … Briefly
Emery had a very disappointing spell at Arsenal and only managed to stay in charge until November of 2019 after arriving the season before. Many fans had high expectations when Emery came to the club as he had been managing PSG before his arrival, a top team with world-class talents. What’s more, prior to that the Spanish boss had won a hat-trick of Europa League titles with Sevilla.
Yet, with the fans demanding an improvement and wanting to win the Premier League again, a fifth-place finish in his first season spelt trouble. To make matters worse, the Gunners finished behind rivals Tottenham Hotspur and a very poor start to his second season simply was not enough for the fans, who had little confidence in his ability to get the club where they should be.
‘Trust the Process’: Mikel Arteta Gives Fans Hope
Not long after Emery’s departure, club legend and ex-captain Mikel Arteta came back to manage the Gunners after being an assistant coach to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. With Pep a manager who is renowned for his trophy-winning capabilities and brilliant football, Gunners once again had hope.
Many fans were excited to see what Arteta could do for the club however many were sceptical about whether Arteta could do the job having only ever been an assistant coach and never managed a team on his own. However, the owners of the team backed Arteta and asked the fans to trust the process and that success would come if they were patient.
With Arteta getting the club an eighth-place finish in the half-season he had with them, it was no surprise that many fans were not happy. The modern game is not renowned for being filled with patience and a good swathe of supporters were already calling for the boot. This was also the case the following season where again Arsenal only managed an eighth-place finish and again finished behind long-time rivals Tottenham.
Many of the Emirates faithful started getting frustrated with rival fans reminding them to ‘trust the process’ (an Arteta mantra) with the midfielder’s time at Arsenal seeming like a disaster. Impatient Arsenal supporters believed they were seeing no progress and back-to-back eighth-place finishes were the worst consecutive performances Arsenal had experienced since the 1970s!
Nevertheless, Arsenal’s form improved the next season of 2021-22 with them securing a fifth-place finish in the league after signing some major targets, such as Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid, Ben White from Brighton, Tomiyasu from Bologna, and more. Fans still want more from this Arsenal team as again they fell short of a Champions League place to Tottenham, despite it seeming fourth was theirs for the taking for much of the season.
Hope for the Next Season
With the current 2022/23 campaign in progress and Arteta managing the youngest team in the league while being the youngest manager, at the time of writing this article, Arteta’s men seem to be back on form as they are fighting for the Premier League title again. After 22 games they are level at the top with Man City and have a game in hand. Following a stellar first half to the season, it is time to wait and see if they can bring the Premier League title back to the Emirates Stadium again for the club.
After City’s 3-1 win at Arsenal took them to the summit of the table, Pep and co are clear favourites for the title. It was perhaps always a big ask for the Gunners to leap from fifth to first in a single season. However, with their young stars and bright, progressive manager, it is surely only a matter of time before Arsenal end their long wait for another Premier League trophy.
Summary of Arsenal Finishes Since Last PL Title