Everyone loves a sporting record, even if it’s set by your bitter rivals, overtime sports fans learn to look back upon it with grudging appreciation. An unbeaten run is always a big deal in football, especially in the English Premier League where competition is ferocious.
What is the longest unbeaten streak in Premier League history? The longest unbeaten streak in Premier League history was set by Arsenal between May 7th 2003 and October 16th 2004. Spanning 3 seasons, Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run saw them go undefeated for an entire season (2003-04) which saw them win the title. That Arsenal side became known as the Invincibles.
The North London club, still based at their historic Highbury home, were led by Arsene Wenger and headlined by Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Viera and Robert Pires. The run started with a thumping 6-1 home win against Southampton in which Pires and Jermaine Pennant each grabbed a hatrick. Followed up with their closing game of the 2002-03 season on the road to already relegated Sunderland, where they crushed them 4-0. Those two wins that set up their 49 game unbeaten run were on the heels of a home defeat to Leeds Utd, which effectively cost Arsenal the title putting them too far behind Manchester United for their final two wins to make a difference. It would be 528 days between beating Southampton 6-1 on May 7th 2003 and their next Premier League defeat on 24th October 2004.
Arsenal’s record breaking 49 game, 528 day, unbeaten Premier League run saw them refuse to lose across 3 Premier League seasons. Winning the final 2 games of 2002-03, going unbeaten for the entire 38 game 2003-04 season and managing 9 games unbeaten in 2004-05.
We have listed the fixtures and results of Arsenal’s record setting 49 unbeaten Premier League run below.
|Arsenal 49 game unbeaten run fixtures, results and scorers – Premier League only|
|1||2002-03||7 May 2003||Southampton||H||6–1||Pires 8′, 22′, 46′, Pennant 15′, 18′, 25′|
|2||2002-03||11 May 2003||Sunderland||A||4–0||Henry 7′, Ljungberg 39′, 78′, 88′|
|3||2003-04||15 August 2003||Everton||H||2–1||Henry 35′ (pen.), Pires 58′|
|4||2003-04||24 August 2003||Middlesbrough||A||4–0||Henry 5′, Gilberto Silva 13′, Wiltord 22′, 60′|
|5||2003-04||27 August 2003||Aston Villa||H||2–0||Campbell 57′, Henry 90′|
|6||2003-04||31 August 2003||Manchester City||H||2–1||Wiltord 48′, Ljungberg 72′|
|7||2003-04||13 September 2003||Portsmouth||H||1–1||Henry 40′ (pen.)|
|8||2003-04||21 September 2003||Manchester United||A||0–0|
|9||2003-04||26 September 2003||Newcastle United||H||3–2||Henry 18′, 80′ (pen.), Gilberto Silva 67′|
|10||2003-04||4 October 2003||Liverpool||A||2–1||Hyypiä 31′ (o.g.), Pires 68′|
|11||2003-04||18 October 2003||Chelsea||H||2–1||Edu 5′, Henry 75′||Henry 39′|
|12||2003-04||26 October 2003||Charlton Athletic||A||1–1||Henry 8′, 33′, Pires 18′, Gilberto Silva 50′|
|13||2003-04||1 November 2003||Leeds United||A||4–1||Pires 69′, Ljungberg 79′|
|14||2003-04||8 November 2003||Tottenham Hotspur||H||2–1||Ljungberg 4′, Bergkamp 80′, Pires 88′|
|15||2003-04||22 November 2003||Birmingham City||A||3–0|
|16||2003-04||30 November 2003||Fulham||H||0–0|
|17||2003-04||6 December 2003||Leicester City||A||1–1||Gilberto Silva 60′|
|18||2003-04||14 December 2003||Blackburn Rovers||H||1–0||Bergkamp 11′|
|19||2003-04||20 December 2003||Bolton Wanderers||A||1–1||Pires 57′|
|20||2003-04||26 December 2003||Wolverhampton Wanderers||H||3–0||Craddock 13′ (o.g.), Henry 20′, 89′|
|21||2003-04||29 December 2003||Southampton||A||1–0||Pires 13′|
|22||2003-04||7 January 2004||Everton||A||1–1||Kanu 29′|
|23||2003-04||10 January 2004||Middlesbrough||H||4–1||Henry 38′ (pen.), Queudrue 45′ (o.g.), Pires 57′, Ljungberg 68′|
|24||2003-04||18 January 2004||Aston Villa||A||2–0||Henry 29′, 53′ (pen.)|
|25||2003-04||1 February 2004||Manchester City||H||2–0||Tarnat 7′ (o.g.), Henry 83′|
|26||2003-04||7 February 2004||Wolverhampton Wanderers||A||3–1||Bergkamp 9′, Henry 58′, Touré 63′|
|27||2003-04||10 February 2004||Southampton||H||2–0||Henry 31′, 90′|
|28||2003-04||21 February 2004||Chelsea||A||2–1||Vieira 15′, Edu 21′|
|29||2003-04||28 February 2004||Charlton Athletic||H||2–1||Pires 2′, Henry 4′|
|30||2003-04||13 March 2004||Blackburn Rovers||A||2–0||Henry 57′, Pires 87′|
|31||2003-04||20 March 2004||Bolton Wanderers||H||2–1||Pires 16′, Bergkamp 24′|
|32||2003-04||28 March 2004||Manchester United||H||1–1||Henry 50′|
|33||2003-04||9 April 2004||Liverpool||H||4–2||Henry 31′, 50′, 78′, Pires 49′|
|34||2003-04||11 April 2004||Newcastle United||A||0–0|
|35||2003-04||16 April 2004||Leeds United||H||5–0||Pires 6′, Henry 27′, 33′ (pen.), 50′, 67′|
|36||2003-04||25 April 2004||Tottenham Hotspur||A||2–2||Vieira 3′, Pires 35′|
|37||2003-04||1 May 2004||Birmingham City||H||0–0|
|38||2003-04||4 May 2004||Portsmouth||A||1–1||Reyes 50′|
|39||2003-04||9 May 2004||Fulham||A||1–0||Reyes 9′|
|40||2003-04||15 May 2004||Leicester City||H||2–1||Henry 47′ (pen.), Vieira 66′|
|41||2004–05||15 August 2004||Everton||A||4–1||Bergkamp 23′, Reyes 39′, Ljungberg 54′, Pires 83′|
|42||2004–05||22 August 2004||Middlesbrough||H||5–3||Henry 25′, 90′, Bergkamp 54′, Reyes 65′, Pires 65′|
|43||2004–05||25 August 2004||Blackburn Rovers||H||3–0||Henry 50′, Gilberto Silva 58′, Reyes 79′|
|44||2004–05||28 August 2004||Norwich City||A||4–1||Reyes 22′, Henry 36′, Pires 40′, Bergkamp 90′|
|45||2004–05||11 September 2004||Fulham||A||3–0||Ljungberg 62′, Knight 65′ (o.g.), Reyes 71′|
|46||2004–05||18 September 2004||Bolton Wanderers||H||2–2||Henry 31′, Pires 66′|
|47||2004–05||25 September 2004||Manchester City||A||1–0||Cole 14′|
|48||2004–05||2 October 2004||Charlton Athletic||H||4–0||Ljungberg 33′, Henry 48′, 69′, Reyes 70′|
|49||2004–05||16 October 2004||Aston Villa||H||3–1||Pires 19′, 72′, Henry 45′|
Arsenal’s unbeaten Premier League run would eventually be halted on a visit to rivals Manchester United in a hotly contested game that bizarrely became known as the “Battle of the Buffet” after a brawl between the two teams broke out which saw United Manager Ferguson hit in the face with a slice of Pizza.
Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run is not only the longest in Premier League history, but also the longest by any team in the English top division. The Premier League was formerly known as Division 1, before rebranding in 1992. Arsenal won 36 and drew 13 of their 49 Premier League games on the historic unbeaten run, including clinching the 2003-04 Premier League title.
While Arsenal managed to avoid defeat for 49 consecutive Premier League games, they didn’t remain unbeaten for that entire time. Arsenal also played in other competitions, namely the FA Cup, the League cup and the UEFA Champions League, ultimately suffering defeat in all competitions.
Arsenal’s invincible season actually started with defeat, albeit in the semi competitive Charity Shield. Having won the FA Cup in the final match of the 2002-03 English football season, Arsenal faced Champions Manchester United. Eventually drawing the match 1-1 and losing 4-3 on penalties.
Arsenal would win 4 games in the 2003-04 FA cup, defeating Leeds, Middlesbrough, Chelsea and Portsmouth before finally losing to Manchester United in the Semi Finals.
The League cup saw them defeat Rotherham, Wolves and West Brom before losing both games over 2 legs to Middlesbrough in the Semi Final.
The Champions League opened up on a low note, getting smacked 3-0 at home by Inter Milan drawing 0-0 on the road to Spartak Moscow and losing in the Ukraine to Dynamo Kiev. They would recover and beat all 3 teams in the corresponding fixtures to top their group. After defeating Celta Vigo in both legs of the first knockout round, they tasted defeat in the quarter finals of the Champions League to Premier League rivals Chelsea. Arsenal got a good 1-1 draw in the first leg away at Stamford Bridge but crumbled at home losing 2-1 to an 87th minute Wayne Bridge goal.
Ultimately excluding the community shield, Arsenal played 58 games in the 2003-04 season. Losing just 4 of them, but importantly none in the Premier League.
At the start of the 2004-05 season, where Arsenal’s 49 game Premier League run would eventually end at Old Trafford on 24th October, before then they would play 3 champions league games without tasting defeat.
Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten Premier League run is one of the greatest sporting achievements in history. However it was almost toppled by Liverpool in 2020. We look at the top 5 all time English top division unbeaten runs below.
2nd – Liverpool: January 12, 2019 – February 24, 2020 44 Premier League Matches unbeaten
In the 2018-19 season Liverpool would lose just 1 game. Traveling to face title rivals Man City on January 3rd 2019 Liverpool were undefeated and had drawn just 3 games. Away to Arsenal and Chelsea and the home fixture against Man City that had finished 0-0. They were flying. Goals from Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane sandwiched one from Liverpool’s Firmino and the game finished 2-1 to City. This was Liverpool’s first Premier League defeat since May 6th 2018, a run spanning 21 games. Ultimately the City defeat proved to be decisive as Liverpool went on to lose the title to Manchester City by just 1 point.
After the City defeat, Liverpool went unbeaten for 44 Premier League games finally losing away to Watford, 3-0, the following season shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the season. Liverpool would return strong and win the league, their first and currently only Premier League title.
Across Liverpool’s 44-game unbeaten Premier League run averaged 2.77 points per game, dropping just 10 of a possible 132 points. Led by Jurgen Klopp, powered by a Jordan Henderson Midfield and headlined by the striking trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino they were a force to be reckoned with. Two players played in every single match during Liverpool’s unbeaten run Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk.
Football history is full of “what ifs” and fine margins. In this case Liverpool had a stunning 21 game unbeaten run, ended by Man City, a result which cost them the title and was immediately followed by a 44 game unbeaten run. You can’t help but think where this Liverpool team would stand in history if they had managed to hold on for a draw at the Emirates on the 3rd January 2019. 21 games, plus a drawer vs City, plus 44 games could have been a 66 game unbeaten run and back to back titles.
3rd – Nottingham Forest: November 26, 1977 – November 25, 1978, 42 Division 1 matches unbeaten.
The record that Arsenal beat when they went undefeated for 49 English top flight games on the bounce belonged to Nottingham Forest. A draw with WBA was their 17th game of the 1977-78 season and Brian Clough would lead them to their only English league title. The run would end the following season losing 2-0 away to Liverpool on December 9, 1978. Just like with Liverpool and City in 2019 the result would prove pivotal, Liverpool beat Forest to the 1978-79 title.
While this run has now been eclipsed by Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League era, Forest do still hold the record for being unbeaten in all competitions by a club playing in the English top-flight, 40 games in a row across 1978.
4th – Chelsea: October 23, 2004 – October 29, 2005, 40 Premier League matches unbeaten
The day before Arsenal’s record 49-game unbeaten run came to an end Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea started an unbeaten run of their own, the fourth-longest in English top flight history.
Following a 1-0 away defeat to Manchester City on October 16, which was also Mourinho’s first as Chelsea manager, his side would go unbeaten for the remaining 29 games of the 2004-05 season, winning the title and then the first 11 games of 2005-06. They would lose in similar fashion to Arsenal a year earlier, going down 1-0 to a Darren Fletcher goal to Manchester United. They would pick themselves up, win 10 straight Premier Games and ultimately a second Premier League title in 2 years.
5th Leeds United: October 26, 1968 – August 26, 1969, 34 Division 1 matches unbeaten
Don Revie led Leeds United to a then record 34 match unbeaten run between October 1968 an August 1969. Following a 5-1 defeat away at Burnley on October 19, Leeds drew three consecutive games 0-0. This kicked off their 34 game unbeaten run, where 28 games came in the 1968-69 season helping Leeds pick up the clubs first top-flight league title.
The run eventually came to an end the following season on Aug. 30, 1969 as they suffered a 3-2 defeat away to Everton. Everton would go on to pip Leeds to the 1969-70 title.
The longest unbeaten league run in football history
Now that we have looked at the best unbeaten runs in English football, let’s see how the rest of the world get on.
Italian giants AC Milan have the longest unbeaten run in football history. The Rossoneri went 58 league games without defeat. In Italy, similar to Arsenal in England, they are known as “Gli invincibili ” (The invincibles). The unbeaten streak ran between 1991 and 1993. It spanned two coaches, Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello, three Serie A titles 1992, 1993 and 1994. The team featured all-time legends such as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Carlo Ancelotti, Marco Van Basten and Guiseppi Signori. In the 1991-1992 season, Milan won just 22 games drawing 12 but were still able to win Serie A.
List of the longest unbeaten top division runs in football history:
- AC Milan: 1991-1993, 58 games
- Bayern Munich: 2012-2014, 53 games
- Arsenal: 2003-2004, 49 games
- Juventus: 2011-2012, 49 games
- Liverpool 2019-2020, 44 games
Longest unbeaten run in international football
One of the craziest stories in football unfolded in the early stages of the 2022 Winter World Cup. Argentina’s shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening match of the FIFA World Cup halted a remarkable unbeaten streak that looked certain to become the longest in international football. However defeat to Saudi Arabia, in the opening game of a world cup they would go on to win, meant that Italy retained their record for the longest unbeaten run in international football with a tally of 37 matches under their belt, just one more than Argentina.
Argentina’s remarkable run of 36 games unbeaten started after a dramatic loss to rivals Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2019 Copa America. During their run they would defeat Brazil 3 times, peaking with a 1-0 win in the 2021 Copa America final against the Brazliians.
|Argentina||36||2019 – 2022|
However Italy’s 2018-2021 unbeaten run remains the longest in international football. Italy’s run is a crazy football story of its own. Italy’s undefeated streak began in 2018 under Roberto Mancini following their failed attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It would span the 2020 European Championships (actually played in 2021), which saw them defeat England in the Final to become champions of Europe and then spectacularly fail to qualify for the Qatar 2022 world cup.
The longest winning run in football history
Going unbeaten is all well and good, but drawing is like kissing your sister, or so they say. German juggernaut Bayern Munich set the longest winning streak in football, winning 23 straight matches in the 2019/2021 season. The streak was ignited by the appointment of head coach Hansi Flick took over after the dismissal of Niko Kovac. Bayern Munich would go on to win the Bundesliga, the DFB Pokal and a sixth club Champions League trophy.