At 4.54pm yesterday, Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-1 and so completed a season of top-level League football without a defeat, the first time this has been achieved since goal nets and penalty kicks were invented. That, for those not in possession of an encyclopaedic knowledge of football trivia, was 115 years ago.
And readers should excuse us that John Motsonish moment, for, if ever there was a day for anoraks and statistics, then yesterday was it.
Arsenal have played 38 games this season without losing, a total of some 58 hours 20 minutes, not allowing for time added on. They have used 22 players, scored 73 goals, conceded 26, and only failed to score on four occasions. Among those present to see that there was no falsification of the data was Piers Morgan, late of the Daily Mirror. He was a guest of the boxing promoter Frank Warren, and so was, for a change, escorted to his seat rather than from it. He witnessed his team equal a record set 115 years ago by Preston, more famous now as the location for the faked photographs published by Mr Morgan. Anyone who saw Preston in all their glory is now long gone. They stare at us from fading photographs, sporting music hall moustaches and long shorts, names known only to us by comic snippets, such as Goodall the forward who kept a pet fox, and Russell the defender whose work as an end-of-the-pier comedian meant he missed the start of the season.
But in their day they were formidable. In a First Division season of 22 games, they did not lose, failed to win only once at home, scored 74 goals, and won the title by 4 January. At last there is a side to match them.
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