If you could bottle the optimism of football fans during the summer, the world would be a brighter, happier place.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for that positivity to dissipate in the face of a wretched start to the campaign – just ask Chelsea fans, who after witnessing owner Todd Boehly empty his bank account on new players have been forced to watch on as the Blues succumb to their worst start to a campaign in 45 years.
Equally slow out the blocks were Luton Town, albeit predictably so given their lack of resources. After losing their opening four games, the Hatters finally got their first Premier League point against Wolves in a 1-1 draw.
Even Derby County in 2007/08 – the worst-ever Premier League campaign in history with just eleven points won – at least got a point on the board with a stalemate against Portsmouth.
So where does Luton’s effort stack up in the list of most point-less starts to a Premier League season?
Crystal Palace (2017/18)
|1||12/08/17||Huddersfield Town||Home||3-0 Loss|
|3||26/08/17||Swansea City||Home||2-0 Loss|
|6||23/09/17||Manchester City||Away||5-0 Loss|
|7||30/09/17||Manchester United||Away||4-0 Loss|
The worst start to a Premier League season, by a country mile, is an accolade shared by poor old Crystal Palace in 2017/18 and Portsmouth’s dire straits of 2009/10.
Ask any Palace fans about Frank de Boer’s very short reign as head coach and they generally shudder before getting a glazed look in their eyes.
De Boer oversaw part of what is, technically, the most point-less start to a Premier League season. The Eagles lost their opening seven games, but unlike Portsmouth before them they failed to score a single goal in that run – racking up an eye-watering goal difference of -17.
The Dutchman was sacked after just four games and 77 days in charge at the Selhurst Park club, with his successor Roy Hodgson also failing to put a point on the board in his opening three matches in the hotseat.
The breakthrough moment finally came in week eight against Chelsea, where a 2-1 win finally gave some hope to Eagles supporters. Hodgson steadied the ship, and by the end of the season Palace were comfortably ensconced in mid table.
|2||19/08/09||Birmingham City||Away||1-0 Loss|
|4||30/08/09||Manchester City||Home||1-0 Loss|
|5||12/09/09||Bolton Wanderers||Home||3-2 Loss|
|6||19/09/09||Aston Villa||Away||2-0 Loss|
|8||03/10/09||Wolverhampton Wanderers||Away||1-0 Win|
So poor were their finances that Portsmouth were forced to get rid of their highest earners before a ball had been kicked of the 2009/10 season, replacing them with journeymen on free transfers and loan transfers.
That drop-off in quality was clear for all to see in their opening games, which resulted in seven straight losses – the joint-worst start to an EPL campaign.
Hallelujah! They finally got some points on the board in their eight league game of the season, with a narrow 1-0 victory over Wolves finally giving Pompey fans something to cheer about.
But the mood would darken soon enough. So bad were Portsmouth’s finances that they were placed into administration that very season, and the nine-point deduction that followed condemned them to relegation and precipitated an almighty slide down the English football pyramid.
Norwich City (2021/22)
|2||21/08/21||Manchester City||Away||5-0 Win|
|3||28/08/21||Leicester City||Home||2-1 Loss|
Something of a yo-yo club between the Premier League and the Championship, in latter days Norwich City’s approach to life in the top-flight has been to use the money earned to consolidate – rather than throwing the kitchen sink at staying up.
As Luton have found in 2023/24, that’s a strategy that can make life very difficult out on the pitch, and Norwich’s start to the 2021/22 campaign was indicative of the perils of adopting such a conservative approach.
The Canaries lost their opening six games on the spin, shipping 16 goals in the process.
They finally got off the mark in gameweek seven against Burnley, but it was too little, too late for Daniel Farke who lost his job in November 2021. His successor, Dean Smith, fared little better in a campaign that Norwich were doomed to relegation from the outset.
|2||22/08/98||Charlton Athletic||Away||5-0 Loss|
|3||29/08/98||Nottingham Forest||Home||2-1 Loss|
|4||08/09/98||Leeds United||Away||3-0 Loss|
|5||12/09/98||Newcastle United||Away||4-0 Loss|
|6||19/09/98||Tottenham Hotspur||Home||1-1 Draw|
Going point-less in your opening five games of the season is not a great way of imbibing your supporters with positivity – as the fans of Southampton during this particular vintage can attest.
The Saints lost their opening quintet of outings in 1998/99, conceding a whopping 3.20 goals per game – that is undoubtedly the worst defensive start to a Premier League season.
While these point-less runs have typically had an unhappy ending too, the good news for Southampton is that they would see in the new millennium as a Premier League club – a string of wins in the second half of the season, including three in a row to close out the campaign, was enough to see the Saints march on as a top-flight concern.
Luton Town (2023/24)
|1||12/08/23||Brighton & Hove Albion||Away||4-1 Loss|
|3||01/09/23||West Ham United||Home||2-1 Loss|
|5||23/09/23||Wolverhampton Wanderers||Home||1-1 Draw|
Although their performances weren’t that bad, Luton Town’s start to their maiden Premier League campaign also makes the list.
The EPL super-computer wasn’t particularly kind with its fixture list, pairing the Hatters with Brighton, Chelsea and West Ham out of the gate – the situation exacerbated by the postponed contest with Burnley, which was rescheduled to allow construction work at Kenilworth Road to be completed.
Those three defeats were followed by a fourth against Fulham, where the Hatters were the better side for much of the game, before they finally got up and running with a point against Wolves.