Sometimes, the start of a new season just doesn’t go to plan.
Here, 888sport looks at some of the worst starts to a football season ever seen across the European continent.
Serie A: Napoli (1997/98)
Nothing much was expected in 1997/98 of what was then a consistently mid-table Napoli side, and one far from the Serie A outright frontrunner it is today. A 2-0 defeat to Lazio, followed by a home win over Empoli seemed par for the course.
The first real signs of trouble began on 20 September 1997, when Napoli were held to a disappointing draw at Vicenza. Then came a run that only the worst nightmares of a Napoli fan could generate.
The Neapolitans took precisely three points (via three draws) from the next 48 available. Along the way, Napoli lost by margins of three or more goals on six occasions, and failed to win again until 10 February 1998.
Unbelievably, it was to be Napoli’s final win of the season, and the team took just four points from the next 45, for a paltry grand total of 14.
The more seasoned players in the squad had lost a yard of pace over the summer of 1997, and that proved to be the difference between the 13th place attained in 1996/97, and the horrors of the following campaign.
Also of severe detriment to Napoli’s team spirit was the continual change of coaching staff. No fewer than four different head coaches took to the helm, but none proved capable of doing the impossible.
Ligue 1: Grenoble (2009/10)
While the last two Ligue 1 seasons (2017/18 and 2018/19) have each seen a team draw a blank from the first five rounds of action, those teams in question look like PSG with cybernetic enhancements compared to the Grenoble team of 2009/10.
The club’s venture into greatness was conceived back in 2004, when it was taken over by Index Holdings. The funds of the owners enabled the construction of a new ground, which opened in 2008, and the rebuild of the playing squad.
It was a venture that worked, with promotion to Ligue 1 sealed at the end of 2007/08.
The team held its own in the top flight, finishing 13th. Under the surface, however, financial difficulties were brewing, thanks in no small part to the global recession that shadowed the world at that time.
Thus, with players eying greener pastures, the rapid decline of the club began.
Grenoble Foot 38, as they are now known, remain the only Ligue 1 side in history to lose the first 12 games of a season, after doing so in the autumn of 2009/10.
Frustratingly, perhaps, the only real thrashing they took in that sequence was a 4-0 drubbing at home to Stade Rennais. In most other cases, their defeats were settled by a single goal, indicating that only a slight upping of efforts would reverse the rot.
Naturally, the idea of Grenoble doing so was laughable. They were as good as gone by Christmas, but still managed to scrape five wins and 23 points.
Just two years later, in 2011, the club was liquidated and plunged into the fifth tier of French football under its current name.
Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund (2014/15)
This was nowhere near the actual worst start of a Bundesliga season. That accolade belongs to the Saarbrucken team of 1963/64, but by the standards expected of Borussia Dortmund, the start of 2014/15 was nothing short of terrifying.
Under the management of Jurgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund once again stood as equals to their main rivals Bayern Munich. Klopp’s class first shone through in typically emphatic fashion, as Dortmund won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
He also guided them through to the Champions League final in 2013, and with his squad approaching 2014/15 on the back of successive second-place finishes, hopes were high that the Bundesliga shield would return to the Signal Iduna Park.
It all began innocuously enough, with two wins in the first three rounds of the Bundesliga. However, there then followed a run of just one point from the next twenty-one available, and Dortmund plummeted like Lucifer from heaven.
79th minute - Dortmund 1-2 Augsburg— 888sport (@888sport) October 6, 2018
84th minute - Dortmund 3-2 Augsburg
87th minute - Dortmund 3-3 Augsburg
95th minute - Dortmund 4-3
A 2-1 defeat at Bayern Munich on November 1st 2014 saw them sink into the relegation zone.
A run of just two more wins until February 4th saw Dortmund flit in and out of the drop zone. Naturally, rumours were rife that the man who had put the club back on the map was about to be sacked.
In England, that would have long since been the case, but the Dortmund faithful continued to back him, and it worked.
Between early February and late March 2015, the team’s form surged.
Their superior fitness relative to the rest of the league began to pay dividends, and Klopp’s men took 17 points from 21 to survive relegation comfortably, and set a route to a respectable seventh-place finish.
La Liga: Grenada (2016/17)
Up until their relegation from La Liga in 2017, Granada were one of the more unassuming sides in the league. In the early 2010s, the club had scored back-to-back 17th-place finishes, having always done just the bare minimum required to survive.
Finishes improved thereafter, and a 12th-place finish in 2016 was seen by some as an indication that the club was all set to make a real assault on the top half of, perhaps, the second-most competitive league in the continent.
It was not to be, and the need to sign an extraordinary number of players on loan proved disastrous. The Granada squad of 2016/17 was – quite literally – a bunch of strangers that had never met.
They certainly played like it too, though the first matchday brought a respectable 1-1 draw at home Villarreal. Beyond that, however, the season soon descended into farce.
A series of chastening defeats, most notably a 7-1 thumping away to Atletico Madrid, gave Granada a return of just four points from the next 42 available after their respectable opening-day result.
The first match of December brought a maiden victory of the season, but the rejuvenating effect was short-lived.
Three home wins in February were the last throws of Granada’s hopeless case, and a return of just one point from the final thirty-nine available sealed the club’s fate.
Premier League: Crystal Palace (2017/18)
There are many contenders from the Premier League. However, in terms of raw numbers, the mantle of ‘worst-ever’ start to a Premier League season belongs to the Crystal Palace side of 2017/18.
Frank de Boer’s appointment as Crystal Palace manager in the summer of 2017 raised many an eyebrow.
The idea of a revolutionary brand of total football, after a myriad of turgid performances from his Palace predecessors, was hugely welcome.
Four defeats and zero goals later, the Dutchman was drummed unceremoniously out of the Selhurst Park gates forever.
Jose isn't a massive fan of Frank 'worst manager in Premier League history' de Boer 😂🤐 pic.twitter.com/OqRa4EGiHD— 888sport (@888sport) March 12, 2018
His successor, Roy Hodgson, inherited a difficult start to life as Palace manager, and by October, his team’s record was played seven, lost seven, scored zero.
Then, in mid-October, Palace stunned the reigning champions Chelsea 2-1 at Selhurst Park, thanks to a goal after a great solo run from Wilfred Zaha.
Although an amazing result, Palace would not really kick into gear until December, with back-to-back wins before Christmas edging them gradually further away from danger.
Finishing 11th after such a dismal start was nothing short of a miracle for Hodgson’s men, and it is a tale that gives hope to any team seemingly bereft of it.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*