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TOP 10 CLOSEST PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE BATTLES

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Over the years, the English Premier League has seen some historic title fights that have gone down to the wire. Producing some of the greatest footballing moments, the Premier League is home to football’s finest.

As the Premier League gets underway this weekend, let us take a look at some of the titanic championship battles over the years.

 

1996 – 97 – Man United v Newcastle v Arsenal v Liverpool
Champions – Manchester  United
Points  Difference – 7 points

Although a seven point difference might not seem like a close enough margin for a tight title fight, the 1996/97 season was much closer than it looked. The title fight was a four way battle between Manchester United, Newcastle, Arsenal and Liverpool, with the majority of the season seeing all four clubs on similar points. Even though United did go on to win the title that season by seven points, Newcastle, Arsenal and Liverpool finished in second, third and fourth place respectively, with all three clubs finishing on 68 points each and only separated by goal difference.

Although Manchester United got off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory in their opening game against Arsenal, it was Newcastle that seemed to be running away with the title, early on in the season. After suffering a 2-1 loss to the Gunners in their opening game, Newcastle, boosted by Alan Shearer’s incredible goal scoring form that season, went on to win 8 of their next 10 games. United and Liverpool both, even though they did not win as many games as Newcastle, made sure not to lose too many either and that kept them in the title hunt. It was Arsenal though, who were tied on 24 points with Newcastle by the end of the first quarter of the season, leading the table, having only lost one of their opening 11 games. There was also a managerial change at Arsenal at the end of September when Arsène Wenger replaced caretaker manager Pat Rice, who had been filling in for the recently departed Stewart Houston.

By the New Year’s break, Liverpool had mounted a comeback and were on top of the table with 42 points with United, Arsenal tied with 37 points and Newcastle had fallen to fifth place with 34 points. Late season resurgence by United coupled with Newcastle and Liverpool’s failure to finish off games meant, heading into the final month United led with 69 points from Arsenal with 65 and Liverpool and Newcastle further back with 64 and 60 points respectively.

The final month saw United seal the trophy in the penultimate game week as both Newcastle and Liverpool failed to register victories, leaving the Magpies, Liverpool and Arsenal all on 68 points each and United running away with the trophy with 75 points. Although they ended up runners up, Newcastle’s Shearer finished the season with an astounding 25 goals, which earned him his final Premier League top scorer award.

 

Also Read – 20 players to watch out for in the 2021/22 Premier League season

 

2002-03 – Man United v Arsenal
Champions – Manchester United
Points Difference – 5 points

The final table standings from the 2002/03 Premier League season will show that Manchester United finished five points ahead of Arsenal but what it doesn’t show is how close the season really was.

For the majority of the season, heading into the final couple of months, it was not United but Arsenal who led the league table. But late season blunders led to Arsenal throwing away multiple leads and let United crawl back and snatch the trophy from what should have definitely been a Gunners’ title.

For the first quarter of the season, it was Liverpool and Arsenal though who were battling it out for the top spot with United getting off to a slow start that saw them in fourth place after 11 games. By the time, the Christmas break came around, Arsenal had built a five point gap to second place Chelsea with United in third also on 38 points. Arsenal’s record fourteen straight wins saw them five points clear of United as the teams headed into the final two months of the competition and with form the Gunners were in, it was hard to look beyond them. Arsenal had a golden chance to increase the lead at the top of the table but the Gunners let Bolton Wanderers come back from a two goal deficit to make it 2-2 and lost 2-3 to Leeds United at home and with two games left that saw United get crowned as champions. Arsenal scored 85 goals that season with Thierry Henry going on to win Player of the Year for his 24 goals in the season that helped Arsenal almost clinch another Premier League title.

2013-14 – Man City v Liverpool
Champions – Manchester City
Points Difference – 2 points

The slip that cost them the title. Liverpool seemed to be cruising towards their 19th English title but a major slip up in the final few weeks, including a literal slip from their captain Steven Gerrard against Chelsea, saw Manchester City edge them out and seal the title on the final day of play.

The season saw the championship lead being exchanged between four teams, with defending champions Manchester United falling out of the title race at the beginning under their new manager David Moyes. Although it was Arsenal and City who dominated the first half of the season by end March Liverpool lead the championship from Chelsea by two points and City were a further two points behind in third place with 67 points. With two weeks to go, it was all but certain that the Premier League title would be returning to Anfield but City, who had led the table for only 14 days in the entire season won all of their final five league games and along with Liverpool’s loss and two draws in their final three games, City clinched the title on the final day with a 2-0 victory over West Ham United.

City finished with two points more than Liverpool, ahead of third placed Chelsea and Arsenal, who had led the table for the longest time but a dip in form, saw the Gunners end the season fourth. The win confirmed a fourth English title for City and their second Premier League title.

Also Read – The Greatest Free Transfers in the Premier League

 

2007-08 – Man United v Chelsea
Champions – Manchester United
Points Difference – 2 points

The 2007-08 season was a three horse title race between Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney, United seemed the favourites but faced tough competition throughout the season from Arsenal and Chelsea.

It was Arsenal who started the season the strongest amongst the three and halfway through the season, they had just lost once in the first 21 games and led the table from United with a 2 point lead. Chelsea kept their title hopes alive staying close behind United with 44 points. United wrapped up the title on the final day beating Wigan Athletic 2-0 as Chelsea and Arsenal fell behind, drawing majority of their final games. United pipped Chelsea by two points and Arsenal were a further two behind Chelsea.

Fun fact, United won the season despite losing more games than Chelsea and Arsenal, the Gunners and the Blues though drew more games which played in the Red Devils’ hands.

2009-10 – Chelsea v Man United
Champions – Chelsea
Points Difference – 1 point

Coming off the back on three consecutive Premier League title winning seasons, Manchester United under the tactical genius of Sir Alex Ferguson were the side to beat. The 2009-10 season did not disappoint and the title race went into the final day, as Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea kept the pressure on the defending champions throughout the season.

Both teams were neck and neck throughout the season but Chelsea managed to keep a two point lead over the defending champions for most part of the season. Having gotten the better of United in both the home and away game, Chelsea managed to hang on to that two point lead but a draw against Blackburn Rovers in March saw the gap reduced to a solitary point. Even though United staged a strong comeback, heading into the final day, the Red Devils needed to win their last game and hope Chelsea lost theirs. Although they did their part and won comfortably against Stoke City by a margin of 4-0, Chelsea hammered Wigan Athletic 8-0 on the final day to claim 3rd Premier League title.

 

Also Read – Top Ten Most Underrated Players in the English Premier League

 

1997/98 – Arsenal vs Man United –
Champions – Arsenal
Points Difference – 1 point

Throughout the late nineties and early 2000s, English football was defined by Manchester United and Arsenal’s rivalry. The 1997-98 season showcased why their rivalry is so highly regarded.

At the Christmas break, United seemed certain to win the trophy with a 12 point lead over Arsenal, although Arsenal had a game in hand. But a resurgent Arsenal under Wenger saw them win eight matches on the trot and beat United away from home which swung the title in their favour. Arsenal’s victory gave Wenger his first Premier League trophy in his first full season with the Gunners and they also went on to complete ‘The Double’ that year winning the FA Cup as well.

 


1998-99 – Man United v Arsenal
Champions – Manchester United
Points Difference – 1 point

Manchester United were desperate to win the Premiership after losing out to the Gunners by a solitary point the previous season. And their intentions were clear; Sir Alex Ferguson made three key signings at the start of the season which saw Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke and Jesper Blomqvist head to Old Trafford.

United though, didn’t have it easy as it looked at one stage that Arsenal would once again triumph them. The Gunners had one of the best defences that season, conceding only 17 goals in the entire season! United had conceded 20 more.

Arsenal had the trophy all but wrapped up but their loss to Leeds United in the penultimate game gave United an opening which they happily took and United went on to beat Tottenham on the final day to seal a historic comeback and snatch the title away from the Gunners.

 

Also Read – A look back on football’s most expensive defenders of all time

 

2018-19 – Manchester City v Liverpool
Champions – Manchester City
Points Difference – 1 point

Another Premiership title decided on the final day by a solitary point. Although City were the more threatening team it was Liverpool that had started to run away with the title. Liverpool ended the season with 97 points, just one solitary loss to the eventual champions City and were leading City by seven points in January.

As solid as Liverpool were, there was no stopping City though. With the likes of David Silva, Sergio Kun Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City won their final 14 games on the trot to secure their fourth Premier League title.

Along with securing the Premier League title, City also went on to win the FA Cup and EFL Cup, completing the Domestic Treble.

1994-95 – Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers
Champions – Blackburn Rovers
Points Difference – 1 point

Blackburn Rovers’ only Premier League title to date, came at one of the closest title fights in English football history that saw the title being decided by a single point despite the eventual champions losing on the final day.

Kenny Dalglish’s side boasted of English talents such as Alan Shearer and Tim Sherwood, with Shearer finishing as the league’s top scorer with 34 goals. But heading into the final day, Rovers were two points clear of United in second place. Playing against Liverpool, Rovers got off to a brilliant start with Shearer handing them the lead but Liverpool came from behind to snatch a 2-1 victory. With Rovers having lost, all eyes were now on the United game, where they were up against West Ham United. United had scored first and had maintained a one goal lead, if things stayed the same, both teams would end up on same points and United would win on goal difference. But West Ham equalised and somehow managed to hang on to a 1-1 draw thanks to a heroic performance from their goalkeeper Luděk Mikloško. Mikloško not only denied United a chance to retake the lead but in turn also helped Blackburn Rovers secure their first Premier League title. Dalglish’s victory also made him the third manager to win the Premiership with two different clubs.

 

Also Read – A look back on football’s most expensive goalkeepers of all time

2011-12 – Manchester City v Manchester United
Champions – Manchester City
Points Difference – Goal difference

The 2011-12 season is probably one of the greatest Premier League seasons in modern history. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United faced tough competition from Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City and both teams gave nothing away. When the season ended with City being crowned champions, both sides had equal number of wins, draws and losses throughout the season.

Throughout the season, the two Manchester clubs exchanged places at the top of the table and heading into the final game week, both teams were on 86 points. United though had thrown a six point lead over their neighbours, after having lost to Wigan Athletic and let Everton come back to draw 4-4. City capitalised on United’s shortcomings and won all of their final six games.

As the sides met for what was turning out be a title deciding derby, it was City’s captain Vincent Kompany who stepped up on the occasion and scored the solitary goal that handed City a 1-0 victory. This meant, both teams were now on exact same points going into the final game week. The task was cut out for both teams – win your match and pray that your title rival lost theirs.

Manchester United played away to Sunderland on the final day and knew they had to win the game at any cost; City’s dominance during their victories in the season meant City had a better goal difference. United either had to win by a margin of eight goals or hope City lost. United did their part and won 1-0 at Sunderland. They couldn’t just celebrate yet as all eyes were on the Manchester City vs Queens Park Rangers game. QPR, who were struggling to stay in the Premiership, shocked everyone by going 2-1 up and lead the game till the 90th minute. It seemed as if City would falter on the final day. But it isn’t over till it’s over, right? Edin Dzeko equalised for City in the 91st minute and gave the Manchester team a glimmer of hope. Even though they had equalised City knew a draw would see United take the title by a solitary point. And then that happened.

In what will probably go down an one of the most iconic moments in football history, Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero scored in the 93rd minute of the game to break thousands of United hearts worldwide. Aguero’s goal not only won the game for City but made sure they finished level on points with United and won the Premier League title on goal difference.

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