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Five Premier League runners-up who got their next transfer window wrong

Arsenal will aim to go one better in the Premier League next season after successive runners-up finishes.

The Gunners fell short in their quest to topple the dominance of Manchester City, but have shown huge improvement under the management of Mikel Arteta.

This summer shapes as a big one for the North London side, who feel closer than ever to a first top-flight crown in over two decades. However, history has shown that several sides have fallen away when attempting to make the final step from contenders to champions.

Five Premier League runners-up who got their next transfer window wrong:

Newcastle United – 1997/98

Newcastle know the situation Arsenal find themselves in this summer. In the mid-nineties, the Magpies went agonisingly close to Premier League title success, including a 1995/96 season that saw Newcastle blow a 12-point lead in the title race to Manchester United.

The world-record signing of Alan Shearer from Blackburn followed and despite a Golden Boot-winning campaign from the summer recruit, Newcastle ended as runners-up for the second straight season in 1996/97.

With Eric Cantona leaving rivals Manchester United in a shock retirement in 1997, the stage looked set for Newcastle to capitalise. However, errors in the transfer market from Kenny Dalglish – who had replaced Kevin Keegan after his resignation the previous season – saw Newcastle fall away from contention.

Les Ferdinand, who had scored 50 goals across the previous two seasons, was sold to Tottenham, alongside David Ginola, who went on to win the PFA Player of the Year two seasons later. Ferdinand’s replacement, Jon Dahl Tomasson, struggled badly for goals at St James’ Park, while Dalglish’s reunion with ageing former Liverpool stars John Barnes and Ian Rush did not work out as hoped.

Newcastle ended the season 13th in the Premier League table and remain without a major trophy since 1955.

Read – 90s Gold: How Newcastle United went from Keegan’ Entertainers to Dalglish’s Dad’s Army

Liverpool – 2002/03

Liverpool were edging ever closer to a Premier League title in the early noughties. After a UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup treble under Gerard Houllier in 2000/01, the Reds finished as Premier League runners-up in 2001/02, alongside reaching the Champions League quarter-finals on their first appearance in the competition in the modern era.

Michael Owen, who won the 2001 Ballon d’Or, led the line for the Merseysiders and an emerging Steven Gerrard offered fine support. Liverpool looked likely to challenge again in 2002/03 but a disastrous transfer window halted their progress.

Houllier opted against signing the on-loan Nicolas Anelka on a permanent deal, instead deciding to spend £10m on El Hadji Diouf from Lens. The Senegalese striker had impressed at that summer’s World Cup and arrived at Anfield alongside international teammate Salif Diao.

Diouf began brightly with two goals on his home debut but netted just once more across the remainder of the season. The following season, he became the first Liverpool number nine to complete an entire campaign without scoring.

Elsewhere, Houllier’s declaration that fellow recruit Bruno Cheyrou was the “new Zidane” proved to be misguided as the French midfielder struggled to make an impression on Merseyside.

Liverpool ended the 2002/03 season fifth, missing out on Champions League qualification.

Liverpool – 2009/10

Liverpool missed out on the Premier League title in 2008/09 to Manchester United, finishing four points behind the champions despite losing just two games all season.

The Reds had built a strong side with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres starring in tandem but lost a crucial piece of the puzzle in the 2009 summer transfer window. Not for the first time, Rafael Benitez’s cold man-management style came back to haunt him, after alienating Xabi Alonso in his pursuit of Gareth Barry the previous summer.

A year later, Alonso upped sticks to sign for Real Madrid and Alberto Aquilani proved to be an expensive and injury-prone replacement. The Italian made just nine league starts as Liverpool slumped to seventh in the table. Benitez was gone at the end of the season.

Arsenal – 2016/17

Leicester’s stunning title success was the headline news of 2015/16, as the Foxes produced a sporting miracle to win the Premier League.

Arsenal ended the campaign as runners-up to Claudio Ranieri’s remarkable champions and looked well-placed to build from there, with few envisaging a repeat of Leicester’s title success.

The Gunners splashed out around £82m on Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, and while the former went on to become a cult favourite, there was certainly better value for money elsewhere.

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For context, in the same transfer window, the signings of Sadio Mane (Liverpool), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City) and Joel Matip (Liverpool) cost roughly that figure (£84m) combined.

Arsenal finished fifth, missing out on the top four for the first time in 21 years.

Tottenham – 2017/18

Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham team were building in 2016/17, finishing as runners-up after a third-placed finish the previous year.

The North Londoners had an exciting young team but were unable to push on, losing Kyle Walker to the riches of Manchester City in a £50m deal. Spurs broke their transfer window as the club reinvested that fee, signing Davinson Sanchez from Ajax for £42m.

The centre-back had made a big impression in the Eredivisie but represented a risk after just one season in European football. Sanchez struggled to convince in the capital and despite spending seven seasons with Spurs never looked like the elite defender it had been hoped he would become. He was sold to Galatasaray for a fee of just £8m in 2023.

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Elsewhere, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente had only fleeting moments and Spurs ended the 2017/18 season third, a huge 23 points behind champions Manchester City. They have not finished as high since.

Read – The highest points totals without winning the Premier League

See more – Thierry Henry’s poise, Roy Keane’s red mist and the most iconic Premier League imagery of the 2000s

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