Arsenal’s lead at the top of the Premier League table has been reduced after three consecutive draws, with the unexpected league leaders beginning to feel the pressure.
Few envisaged Mikel Areta’s side to be in this position before a ball had been kicked, but an exceptional season from the Gunners has seen them emerge as the challengers to Manchester City’s dominance of the division.
Pep Guardiola’s side are chasing the north Londoners down, having been five points behind – having played a game more – as recently as January. The current gap is five points, but City boast two games in hand and the title race is now in the champion’s own hands as the teams prepare to meet in a huge game next week.
Should Arsenal falter, the Gunners will no doubt be subjected to the usual social media jibes questioning their – in Troy Deeney’s words – cojones.
We’ve decided to look back at some of the sides to have slipped up in the title race, with the six biggest leads blown in the Premier League era.
Norwich City – 1992/93 (8 points)
Norwich City emerged as the unlikeliest of title challengers during the Premier League’s very first season, as the Canaries upset the odds to mount an unexpected push for the championship after beginning the season among the favourites to go down.
Norwich had finished 18th in the top flight the previous season, but Mike Walker’s side opened the season with a 4-2 win at Arsenal and rose to the top of the division. As Christmas approached the Canaries were eight points clear of their nearest challengers, but defeat at Manchester United in early December kickstarted a downturn in form.
Six games without a win began the start of Norwich’s decline, who ended the season third and a considerable distance behind the champions. Manchester United claimed a first title in 26 years, with the signing of a certain Eric Cantona from Leeds transforming the Red Devils’ season.
United went on to embark on an era of dominance during the Premier League’s first two decades, while Norwich were relegated just two seasons later. The Canaries have largely bounced between the top two divisions ever since.
Arsenal – 2002/03 (8 points)
Arsenal looked in prime position to defend the Premier League crown in 2002/03, with the Gunners – domestic double winners for a second time under Arsene Wenger the previous year – eight points clear at the top of the division in March.
Thierry Henry’s brilliance – The Frenchman became the first footballer to reach 20+ goals and 20+ assists in a Premier League season – had led their charge, but the north Londoners stuttered during the run-in to allow Manchester United back into the race.
A run of two wins in seven during the spring saw their lead slashed and a 3-2 home defeat to relegation-threatened Leeds delivered their title hopes a fatal blow.
Kewell. Harte. Viduka.@LUFC ended Arsenal's #PL title defence in dramatic fashion back in 2003… pic.twitter.com/jKx8cXpI9T
— Premier League (@premierleague) July 3, 2017
United, unbeaten since a Boxing Day defeat at Middlesbrough, won eight of their last nine games to reclaim the Premier League title.
Manchester United – 2011/12 (8 points)
Manchester United’s collapse during the 2011/12 season is largely overlooked due to the drama of the final weekend, where Manchester City flirted with disaster before snatching the title in the last seconds of the season.
United looked set to win a fifth title in just six seasons after moving eight points ahead of their cross-town rivals with just six games to go. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had been almost flawless since an embarrassing 6-1 defeat to City at Old Trafford in the autumn, but their title hopes began to fall apart on the final straight.
Defeat to Wigan and a chaotic 4-4 draw with Everton allowed City back into the race, with Vincent Kompany’s dramatic derby winner handing the initiative to the blue half of Manchester with two games remaining.
Captain Kompany delivers on derby day! #mancity pic.twitter.com/NEimrFt4Nn
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 5, 2018
United thought the title had been salvaged when the full-time whistle blew on a win at Sunderland on the final weekend, with City trailing against Queens Park Rangers in stoppage-time.
Then came the unforgettable events at the Etihad.
Two goals in the final seconds – including that Aguero moment – saw City secure an astonishing come-from-behind win to be crowned Premier League champions for the first time.
Liverpool – 2018/19 (9 points)
Liverpool’s came agonisingly close to a first league title in almost three decades in 2018/19, as Manchester City pipped to Reds to the title by just a single point.
Jurgen Klopp’s side went 20 games unbeaten to start the season, with a 5-1 win over Arsenal in December leaving the Merseysiders nine points clear at the top of the division.
City reduced that lead to seven ahead of the meeting between the teams at the Etihad, one which proved decisive in the outcome of the title. Leroy Sane’s winner cut the gap and draws with Leicester, West Ham, Manchester United and Everton over the next eight games did the damage to Liverpool’s title hopes.
Clinical from @leroy_sane against today's opponents! 🎯#ManCity pic.twitter.com/bIwWBFNEja
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 10, 2022
Both sides ended the season with remarkable winning runs. Liverpool won each of their last nine, but City’s 13 wins in a row – including a stunning Vincent Kompany goal to defeat Leicester – saw Pep Guardiola’s team hold their nerve.
Klopp’s side ended the season on 97 points – the fourth-highest total in English football history and largest ever for a runner-up – and lost just once all season. Somehow, it was not enough to be crowned champions.
Manchester United – 1997/98 (11 points)
Arsenal won their first Premier League title during the 1997/98 campaign, as Arsene Wenger led the north Londoners to a domestic double.
The Gunners had appeared out of the picture at Christmas, after a troubled winter period left them adrift of Manchester United. However, a home defeat to Blackburn was followed with a fine upturn in form, one which saw Arsenal go 18 games unbeaten – taking 45 points from a possible 51 – to be crowned champions.
That run included eight games without conceding a goal, with the definitive result coming at Old Trafford as a Marc Overmars goal secured the Gunners a 1-0 win over their title rivals.
Marc Overmars wins it for @Arsenal at Old Trafford#OnThisDay in 1998… pic.twitter.com/gWSKqxNGGF
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 14, 2020
The win at Manchester United was the second of ten consecutive victories in the Premier League, a run which saw Wenger lead Arsenal to a first title since 1991 and become the first non-British manager to win English football’s top flight.
Goals from Overmars and Nicolas Anelka then saw Arsenal beat Newcastle to win the FA Cup and complete the double.
Newcastle United – 1995/96 (12 points)
No side is as synonymous with a title race collapse as Newcastle’s side of the mid-nineties.
Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers looked set to be crowned champions after racing away at the top of the division during the 1995/96 season, establishing a 10-point lead at Christmas and stretching their advantage to 12 points the following month.
The Magpies, however, were unable to hold on.
Dreams of a first league title since 1927 evaporated over the second half of the campaign, as a run of five defeats in eight matches – including a 1-0 defeat to title rivals Manchester United at St James’ Park – saw their lead eaten away.
Among them was that chaotic clash at Liverpool, as Stan Collymore’s stoppage-time winner left Keegan slumped over the advertising hoardings at Anfield.
Keegan’s famous ‘I would love it’ rant – in retaliation to comments from Sir Alex Ferguson questioning the commitment of Newcastle’s run-in opponents – became one of the defining soundbites of the Premier League’s first decade, as Newcastle’s title dreams disappeared.
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