5 clubs who choked in the Premier League title race

Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Elvis Ume O

Following Sunday evening's draw with Everton in the Merseyside derby, Liverpool have officially relinquished top spot in the EPL to Manchester City.

As recently as January, The Reds held a seven-point lead over The Cityzens and had an opportunity to extend it to ten when the pair clashed at the Etihad on the 3rd of January, but fluffed their lines and saw their lead cut to four points.

Opportunity arose again when City unexpectedly lost to Newcastle, but rather than take advantage, Liverpool once more conspired to be architects of their own destruction by drawing consecutive matches in winnable games against West Ham and Leicester City to see their lead cut to three points.

The Reds have been solid this season under Jurgen Kloop, having long since sorted out their defensive shenanigans, while their attack continued to be as potent as ever.

Despite their spell at the top of the standings, there were many who believed Liverpool could not go all the way and would choke when the chicken came home to roost. However, their vastly improved defense gave fans reason to be optimistic.

As it is, Jurgen Kloop's men now find themselves playing catchup to the defending champions with nine rounds of matches left.

If Liverpool fail to break their league drought this season, it would be highly disappointing for their fans, considering how long they've spent at the top of the standings which made the Anfield faithful dare to believe.

This would however not be the first time a club would fail to last the distance having been at the forefront for most of the campaign. In this piece, we shall be taking a look at five times clubs choked at the business end of the season despite being in a commanding position.

#5 Arsenal - 2002/2003

Arsenal had an impressive squad in 2003
Arsenal had an impressive squad in 2003

Arsenal came into the 2002/2003 season as the league and Cup 'double' winners from the previous campaign and boasted a host of world class players across all departments in their squad.

Back then Arsenal were easily the strongest team in England (even though that might be hard to believe these days) and were firmly in position to retain their league crown, as they opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the table when they defeated Charlton Athletic 2-0 on March 2nd 2003 (this saw a top British bookmaker pay out on punters who had staked on Arsenal winning the league as it was believed they could not let such a lead at the top slip despite United having a game in hand).

As it happened, the bookmaker was left counting it's losses, as just 21 days later, Manchester United who won all three of their matches had gone ahead of Arsenal who posted a shock a 2-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers (although their win over Everton restored them back to the top of the table).

With just seven matches left, Arsenal suffered a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa to see their lead at the top reduced to just goal difference, heading into their top of the table clash with United which ended in a 2-2 draw.

A 2-2 draw with Bolton two weeks later (where Arsenal blew a two-goal lead) handed the initiative back to Manchester United and by the time Arsenal lost 3-2 at home to Leeds United (who needed the victory to survive relegation), it effectively meant the title had been conceded to Manchester United.

In total, Manchester United won 15 of their last 18 matches, while Arsenal managed to win just 10, with the result being that The Red Devils ended up finishing five points ahead of Arsenal which was scarcely believable, considering the array of leaders present in the squad back then.

However, Gunners fans' heartbreak did not last too long, as the very next season, Arsenal etched their name into Premier League history as the 'Invincibles' finished an entire league campaign undefeated.

#4 Arsenal 2007/2008

Birmingham v Arsenal - Premier League
Birmingham v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsenal features once again on the list, following their spectacular collapse in the 2007/2008 season.

The Gunners began the campaign without the services of their talismanic striker Thierry Henry who transferred to Barcelona in the summer.

Arsenal started the season very strongly, going top of the league by September, while they were undefeated for the first 15 matches of the season until a 2-1 away loss to Middlesbrough in December.

The Gunners continued with their impressive form, winning four of their next five matches to consolidate their spot on top of the league until they faced Birmingham at St Andrews.

The match became infamous for Martin Taylor's horror tackle on Eduardo Silva which left the Croat with a broken fibula and open dislocation and ensured he never remained the same player. The match ended in a 2-2 draw and scenes of William Gallas's tantrums at full time where he sat alone in the middle of the field gave a foreboding of what was to follow.

The Gunners drew their next three matches consecutively in the league and followed those up with a loss to Chelsea which saw Wenger's men drop into third place.

Arsenal led the league from 15th September to 15th March and during their amazing run were widely believed to be the most consistent team in the league. However, the psychological impact of witnessing Eduardo's horrific injury saw them lose their grip on top spot and end the season in third place.

#3 Newcastle United 1995/1996

While newer fans of the game might be more accustomed to seeing Newcastle in a relegation scrapfight and discontent between fans and owner, it has not always been so, as the Geordies were once among the bonafide heavyweights of English football.

Under the presidency of millionaire John Hall, the club embarked on a massive spending spree, getting in players from across the globe with the aim of breaking United's dominance in the early years of the Premier League.

Newcastle sent their statement of intent from the first day of the season, recording a 3-0 victory over Coventry City to move top of the table, which is a position they maintained until the 23rd of March.

Led by the in-form Les Ferdinand and supported by Peter Beardsley, David Ginola amongst others, Newcastle decimated all in their presence, effectively turning the league into a one-horse race, which saw them establish a 12-point lead ahead of the rest of the table by January 20 1996 with just 15 matches remaining.

The return of Eric Cantona from his long suspension however brought about a surge in form for Manchester United, which coincided with a downturn in fortune for Newcastle.

Surprisingly, dropped points by the Toons saw United gain further ground on them, while a 1-0 victory at St James' Park on March 4 saw the lead reduced to just one point.

Prior to the clash against United, then Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan delved into the now infamous 'I would love it rant' on Skysports, which was evidence of his inner nervous meltdown and the synopsis of Ferguson's legendary mindgames.

Manchester United showed imperious form - winning 13 of their final 15 matches to claim league glory, while Newcastle stuttered, winning just seven in the same timeframe, with Les Ferdinand being the epitome of their struggles, as the striker scored just four goals in his final 13 matches, having scored 21 in the previous 24.

#2 Manchester United 2011/2012

Manchester City won the 2012 EPL title in dramatic circumstances
Manchester City won the 2012 EPL title in dramatic circumstances

Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, Manchester United proved themselves to be the most dominant team by far in the land, winning 12 of the first 20 League titles and knocking Liverpool off their 'perch' (like Fergie said he will).

In Sir Alex Ferguson, they had unarguably the most successful British manager of all time and had proved themselves adept in overcoming league deficits to triumph when it really matters (hell they've been beneficiaries thrice on the list already).

So it therefore came as a major surprise when the hunter became the hunted during the course of the 2011/2012 Premier League season.

Manchester City had seen their fortunes massively transformed in 2008 when they were the subject of a takeover by Arab billionaire Sheik Mansour, with billions spent in revamping the club and bringing in players to take them to the next level.

Champions League qualification was achieved at the end of the 2010/2011 season, but they were interested in taking it a step further the next season.

A shock 6-1 victory over Manchester United in October at Old Trafford took City five points clear at the top and they maintained their lead atop the table until March (with their lead at one point being as high as eight points).

A slump in the month of March however saw City flounder, while United embarked on a winning run which saw them move eight points clear with just six matches remaining.

At that stage, it seemed like the league title was done and dusted, as United needed to win just four of the last six to guarantee their top spot and for a club the size of United with a manager like Fergie this was surely easy peesy right?..... wrong.

The next week, United visited relegation threatened Wigan Athletic who had lost all 13 matches played against United since 2005 which saw the Red Devils installed as heavy favorites in the tie.

In shocking scenes, United lost the match 1-0, while City won their own match to reduce the deficit to just five points.

Two matchdays later saw United host Everton and they once more floundered, throwing away a 3-1 lead to draw 4-4 and see their lead cut to just three points ahead of their matchday 36 top-of-the-table clash with their city rivals and challengers Manchester City.

A Vincent Kompany header settled the Manchester Derby 1-0 in favor of the blue half of Manchester to send The Cityzens top of the league on goal difference.

Both clubs won their respective clashes on matchday 37, but with a much better goal difference than United, all City needed to do was match United's result to guarantee them being league champions and they hosted relegation threatened QPR at a packed City of Manchester Stadium.

The drama in this most spectacular of seasons was however far from over, as City found themselves trailing 2-1, while United were winning Sunderland 1-0, which meant that with just few minutes of the season left, the title was heading to Old Trafford, with Fergie already urging his players to begin celebrations as news of City's game filtered in.

In dramatic scenes, Eden Dzeko equalized in the first minute of stoppage time, while Sergio Aguero scored with virtually the last kick of the season to spark delirious scenes among Manchester City fans and ensure Fergie ate back his words of the club carrying the league over his dead body.

The league title was City's first in almost 50 years, but with just six matches left, it was very close to not happening.

#1 Liverpool 2013/2014

Gerrard consoling Suarez after Liverpool's capitulation
Gerrard consoling Suarez after Liverpool's capitulation

After the highs of the mid noughties which saw Liverpool reestablish themselves as European heavyweights under Rafa Benitez (although they quite failed to translate that onto the domestic scene), The Reds descended back into mediocrity at the start of the next decade, overtaken by clubs like Manchester City and Tottenham on the English football hierarchy.

The objective at the beginning of the 2013/2014 season was just to qualify for the Champions League (which they had not done since 2008/2009).

However, a blistering start to the campaign restored belief in the club, while a season record of 11 consecutive wins transformed the club from ordinary to spectacular, sent them to the top of the table and got fans dreaming of a first ever Premier League title.

Their charge was led by the Golden Boot winning Luis Suarez, ably supported by Daniel Sturridge (second highest goalscorer in the league), Steven Gerrard (who had a league high 13 assists) as well as Raheem Sterling and Phillippe Coutinho.

Liverpool were breathtaking to watch that season and scored a grand total of 101 goals (which is the fourth highest number scored in Premier League history, as well as the highest scored by a team not to win the title).

Nevertheless, for all of their attacking impetus, The Reds always had a soft underbelly, evidenced by the fact that the club conceded 50 goals that season (which was the ninth worst in the entirety of the league that term) and this defensive frailty came back to haunt them.

At the end of March that season, Liverpool were engaged in a three-way race with Chelsea and City for the league title, but a Chelsea loss against Crystal Palace effectively ruled The Blues out and Liverpool's 3-2 victory over Manchester City in an emotional match on April 13 (two days to the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster) firmly put Liverpool in the driving seat with just four matches left.

What happened next can only be best imagined, as a 2-0 loss at home to Chelsea (via a Gerrard slip) handed the initiative back to City and a 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace (where Palace came back from three goals down to level the match) effectively handed the title to City.

Liverpool ended the season in second place, two points behind City, which was a shame considering how brilliant hey had been throughout the campaign. Surely lightning cannot strike twice can it?

Edited by Emeka Monyei


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