Week 36 – Upset (2013-14 Premier League column for Goal Japan)
Successive shock results for Sunderland away to Manchester City and Chelsea within the space of four days have pushed Liverpool a big step closer to their first ever Premier League crown. Football has changed almost beyond recognition in the 24 years since the Reds took their 18th and last Football League championship, but one constant in the English game has been the ability of sides at the bottom of the table to suddenly stir things up at the top. Below are three such stories, spanning the decades, of title hopes famously destroyed by relegation battlers.
22 April 1992 – West Ham United 1-0 Manchester United
Without a league title in a quarter of a century, Manchester United were the Liverpool of their time in the final season before the new Premier League kicked off. Despite a pre-season loss to Mazda SC, soon to become Sanfrecce Hiroshima, the sudden decline of their fiercest rivals under Graeme Souness had paved the way for Alex Ferguson’s new-look side to signal the dawn of their era. Summer signing Peter Schmeichel offered domineering presence and terrific distribution from the back; while in their first full seasons, Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis were a blisteringly quick double threat on the wings. By the end of 1991, they led Leeds United by two points at the top of the table with as many games in hand, having only lost once.
However, United’s pace slowed after Christmas as their small squad – only 16 players appeared in five or more of the 42 First Division matches – struggled to cope with an increasing backlog of fixtures. The Red Devils were one of just four English teams playing in Europe after the Heysel ban, and with the league season ending as early as 2 May to accommodate the European Cup final at Wembley then Euro ’92, a victorious League Cup run suddenly left Ferguson with four fixtures to fulfil within the space of less than a week. A Kanchelskis goal gave them a nervy win over Southampton the Thursday after the final, but they were held away to Luton Town two days later before losing at home, for only the second time all season, to Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday.
Destiny was still just about in their hands on the Wednesday, as they travelled wearily to Upton Park to face a West Ham United side whose relegation had been all but confirmed by a dismal loss on the same, muddy pitch against Crystal Palace 48 hours earlier. 18-year-old Giggs, unusually wearing seven, was the sprightliest member of a lineup where all but four had started every one of this gruelling quartet of fixtures. Having toiled through the first half, the visitors found a bit of energy in the second and came close when Mark Hughes’s overhead kick was saved by Luděk Mikloško. From the resulting corner, however, the Hammers broke upfield. Stuart Slater’s cross was cleared by Gary Pallister straight into the on-running full-back Kenny Brown, who somehow – perhaps not entirely deliberately – diverted it straight back past Schmeichel.
Ferguson called it “the luckiest goal imaginable” and described West Ham’s performance, having been dire all season, as an “obscene effort”. Leeds were quite happy, though, as they took over on top and stayed there to take the crown two seasons after promotion.
26 April 2003 – Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Arsenal
Many would argue – this writer included – that the greatest team assembled by Arsène Wenger was the 1997-99 vintage; with the old guard at the back, Emmanuel Petit still alongside Patrick Vieira, plus devastating penetration to complement Dennis Bergkamp’s brilliance up front in the form of Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka. But undoubtedly the most dominant was his next side; that accented by latter day Highbury legends such as Sol Campbell, Fredrik Ljungberg, Robert Pirès, and of course Thierry Henry. The early 21st century Gunners finally stepped out of Treble-era Manchester United’s shadow with a second Double for Wenger in 2001/02, and were awarded a unique golden Premier League trophy for going the entire 2003/04 season unbeaten.
It could, and perhaps should, have been three league titles in a row. The intervening season started in rampant fashion – after a 4-1 win at Leeds United, Wenger compared his charges to “Ajax in the 70s” and claimed, “We are playing great, Total Football”. A late wonder strike by a 16-year-old Everton forward called Wayne Rooney triggered a brief autumnal malaise, but Arsenal rediscovered their stride around Christmas time to go a dozen league matches unbeaten and stand eight points clear on 2 March. The only trouble was that Ruud van Nistelrooy was suddenly firing Manchester United, who had played a game fewer, into an astonishing run of wins which chipped away at the advantage as the Gunners dropped points in tricky trips to Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa.
Entering the final weekend of April, United had moved three points ahead but Arsenal now had the advantage of a game in hand, plus a better goal difference and an easier run-in. The biggest banana skin of their final four fixtures came immediately, on a Saturday lunchtime away to 17th-place Bolton Wanderers, who were fighting for their lives under Sam Allardyce. After a tense first half, in which the visitors were second best, Henry played a 1-2 with Pirès and burst down the left to leave Sylvain Wiltord a tap-in for the opener on 47 minutes. Pirès soon added a second from 20 yards and it was beginning to look simple once again.
Perhaps too much so. Casual Arsenal marking at a Bolton corner allowed Per Frandsen the space to shoot off the post and Youri Djorkaeff netted the rebound. Suddenly panicked, Arsenal conceded another set piece with six minutes remaining. Martin Keown got his head to Djorkaeff’s in-swinging free kick but could only divert the ball past David Seaman for an own goal. Deflated by the shock 2-2 draw, the Gunners surrendered their crown with defeat at home to Leeds the following weekend.
11 April 2012 – Wigan Athletic 1-0 Manchester United
The astonishing nature of the final day, and indeed the final minute served itself to define Manchester City’s Premier League-winning season as one of the most dramatic ever. But at the same time, it may also have left us prone to forget that 2011/12 offered up a quite brilliant title race over the entire course of the 37 games (and 90-something minutes) that went before as well. Roberto Mancini’s men simply charged out of the blocks, scoring fully 42 goals across their first dozen matches in which they drew one and won the other eleven. Neighbours Manchester United, who had been blown away 6-1 at Old Trafford, did well just to keep the gap to five points.
As was so often the case under Sir Alex Ferguson, however, United rose to the new challenge and were imperious in the New Year, matching City’s earlier run of 34 points from a possible 36 with the only blemish a 3-3 draw mustered from three down at Stamford Bridge. The noisy neighbours appeared to misplace their loudhailers around the same time, picking up just five points from as many games bookmarked by 1-0 defeats at Swansea City on 11 March and Arsenal on 8 April. A nightmare (or dream, depending on your perspective) month left United fully eight points clear with just six to play, albeit incorporating a Manchester derby.
On the face of things, an away trip to Wigan Athletic did not appear the most challenging of starts for United’s run-in. The Red Devils had won all 14 of their meetings since the first ever in December 2005, and registered winning margins of either four or five goals on exactly half of those occasions. The Latics, meanwhile, sat second from bottom of the table on just 28 points from 32 matches. But a closer look revealed that Roberto Martinez was in the process of something of a transformation. Since mid-February, they had discovered both solidity and rhythm; turning losses into draws, draws into wins. The reason behind their upturn? A switch in formation to 3-4-3.
Three at the back had virtually disappeared from English football – certainly, United played as if they had never encountered it in their lives. Wigan bossed the possession in the first half, creating more chances and angry to have had a Victor Moses header ruled out for a supposed foul by Gary Caldwell. The disallowed goal mattered little, however, as Shaun Maloney played a short corner with Jean Beausejour on 50 minutes before running inside to strike a perfect curling shot inside David de Gea’s far post. Their extra centre back then helped the hosts stymie the league leaders to the extent that a traditional Fergie comeback never looked likely.
Wigan ended up taking 27 points from their final 14 games after the mid-season tactical revolution. United lost momentum, the derby, and the title. Though many highlighted a 4-4 draw with David Moyes’s Everton as a decisive turning point, the origins of the late season drama had really laid in the brain of another opposing manager.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Week 36 – Upset (2013-14 Premier League column for Goal Japan):
» michael kors outlet [Where Buy Cheapmichael kors jet set toteWs316Salesmichael kors outlet uk]
Generally there a lot of adult females question the reason many people even now Where Buy CheapMichael Kors HandbagsVb967Salesmich glance clear and [Read More]
Tracked on 04/27/2014 at 11:43 PM
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 02:24 AM
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 08:08 AM
» michael kors canada outlet [cheap michael kors hamilton Aw906michael kors handbags salesales]
As with any new fashion trend to come down the pipe, there are some people w michael kors hamilton ho just seem to pul [Read More]
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 08:08 PM
» michael kors bags on sale [cheap michael kors hamilton Aw884michael kors handbags canadasales]
If you are looking michael kors hamilton for clutches,michael kors hamilton, its easier in order to thin the choices i [Read More]
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 08:17 PM
» Michael Kors Purses [cheap michael kors handbags sale Ap131michael kors canada outletsales]
Stitched Hand bags -- Some sort of stitched clutch i465 black or even michael kors handbags sale michael kors cana... [Read More]
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 08:24 PM
» michael kors outlet store [cheap michael kors handbags uk Ak765michael kors usasales]
In case you are definitely not simply informed about this ma michael kors handbags uk ny organizations a [Read More]
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 08:32 PM
» michael kors outlet store [cheap michael kors handbags uk Ak063michael kors usasales]
The following combination has come from by simp michael kors handbags uk ly Medical doctor. Jimmy Cho [Read More]
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 08:39 PM
» roma jerseys [cheap german bundesliga cheap world cup jerseys cheap dutch eredivisie]
Most people seeking getting real-estate additional cheap german bundesliga ly seen regarding online with real-estate attai [Read More]
Tracked on 04/29/2014 at 09:27 PM
Tracked on 04/30/2014 at 08:20 AM
Tracked on 04/30/2014 at 11:20 AM
» manchester city 21 david silva away soccer jersey [chelsea 4 david luiz long sleeve home soccer jersey cheap world cup jerseys barcelona 4 cesc fabregas home soccer jersey]
connected with legislat chelsea 4 david luiz long sleeve home soccer jersey ion [Read More]
Tracked on 04/30/2014 at 01:44 PM
» michael kors bags on sale [MK_cheap michael kors handbagbags michaelkos outlet]
as an exam michael kors handbag ple, A girl after that specific strategy would use steps instead of employing a l [Read More]
Tracked on 04/30/2014 at 09:42 PM
Tracked on 05/01/2014 at 03:17 AM
» Louis vuitton Bags [Louis vuitton Belts--Ten of the World's Most Expensive Pet Accessories_1]
Ten of the World's M Louis vuitton Belts ost Expensive Pet Accessories Ventu Cheap Louis Vuitton re aw... [Read More]
Tracked on 05/01/2014 at 02:10 PM
» Jordan Basketball Shoes [Prada Prada Women's Shoes royal family and upper class loved products-cheap jordan sneakers]
Prada (Prada) is Italy's most notable luxury mark which it was designed, styli cheap jordan sneakers sh plus excellent quality. [Read More]
Tracked on 05/01/2014 at 10:43 PM
Tracked on 05/01/2014 at 10:47 PM
Tracked on 05/02/2014 at 07:57 AM
Tracked on 05/06/2014 at 05:13 PM
Tracked on 05/08/2014 at 08:35 PM
Tracked on 05/10/2014 at 12:13 AM
Tracked on 05/10/2014 at 05:51 AM
Tracked on 05/10/2014 at 06:47 AM
Tracked on 05/10/2014 at 10:17 PM
Tracked on 05/11/2014 at 03:15 AM
Tracked on 05/11/2014 at 08:00 AM
Tracked on 05/12/2014 at 03:14 AM
Tracked on 05/12/2014 at 09:09 AM
Tracked on 05/12/2014 at 07:01 PM
Tracked on 05/13/2014 at 03:26 AM
Tracked on 05/14/2014 at 12:16 AM
Tracked on 05/14/2014 at 09:30 PM
Tracked on 05/17/2014 at 11:19 AM