Race for the title
The 2013/14 Premier League title race has over the course of the campaign been an epic battle involving Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal but how does it compare to some previous classics...?
By Words: Lewis Kavanagh; Video: Craig Nance
Last Updated: 18/04/14 9:27am
The 1997/98 Premier League title was primarily contested between Arsenal and Manchester United, who had won the last two top-flight trophies.
The class of '92, including the likes of Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, had established themselves as regular starters over the past two years and United went into the 97/98 season as favourites.
Premier League Table 1997/98
|Team||Games Played||Wins||Draws||Defeats||Goal Difference||Points|
|2) Man Utd||38||23||8||7||47||77|
Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, was undertaking his first full season as Arsenal boss and it ignited a sometimes bitter and long-standing rivalry between the Frenchman and Sir Alex Ferguson. It was the start of an era in which both teams would regularly fight for Premier League success.
United started the season brightly, with a 7-0 thrashing of Barnsley being a highlight in November, as Beckham's direct crossing and Ryan Giggs' wing play tormented defences. Although Wenger's men beat United 3-2 at Highbury, November and December were difficult months for the side with four defeats from eight games.
By January, United were seven points clear of Chelsea at the top of the league with Arsenal sitting fifth. Chelsea considered themselves as title contenders following a strong first half of the season, however, after the sacking of Ruud Gullit, they suffered seven defeats in their last 13 games and fell short.
By the start of March, United were seven points clear of Chelsea and 12 points ahead of Arsenal, who had three games in hand, and were looking well and truly set to take the Premier League crown for the third consecutive year.
But a crucial moment in the season was when Arsenal took on United at Old Trafford on 14th March. United were now only six points clear of Arsenal, who still had three games in hand. Wenger's men were on a nine-game unbeaten run when they embarked on a trip to the Theatre of Dreams and a 79th-minute goal from Marc Overmars was enough for Arsenal to close the gap to just three points.
Arsenal boasted vast experience in defence through Martin Keown, Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, and goalkeeper David Seaman. These figures contributed to a run of eight consecutive clean sheets between January and March and it provided a great base for Wenger to launch his own attacking philosophy.
After the United game, Arsenal won the next seven games on the bounce and had the opportunity to clinch the title when they faced Everton, who were sat in the relegation zone, at Highbury. Arsenal comfortably beat them 4-0 thanks to an own goal by Slaven Bilic and a brace from Overmars, before an unlikely goal for Tony Adams put the seal on the victory.
For Arsenal's fourth goal, Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler memorably said: "And it's Tony Adams put through by Steve Bould... would you believe it? That sums it all up." Defensive stalwarts Adams and Bould were renowned for their discipline and tackling, not defence-splitting passes and well-executed volleys. The goal epitomised how Wenger's influence injected confidence into all his players when even their veteran centre-back fancied taking on a volley from the edge of the area with his weaker foot.
After securing their first league title since 1991 with a 10th consecutive win, Arsenal went on to complete the domestic Double by beating Newcastle United in the FA Cup final. Dennis Bergkamp was also recognised for his influence on the Arsenal team after being named the Football Writers' Association's Footballer of the Year and the PFA Player of the Year.