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It was the season that had everything, both on and off the field. We take a look at 10 significant events on the pitch in the Premier League's astonishing 2011-12.
Ultimately, the history books will show that neither Manchester United nor Arsenal won a cup competition in 2011-12 and that they finished second and third respectively in the Premier League. The gulf between the two teams appeared somewhat greater back in August when United inflicted a humiliating 8-2 thrashing on the Gunners - their worst defeat since 1896. The excitement about United's new young team was palpable as Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck gleefully helped dismantle Arsene Wenger's fragile side. The result left Arsenal in disarray and prompted a desperate dip into the transfer market to purchase Per Mertesacker, Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta just days later.
United may have been seconds away from lifting the title but this is surely the day people will point to when they look back on the emergence of Manchester City as a genuine force. United fans wouldn't dare utter the words 'power shift' at Old Trafford on October 23rd but you can bet they felt it. From Mario Balotelli's opener - the goal that brought us the 'Why always me?' t-shirt - to Edin Dzeko's late brace that capped a 6-1 win, this was Robert Mancini's side let off the leash. A swaggering City with the cockiness to go into their rivals' backyard and deliver a beating for the ages.
Andre Villas-Boas actually made a positive start to his brief spell in charge at Chelsea. The Blues won six of their first eight Premier League to set up what appeared likely to be a three-way title-race alongside the two Manchester clubs. But it all unravelled at Stamford Bridge in an amazing 5-3 defeat to Arsenal. The Gunners were supposed to be the London team in crisis after losing four of their first seven games. And yet, they tore through Chelsea's woeful high-line to expose the flaw in the tactics of the Portuguese coach and send them on a deadly downward spiral. Of course, Roman Abramovich & co eventually recovered to become European champions. Villas-Boas did not.
This was the season that Robin van Persie finally stayed fit and showed the world what a phenomenal footballer he can be when in full flow. Van Persie scored 37 goals for Arsenal this season and amassed 35 goals in the Premier League in 2011 - just one behind Alan Shearer's record. The 33rd of those came in a 1-0 win over Everton at the Emirates Stadium. He marked Arsenal's 125th birthday with a sensational volley that was so sweetly struck it summed up a player who was at the peak of technical brilliance. That day, as so often for the Gunners in recent times, Van Persie was the difference between success and failure.
Some questioned the wisdom of Thierry Henry's return to a club that had already unveiled a statue in his honour. The 34-year-old was supposed to be a spent force having left Barcelona in 2010 to join New York Red Bulls. But the former France international proved he still has a flair for the big occasion by adding several more magical moments to his Gunners repertoire. After scoring in his comeback game against Leeds in the FA Cup, he played his last Premier League game for Arsenal at Sunderland - coming off the bench to net a dramatic last-minute winner. It was a fitting finale for arguably the greatest player of the Premier League era.
Swansea's passing game was one of the features of the Premier League season. The stats show that only Manchester City and Arsenal played more short passes in the campaign - but neither side achieved that feat in the games at the Liberty Stadium. While Arsenal were beaten in a marvellous five-goal thriller in January, it was the victory over eventual champions City that is likely to have given Swans boss Brendan Rodgers the most pleasure. His side dominated possession and outpassed their expensively assembled opponents before substitute Luke Moore delivered the decisive blow late on. It was the ultimate vindication of Swansea's ambitious approach.
When Wigan lost at home to Swansea at the beginning of March, they were bottom of the Premier League. But a switch to a 3-4-3 system prompted a sensational sequence of results, lifting Roberto Martinez's men to a finishing position of 15th. The Latics lost just two of their last 11 games, winning a remarkable seven. Liverpool and Manchester United were both beaten but it was this confident 2-1 win at Arsenal that really confirmed Wigan as a team reborn. Early goals from Franco Di Santo and Jordi Gomez stunned the Gunners and their play thereafter proved this was no fluke victory.
History may be written by the winners but it was Manchester United who looked to have the pen in their hand against Everton at Old Trafford. A tough examination appeared to have been overcome when 4-2 up inside the final 10 minutes. Sir Alex Ferguson was looking forward to going eight points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table and all seemed right in the Red Devils' world. But Marouane Fellaini's volley and then Steven Pienaar's late equaliser saw two points dropped and the gap was down to just three points a few hours later. Of all the twists in an astonishing season, this is the one United fans are likely to rue as the game in which they threw the title away.
The struggle for value in the January transfer market has been a regular complaint of Premier League managers but that argument has a particularly hollow ring after the efforts of Papiss Cisse this season. The Newcastle striker arrived for £10million mid-season and went on to fire 13 goals in his first 12 games for the Magpies. Two of those goals came at Stamford Bridge, with the second an incredible strike with the outside of his right boot that curled wickedly over Chelsea's Petr Cech from a wide-left position. Much like Newcastle's performance over the course of the season, it was a joyous surprise and devastatingly effective.
In a wondrous season it was perhaps only to be expected that the best should be saved until last. City were on the brink of fluffing their final day lines and gifting United the title by losing to lowly QPR in front of their own fans. It was almost as if the events of the past nine months had all been a cruel joke - setting 'typical City' up for the mother of all failures. Thanks to Sergio Aguero's forceful finish, it was quite the opposite. In the most dramatic ending to a Premier League season ever, City scored twice in injury-time to claim their first title in 44 years and send the Etihad Stadium into a state of delirium.
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