Football

Ranking The Premier League Seasons In Order Of Excitement

Ranking The Premier League Seasons In Order Of Excitement

 

 

Ever since a far-sighted Sky Sports executive took the decision to invent football back in 1992, we've seen some exciting English football seasons. We've witnessed some thrilling crescendos and dramatic last minute conclusions. We've also seen some remarkably boring ones, seasons where the winner was known almost at Christmas, and the relegation battles were devoid of any wrenching tension.

24.  2000/01

Comfortably the most boring championship of the Premier League era. Most bookmakers had stopped taking bets on the title race by Christmas, as Manchester United wrapped up their third successive title well before the end of the season. They collected the trophy after losing 1 - 0 at home to Derby County.

The relegation 'battle' was utterly lacking in tension as eight points separated 17th placed Derby and 18th placed Manchester City at the close. All three relegated sides (Man City, Coventry and a dismal Bradford City) were gone before the final day.

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Ipswich Town were the season's greatest over-performers, finishing in a heady 6th spot in their first (and penultimate) year back in the top flight. George Burley won manager of the season.

Fergie-Keane

 

23.  2012/13

A damp squib of a title race as Manchester United's superb form before Christmas left them in an unassailable position. As in 2001, United eventually sealed the title on auto-pilot, with a series of uninspiring 1-0 and 2-0 home wins, pockmarked with a couple of losses, including one to closest rivals (although not that close) Manchester City. They only roused themselves for the 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa, which sealed the title mathematically. The only excitement came after the title was settled with Alex Ferguson announcing his retirement. 

QPR and Reading were relegated from a long way out. Wigan officially went down on the penultimate day after being spanked 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

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Arsenal pipped Spurs for the final Champions League spot but if that's the only excitement on the final day then its a poor show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1ad_7fz0F8

22. 2014-15

The title race was barely above 2013 levels of excitement with Chelsea essentially winning the championship in the first half of the season. After a brief wobble in the new year, they settled themselves and trundled towards the Premier League, delighting no one with their style of play.

At the bottom, there was at least something to play for on the final day with Hull and Newcastle scrapping to avoid the final relegation spot.

Newcastle led Hull by two points and came good in the end, beating West Ham 2-0. It didn't matter as Hull failed to beat Manchester United at home.

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21. 1999/00

United win the League by a mile. None of the challengers are near good enough. David O'Leary's callow team (he even called them 'babies', you'll recall)  look good early in the season but they flopped early in the new year.

Bradford City beat Liverpool 1-0 on the final day as Alf Inge Haaland's former sidekick David Weatherall scores the winner. A 2-0 defeat at the Dell sees Egil Olsen's Wimbledon drop out the Premiership for the first time in over decade, never to return.

 

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 20. 2003/04

The biggest novelty of the 2003/04 was Arsenal's outstanding achievement in going an entire season unbeaten. They won the League with 11 points to spare over newly minted Chelsea, now lying serenely on a comfy bed of Russian oil money. Manchester United looked good up until Christmas, but had an appalling start to 2014, and fell out of the title race, falling back on the consolation of the FA Cup. Rio Ferdinand missing his drug test because he was out shopping in Manchester was possibly the funniest story of the season.

Leeds United were the most high profile team to go down, but their fate was sealed before the final day, along with there two counterparts, Wolves and Leicester, no strangers to relegation either of them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc3qSA1mxjw

19. 2005/06
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Mourinho's Chelsea win the title (their second in a row) handily enough, but United's form in the second half of the season is strong. They briefly threatened a stunning comeback but a slack draw at home to an unbelievably useless Sunderland team cost them. Chelsea steam-rolled United 3-0 on the penultimate weekend to win the League.

Sunderland accumulate a whopping total of 15 points, the gold standard of badness until Derby 2007/08 model came along. West Brom and Birmingham also go down before the final Sunday. However, Portsmouth's incredible finish to the season, inspired by Harry Redknapp's return to the club, gives the relegation battle a bit of flavour.

18. 2001/02

Arsenal finish the season in brilliant form, famously winning the title with a 1-0 over United at Old Trafford. Manchester United's horrible form in late 2001, left them with a lot to do and they were unable to clamber back to the top of the table, despite Ruud Van Nistelrooy's sensational form.

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All three promoted sides stayed up, but there was little excitement. Derby and Leicester were well down before the end, while Ipswich, who took the league by storm the previous season, needed to win at Anfield to survive and even then Sunderland had to lose at home to relegated Derby. Ipswich got spanked 5-0.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRDJNoax8p8

 

17. 2008/09

A fairly drab title race which was only enlivened by the obvious bitterness between Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez. Liverpool tossed away the title after a poor start to the new year. United's stern defence made the difference as they won the League by four points. A 4-4 draw between Liverpool and Arsenal was one of the highlights.

Alan Shearer can't rescue Newcastle United as they fall out of the Premier League for the first time in 16 years with a final day loss to Villa. Hull managed to survive despite only winning once in the last 22 games. West Brom were bottom all season and that's where they finished. Middlesbrough also went down.

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Newcastles-Alan-Shearer-o-001

 

16. 2009/10

The title race went to the final day but there was little drama as Chelsea hammered Wigan 8-0 in an entirely expected turkey shoot at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea scored about a million goals that season as Ancelotti's men took the League. Manchester United's 4-0 win over Stoke was to no avail. Spurs beat Manchester City in the race for fourth place.

Portsmouth were docked nine points and finished a distant last. There was no craic at all on the final day. Five points separated 17th placed West Ham, managed by Zola, and 18th placed Burnley. Hull went one step better than the previous year and went down.

ancelotti

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15. 1997/98

Arsenal win their first title in seven years in superb style. United had a healthy lead but a chronic run of injuries cost them and Wenger's heavily Dutch/French looking Arsenal reeled them in. They had the title won with two games left, and proceeded to phone in their final two performances, losing both and giving the table a deceptively close look at the end.

There was some drama at the bottom as Everton draw 1-1 with Coventry to stave off relegation and send Bolton down on goal difference. Both Barnsley and Crystal Palace were doomed well before the finale.

 

14. 1996/97

A dreary title race was settled well before the end, despite the fact that United mustered the lowest points total ever amassed by the eventual champions. Liverpool were their nearest challengers, but their 2-1 loss at Selhurst Park meant the League was done before we got to May.

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A different story at the other end as Coventry escaped the drop after unexpectedly beating Spurs on the final day. This meant Middlesbrough, who had spent big and had shown touching faith in Bryan Robson, went down after losing 1-0 at Elland Road. They had also been deducted three points at Christmas for failing to fulfil a fixture, a penalty which ultimately cost them. Sunderland looked to be safe on the final day, but their 1-0 loss to Wimbledon combined with Coventry's win sent them back to Division 1.

middlesbrough

13. 2002/03

A reverse of the 1997/98 season, as Manchester United overhaul an Arsenal side who looked to be cantering towards the title and lead by 8 points at the start of March. United's win was almost on a par with their more heralded comeback in 1995/96. The League was wrapped up before the final day after Arsenal lost 3-2 at home to relegation dodgers Leeds.

West Brom and Sunderland were both gone well before the end of spring and the excitement was all centred on 'too good to go down' West Ham's race to avoid the drop. Without wanting to sound heartless they were given a lifeline by Glenn Roeder's health problems, as their incompetent manager had to be replaced by caretaker Trevor Brooking. This may be hard to believe for anyone watched Match of the Day during the 90s, but Brooking clearly had some inspirational impact on the Hammers and they won two of their final three games. However a 2-2 draw at Birmingham, combined with Bolton's home victory over Middlesbrough sent them down.

champagne
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12. 1998/99

An exciting title race went down to the final day, with only a point separating Manchester United and Arsenal. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's dramatic late header gave Leeds a 1-0 win at home to Arsenal in the second last game. United could only draw 0-0 at relegated Blackburn and so it went to the last day.

Les Ferdinand put Spurs ahead and Arsenal sensed a two in a row could be on. But United responded well and goals from Beckham and Cole sealed the title.

The relegation battle was a non-event, however as, of the bottom three sides, only Charlton had a ghost of a chance of surviving come the final day, and that was a fairly speculative one. They failed and finished five points adrift of Southampton. Nottingham Forest were the other team to go down.

 

 

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11. 2006/07

After a mid-decade dip, Manchester United return in style with Cristiano Ronaldo transformed from a callow, tricksy, showboater with an irritating addiction to performing inconsequential step-overs into an unstoppable goalscoring machine. Chelsea put up a fair resistance but United had the title won two games before the end and Fergie bested Mourinho at last.

The relegation battle is much more exciting, as West Ham rally under Alan Curbishley to pull off a great escape, having looked in desperate trouble a month before. On the final day, aided by the fact that United were already champions, they won 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a Tevez goal. At Bramall Lane, Wigan beat Sheffield United 2-1 in what amounted to a relegation play-off. Warnock's Sheffield United looked the least likely to go down at the start of the day but it was they who returned to Division 1.

 

 

10.  2007/08
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Arsenal were rejuvenated and led the League for much of the season before their famous 2-2 draw at Birmingham City, where William Gallas distinguished himself by acting the maggot after the final whistle. At the end, it was Manchester United and Chelsea tussling for the title. Chelsea narrowed United's lead by beating them 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. United needed to win the last two games and did, beating Wigan 2-0 away.

At the bottom, only an absurdly useless Derby were relegated before the final day (they were more or less relegated at Christmas). It was Fulham, Reading and Birmingham battling for 17th spot. All three sides won, and it was Fulham who got the job done, with their late Roy Hodgson inspired rally proving enough.

9. 1992/93
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Manchester United win their first League title in 26 years with two games to spare. They began the season terribly, conceding the first ever goal in the Premier League at Bramall Lane (Brian Deane scored it) and then losing 3-0 at home to Everton. However, the signing of Eric Cantona and spectacular form in the early months of 1993 left it a tight battle between them, Aston Villa and Norwich. A stunning 3-1 win at Carrow Road and the famous 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday put them one point ahead of Villa. It looked set to be an exciting finish, but Villa imploded badly, being hammered 3-0 at Ewood Park and then losing at 1-0 to miraculous Oldham handed the League to United.

One of the most amazing escapes ever. With three games left, Oldham were eight points behind Crystal Palace. First they ended the title race by winning 1-0 at Villa Park, then they beat Souness' unhappy Liverpool side 3-2, and then on the final day as Arsenal spanked Palace 3-0 at Highbury, Oldham beat Southampton on a dramatic 4-3 scoreline to survive. Palace, after nine years in the top flight, went down. Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest, in Brian Clough's final season, were also relegated.

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8. 1993/94

An eventful season, with some classic clashes such as the Liverpool-United 3-3 game in January, but no title cliffhanger. Manchester United were miles ahead at Christmas, but some ropey form in the new year and Blackburn's excellent run, left it closer at the end than it might have been. Nevertheless, United had the title won with a couple of games left. A particularly exciting, charismatic, and bad-tempered United team they were too.

A legendary last day escape as Everton come from 2-0 down at home to Wimbledon to win 3-2 and stay up. Graham Stuart was the hero as Everton supporters invaded the pitch at the end. The game is cherished more than any number of respectable 5th place finishes these days. In the gripping finale, Oldham and Sheffield United are condemned to relegation.

 

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7. 2004/05

Chelsea won the first League title of the Abramovich are by a large margin. Any excitement that attached itself to the title race surrounded the two highly charged Manchester United-Arsenal encounters, where United claimed all six points. At Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson had a pizza thrown at him after the game by Cesc Fabregas and at Highbury Roy Keane told Patrick Vieira he'd "see him out there" and had to be restrained by Graham Poll after Vieira picked on Gary Neville.

Making up for the one-sided title race, we witnessed one of the more exciting relegation finales. No one was officially relegated heading into the final days' fixtures. At various stages during the 90 minutes, all four teams involved, Southampton, Crystal Palace, and Norwich were safe. Eventually, it was West Brom who beat Portsmouth and became the first team to be bottom at Christmas and stay up.

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6. 2015-16

Potentially controversial one here considering that both the title race and the relegation dogfight was settled prior to the final day.

But 2015-16 must soar high on the sheer giddy wave of euphoria unleashed by Leicester's title run. It brought an intoxicating excitement all on its own even if the big prize was won with two games still left to play.

Also, Andrea Bocelli and Claudio Ranieri.

 5. 2013/14
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The tension had subsided by the time we reached the final day, but the games in advance of the final Sunday live long in the memory.

The 2013/14 run-in will be regarded as iconic principally because of the contenders, or at least one of them. Liverpool won over neutrals in their quest to bridge a 24 gap to their last title. The manner of their ultimately losing it - the 'slip' against Chelsea, surrendering a 3-0 lead against Crystal Palace - will not be soon forgotten.

 

4. 2010/11

A fairly boring title race as a middling, unshowy Manchester United team won the League title well before the end mathematically sealing the title after a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park. None of the challengers were anywhere near good enough as Chelsea beat themselves with some inexplicable internal wrangling in late 2010. Man City weren't quite there yet.

However, the season was rescued by one of the most extraordinarily tight relegation battles ever as relegation zone changed shape twice in the final ten minutes. Wigan beat Stoke 1-0 with a late goal. At roughly the same time, Birmingham equalised against Spurs and were drawing 1-1. This left Wolves, trailing 3-1 to Blackburn Rovers, behind Birmingham on goal difference and staring relegation in the face. However, Stephen Hunt's 87th goal put them ahead of Birmingham on goal difference. This message was fed through to the Birmingham players who poured men forward, leaving themselves open at the back. Pavlyuchenko's winner for Spurs settled it, sending Birmingham down.

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3. 1994/95

Ludek Miklosko's finest hour. The West Ham goalkeeper made approximately 7,000 saves from Andy Cole, all from point blank range as United were unable to win at Upton Park.

At Anfield Blackburn supporters placed their heads in the vicinity hands as Jamie Redknapp's free kick put them 2-1 down in injury time. Those without the latest in technology, the transistor radio, were sure they must have blown it. However, seconds later, they were all celebrating. Kenny Dalglish responded to Redknapp's goal by celebrating with his staff in the dugout.

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The only season in past twenty years when four teams went down as the League was reduced in size. In contrast to the incredibly exciting title finish, it wasn't a humdinger of a relegation battle as Ipswich and Leicester went down by a fair distance. A year after their European adventure, Norwich plummeted down the table and eventually went down. Crystal Palace finished 18th and went down. Aston Villa, then more used to top half finishes, were uncomfortably near the relegation spots at the end, placing 17th.

 

2. 1995/96

Probably, the Premier League that is most densely packed with memorable 'iconic' moments. This was the year when all that 'mind games' bullshit was invented, the year of 'you can't win anything with kids', the year of 'the Spice Boys', and the year of 'I would love if we beat them.'

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Manchester United overhauled a 12 point deficit as Kevin Keegan's cavalier people's favourites imploded. Eric Cantona had one of the most glorious and romantic seasons ever enjoyed by a Premier League footballer. A year after almost being kicked out of English football, his goals won United the title and he was named Footballer of the Year.

And any relegation battle which ends with Niall Quinn running out onto a pitch with his suit on has to be considered a great one. Manchester City, Southampton and Coventry all finished on 38 points. Late in City's game, they were drawing 2-2 with Liverpool, and Alan Ball was informed that they had done enough for survival and other results were going their way. They weren't. Both Southampton and Coventry drew 0-0 (at Wimbledon and Leeds) and were ahead of City on goal difference. As City were smugly playing keep-ball in the corner, Niall Quinn, already subbed, came scampering out of the tunnel with his suit on, ran down to the Liverpool corner flag to tell them they needed a goal. It was too late and City went down.

 

 

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1. 2011/12

The relegation battle wasn't half bad. Blackburn's owners had a strange death wish, not only in deciding to appoint Steve Kean but then leave in the job long enough for him to relegate them. He made a decent fist of it in 2011 and got the job done in 2012. Wolves were well down by the end. However, QPR managed five straight home wins (and looked to be about to win their final game as well...) and Bolton's final day draw with Stoke wasn't enough to save them.

And well, the title race... Paddy Power had no doubt closed the book on this season winning out there. Niall Quinn has assured us we will never see anything like this ever again. Maybe he's right?

 

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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