As we wind down the Premier League season and the title still not definitively decided, there will likely be one or two moments that will define the title-winner’s season.
The current favorites are Leicester City, a wonderfully exciting story in its own right. So with Leicester City looking for its defining moment, what are some other top memories from past Premier League seasons that set the stage for a club to hoist the trophy?
5) Arsenal, 1997/98
The Gunners won the Premier League championship in Arsene Wenger‘s first season. They didn’t have the best attack, nor did they have the best defense, but they had the most resilience and the most consistent side. A stretch of 18 games unbeaten from Boxing Day through the clinching of the trophy was key to their success. The club capped that streak with 10 wins in a row, topped off with a 4-0 win over Everton. Current Ajax Director of Football Marc Overmars had a brace, Tony Adams scored, and now-West Ham manager Slaved Bilic helped with an Everton own-goal as a fitting scoreline saw the Gunners hoist the trophy that day.
4) Chelsea, 2004/05
Jose Mourinho’s first title with the Blues. The first league championship in 50 years for the club. The team lost once all season. There’s plenty of drama to feast on already, but one moment sticks out.
Chelsea clinched the title that season on the road at Bolton Wanderers. While there was no challenge to the inevitable for The Blues as they conceded just 15 goals all season, the day would live in the memories of many. 25-year-old Frank Lampard scored both goals in the 2-0 victory that sealed the trophy, and Jose Mourinho got on the phone to call his wife and give her the good news while the team celebrated. Chelsea ended up 12 points in front at the end of the season, and “The Special One” backed up his self-dubbed nickname.
3) Manchester United, 1998/99
Of all 13 of Sir Alex Ferguson‘s Premier League titles, this might be one of – if not the – most impressive. Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea all dominated the rest of the league, and as a result, were in hot pursuit of the league crown. All three of those clubs lost four or fewer league games that year, but Manchester United went unbeaten through its final 20 league matches, a monstrous number that saw them through.
The memorable title-winning moment came on the final day. Manchester United had overtaken the Gunners the week prior thanks to a 1-0 Arsenal loss to Leeds, and now was their time to pounce. It was a nervy 90 minutes, with Spurs going in front via Les Ferdinand, but goals from David Beckham to tie and Andy Cole for the lead gave the Red Devils a 2-1 win over Tottenham, and the championship trophy was won at Old Trafford a point ahead of Arsenal and three above Chelsea.
2) Blackburn Rovers, 1994/95
It’s a bit tough to pick one moment from this magical Blackburn season, mostly because they gained a commanding lead for much of the season before sputtering down the stretch and nearly coughing it up on the final day. But the two biggest moments down the stretch came in narrow victories. Rovers downed Chelsea – who finished 11th – on March 18th by a 2-1 score thanks to a 7th minute strike from Golden Boot winner Alan Shearer and a match-winner from Tim Sherwood in the 37th minute, holding on from there to move to seven unbeaten, a streak that would finish at 10 and include seven victories, five of which came by a single goal.
A devastating home loss to Manchester City ended that streak after Rovers wasted a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2, and although they lost three of their final five matches from that point, a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace in Round 39 (the Premier League consisted of 42 rounds with still 22 teams in the league) was vital. Goals by Jeff Kenna and Kevin Gallacher just four minutes apart soon after the halftime break would lead them to all three points.
Blackburn would top Manchester United by just a single point that season. They lost to Liverpool on the final day, but with United unable to topple West Ham that same day, the title went to Rovers in one of the most improbable title stories ever.
1) Manchester City, 2011/12
As far as late goals go, Sergio Aguero’s might be the most important in league history. Manchester City came into the final day tied with Manchester United on points, but holding a five-goal differential lead, meaning a win would give them the trophy barring a United demolition of Sunderland.
Wayne Rooney‘s 20th minute strike saw United over the Black Cats, but City was struggling with Queens Park Rangers. Down 2-1 headed into injury time, City earned the trophy in the blink of an eye. Edin Dzeko scored to level things up, and Aguero bagged the winner with the last kick of the game as the Etihad erupted in jubilation and Joe Hart did the airplane. It doesn’t get much better than that.