1997-1998: Awesome Arsenal
|Champions||Arsenal||Biggest Win||Manchester United 7-0 Barnsley|
|Runners-Up||Manchester United||Highest Scoring Game||Blackburn Rovers 7-2 Sheffield Wednesday|
|Third Place||Liverpool FC||Top Goalscorer||Michael Owen, Chris Sutton & Dion Dublin (18)|
|Relegated||Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley, Crystal Palace||Goals Scored||1019|
Arsene Wenger became the first foreign manager to win the Premier League title in 1998 as Arsenal went on an incredible run of form post-Christmas to win their first English title in seven years.
The Gunners’ had the perfect blend of youth and experience. The formidable midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit gelling well with the spine of the team, consisting of Tony Adams, Steve Bould and David Seaman. This allowed the creative influxes of Nicolas Anelka, Marc Overmars and PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Dennis Bergkamp to shine. Bergkamp’s hat-trick at Leicester in August was one of the best three-goal hauls the league has ever seen.
Injury would curtail Ian Wright’s final season as an Arsenal player but in September 1997, he broke Cliff Bastin’s record to become Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer with a hat-trick at home to Bolton Wanderers. However, Arsenal lost four games in quick succession in the winter months and were trailing in sixth spot at the turn of the year.
Manchester United were playing some blistering football and tearing teams apart. Barnsley beaten up 7-0, Sheffield Wednesday lost 6-1 and Wimbledon 5-2. The product was clinical but Alex Ferguson’s side got too casual and also lost games where they should won away to Coventry City and Southampton.
The big showdown came in mid-March at the Theatre of Dreams. Arsenal had never scored in the Premier League at the ground, let alone won but they broke that statistic in the last 12 minutes. The pacey Overmars ran away from the defenders and slotted past Peter Schmeichel to seal a crucial victory for the visitors’. Wenger’s side didn’t drop another point between that result and the day of their title crowning; a comfy 4-0 success over Everton at Highbury in early May. The inspirational Adams produced the fitting finale with a spectacular goal in stoppage-time to start the party at Highbury.
It was a two-horse race all season. Liverpool FC were a distant third but Michael Owen’s rise continued. He made his England debut, notched his first Premier League hat-trick at Hillsborough in February and finished in a tie for the Golden Boot with Coventry’s Dion Dublin and Chris Sutton of Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn did top the table in the early weeks but faded to sixth in the final reckoning. They did beat Sheffield Wednesday 7-2 though in a game where they scored five goals in the opening 25 minutes!
For the only time in Premier League history, all three promoted clubs went straight back down. Crystal Palace’s dire home form and Barnsley’s leaky defence did for their challenges to survive. Bolton were beaten on the last day at Stamford Bridge, with Everton surviving on goal difference after a 1-1 draw with Coventry.
This season was the first sign of the growing rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United that would dominate the league’s narrative for the next few seasons.