2001-2002: Arsenal at the double
|Champions||Arsenal||Biggest Win||Blackburn Rovers 7-1 West Ham United|
|Runners-Up||Liverpool FC||Highest Scoring Game||Tottenham Hotspur 3-5 Manchester United|
|Third Place||Manchester United||Top Goalscorer||Thierry Henry (24)|
|Relegated||Ipswich Town, Derby County, Leicester City||Goals Scored||1001|
Manchester United were striving to make it four Premier League titles in a row but their recent monopoly was broken in 2001-2002 by a hungry and stylish Arsenal side. Arsene Wenger spent big in the summer 2001 transfer window but whilst Francis Jeffers and Richard Wright struggled, Sol Campbell flourished. His arrival on a free transfer from north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur was controversial but ultimately the right decision. Campbell was part of a double-winning side.
It was a fitting finale for Tony Adams and Lee Dixon, who both retired at the end of the campaign. Thierry Henry won his first Golden Boot award and team records were achieved too. Arsenal won 13 consecutive matches in a row, scored in every single league match and managed to go unbeaten all season away from Highbury.
They sealed the title in style, at their arch rivals stomping ground. Sylvain Wiltord scored the only goal in the second half as the north Londoners won 1-0 to take the title off Manchester United. The Red Devils lost nine times in the season; six of those defeats alarmingly at the Theatre of Dreams including shock defeats to Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United and Middlesbrough.
This meant Liverpool FC pipped them to the runners-up spot. They lost Gerard Houllier for a huge portion of the season after he needed heart surgery in October 2001. Phil Thompson stepped up to the hotseat and did a great job to keep the Reds in contention until Houllier’s return. Their title dreams only ended on the penultimate weekend after a 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane to Tottenham.
After four seasons of mid-table struggle, Newcastle United returned to the sharp end of the Premier League table. The Magpies topped the table on Christmas Day, as Sir Bobby Robson’s team began to play a similar style last seen in the Kevin Keegan era. Alan Shearer became the first player to reach 200 Premier League goals and there was a PFA Young Players’ of the Year award for Craig Bellamy. A 2-2 draw away to Blackburn Rovers secured fourth spot and a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot.
Leeds United showed early promise and even bought Robbie Fowler for £11m in November from Liverpool FC. Their form dipped though in the Spring and they finished fifth. David O’Leary was sacked in June. The good times were definitely ending at Elland Road. Aston Villa were another team who impressed early on but faded to eighth spot by the season’s end. John Gregory quit in January to take over at Derby County but in a 3-2 defeat to Everton in October, Peter Schmeichel became the first goalkeeper to score in the Premier League.
Gregory became Derby’s third boss of the season but he couldn’t prevent their six-season sojourn in the top-flight end. Leicester City’s final campaign at Filbert Street also ended in relegation and after coming an excellent fifth in 2000-2001, Ipswich Town underachieved badly and would be sent down on the final day after a 5-0 loss at Anfield. For the first time in Premier League history, all three promoted clubs (Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers) stayed up.
Arsenal’s second league and FA Cup double in five years was proof that Arsene Wenger could create a team of regular winners.