The 7 teams that were top at this stage of the season & let it slip ft. Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea…

Liverpool are top of the Premier League with just nine games remaining – which is a good omen for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, because the team at the summit at this stage has gone on to win the title in 17 of the last 20 seasons.

In fact, in the Premier League era, only once before have Liverpool been top of the Premier League at this exact stage – and that was when they went on to win the title at a canter back in 2019-20.

Inspired by the excellent work of Andrew Beasley (@BassTurnedToRed) on Twitter, we’ve taken a closer look at the few teams in the modern era that had their destiny in their hands with nine games remaining and didn’t go on to make it over the line.

Note: Aston Villa were top after 29 games in the inaugural 1992-93 season, but we haven’t included them as there were still 13 games remaining in that 42-game campaign.

Arsenal – 2022-23

Last season, Mikel Arteta’s Gunners set a record for days spent at the top of the Premier League (248) without winning the thing.

Arsenal went top in week three and barely let up until late April, when they lost 4-1 away to Manchester City with five games remaining. They ended up finishing five points behind Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering treble-winners, having lost three of their final six outings.

In fairness, Arsenal only finished six points shy of the legendary Invincibles’ 90-point tally in 2003-04, and they’ll do well to match that total this season. They were just unfortunate to come up against a relentless winning machine in City (Klopp’s Liverpool know that feeling all too well), who caught them by winning 12 successive league games from February to late May.

READ: The 7 biggest Premier League title collapses to rival Arsenal in 2023

Chelsea – 2013-14

The 2013-14 Premier League season is best remembered for Steven Gerrard, Demba Ba, This Does Not Slip and all that – but Liverpool only went top, before falling away, later in that drama-filled campaign.

It’s forgotten now but it was actually Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea – cast as the arch spoilers that day at Anfield – that had the title in their hands with nine matches remaining. In fact, the Blues were top from mid-February to early April before falling away, ending up just two points off Liverpool and four points off the champions Manchester City.

Defeats to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and finally Sunderland were the nails in the coffin of their title hopes. That summer they addressed their striker problem, signed Diego Costa and brought back Didier Drogba, and cruised to the title the following season.

Manchester United – 2011-12

Sir Alex Ferguson’s United had lost 6-1 to City earlier in the campaign, but there was a point in the spring where it looked like yet another title – a fifth in six years – would be a formality.

United did what they invariably did back then and put on the afterburners in the new year, dropping just two points in a run of 12 games while their city rivals faltered with dropped points against Everton, Swansea, Stoke, Sunderland and Arsenal.

But while Roberto Mancini’s men recovered to win their final six matches – including a fraught 1-0 home win over United in late April – United wobbled, losing at Wigan and drawing 4-4 at home to Everton before their decisive defeat at the Etihad.

They ended up losing the title on goal difference after Sergio Aguero’s injury-time winner against QPR. Surely we’ll never see things ever go right down to the wire like that ever again.

Arsenal – 2002-03

Arsenal had 63 points and a five-point advantage over United after 29 matches as they looked to retain their title in 2002-03.

But a 2-0 defeat at Blackburn in mid-March precipitated a title-costing wobble. The Gunners went on to drop points in four of their following six matches, with a 3-2 defeat at home to relegation-battling Leeds all but confirming their dream was over.

Wenger’s men recovered to win their final two matches with a 10-1 aggregate scoreline, but it was too little too late.

United took advantage, winning eight of their last nine and drawing at Arsenal. They finished five points clear – in a less-than-vintage era under Ferguson; their only title in a six-year stretch, and surprisingly the only one they won with Ruud van Nistelrooy.

QUIZ: Can you name every club to win the English league title?

Manchester United – 2001-02

The Red Devils were rotten in the first half of the 2001-02 season. They sat fourth, behind Newcastle, Leeds and Liverpool on Christmas Day 2001 and from October to December went on an unthinkable run of one win and five defeats in seven games.

But in a league that lacked any great competition, they recovered to sit top of the table in mid-March after a run of 12 wins from 13 games.

Their problem was that Arsenal were also on the road to recovery, and actually had their destiny in their own hands; a point behind with a game in hand.

Arsenal never let up with one of the greatest runs in their history; a winning streak of their last 14 matches to end up champions, seven points clear of runners-up Liverpool and 10 clear of United in third. A Sylvain Wiltord match-winner in a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend sealed it in style.

Manchester United – 1997-98

After 29 matches in 1997-98, United looked well on their way to yet another 90s title. They were nine points clear of closest challengers Liverpool, and while Arsenal had three games in hand they were far enough back – 11 points – for that not to be too big a concern.

Except, in hindsight, it should have been. They won those games in hand in an exceptional run of 11 straight victories (just two goals conceded) to announce Wenger as a serious threat to Ferguson.

The Gunners actually ended up losing their last two outings, including a 4-0 defeat at Anfield, but they’d already broken the back of it. United finished a point behind and paid the price for a 1-0 defeat at Highbury, as well as dropped points against Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham, Liverpool and Newcastle in the run-in.

Michael Owen celebrates scoring for Liverpool

QUIZ: Can you name every player to score 10+ Premier League goals in 1997-98?

Newcastle United – 1995-96

Probably the most famous collapse of the Premier League era. At one point, Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers were famously 12 points clear of Manchester United.

They’d been reigned in for the run-in. That lead was cut to just one point after 29 matches, although the Magpies were still in a decent position with a game in hand over the chasers.

“I was scoring goals, Rob Lee was scoring goals, David Ginola was producing, but then we struggled,” Les Ferdinand told us.

“Keith Gillespie got injured and we had to shuffle round a little bit. Keegan wanted to get me and Tino Asprilla into the side together, which I felt made us a bit lop-sided and lost our threat.

“Every season, when teams are going for the title, there are pivotal games. Everyone looks at the Manchester United game (when Newcastle lost 1-0 at home), but I don’t think that was the one that lost us the title.

“For me it was the Liverpool game. Had we won, we’d have had momentum to start winning again, it would have lifted us mentally and physically, but it drained us.”

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