Six times injuries scuppered title challenges: Eduardo, Torres, Giggs…
Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle United and Chelsea have all suffered from injuries which have affected title challenges during the Premier League era.
In an ideal world, every title race would be decided by moments of individual or collective brilliance rather than the misfortune of others.
Sadly, that can not always be the case, and we’ve looked back at six seasons in which injuries have played a part in changing the course of the Premier League trophy.
Possibly the most obvious example of an injury changing the course of not just one match but a whole season.
Arsenal headed to St Andrew’s five points clear at the top of the Premier League in February 2008.
Only three minutes into the match, Eduardo suffered a horrific leg break following a shocking challenge by Martin Taylor, and Arsenal’s season imploded from thereon in.
A 2-1 lead was scuppered by a late James McFadden penalty, William Gallas become the physical manifestation of the mental blow by throwing a tantrum on the pitch, and Arsenal ended the season in third place, four points off top spot.
Arsenal – 2007/08
One of my favourite seasons ever. Pain from an old wound. pic.twitter.com/DSepyJXkSQ
— Dostoyevsky (@KozielloEN) January 9, 2018
Fernando Torres & Steven Gerrard
Liverpool’s title challenge of 2013-14 may have been more dramatic, but 2008-09 perhaps represented their greatest chance of ending that continuing wait to become champions of England for the first time since 1990.
In Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard and Fernado Torres, Liverpool had an outstanding spine to their team, and that’s not to mention a supporting cast featuring the likes of Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun.
The Reds ultimately fell four points short of eventual champions Manchester United, with both Gerrard and Torres missing chunks of the campaign. It is no coincidence that Torres missed Liverpool’s only two league defeats of the season.
Speaking after Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in March, Rafa Benitez said: The worst thing has been the injuries to Torres. He has been our main striker and scored a lot of goals for us last season. And this season could have been totally different with him.”
As aforementioned, the 2013-14 title race is best remembered for Liverpool’s dramatic collapse and Manchester City’s subsequent triumph, meaning the form of Arsenal and Aaron Ramsey in particular in the first half of the season has been largely forgotten.
A 3-1 win at West Ham on Boxing Day saw Arsenal go top the table, but a thigh injured suffered by Ramsey, who had scored 13 goals from midfield in all competitions over the first half of the season, saw the midfielder ultimately ruled out until April.
Between the end of January and Ramsey’s return, the Gunners won just three times in 11 league matches, finishing seven points behind City.
Roy Keane & Ryan Giggs
Manchester United have won more than their fair share of titles, but they can perhaps feel a little aggrieved that they came away empty handed in 1997-98.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men famously opened up a 12-point gap at the top of the table in March but had to be wary of Arsenal, who had played three games less.
United’s season unravelled that month as, missing Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs, they were beaten at Sheffield Wednesday, drew at West Ham and crucially lost to Arsenal at Old Trafford.
To make matters worse, they were also knocked out of the Champions League by Monaco in the same month.
Alan Shearer & Les Ferdinand
Newcastle actually came closer to winning the Premier League in 1995-96, finishing four points behind Manchester United in the infamous ‘I’d love it’ season, but things could have perhaps been different a year later were it not for injuries.
The Magpies ultimately finished seven points behind the Red Devils in a season disrupted by the shock exit of Kevin Keegan, but they were also robbed of their two hitmen at crucial periods.
Shearer, who had joined the club in a world-record £15million deal in the summer, was ruled out for six weeks with a groin injury in October, with Newcastle losing to Leicester and drawing with West Ham in his absence.
Ferdinand, meanwhile, missed a similar period after suffering a fractured cheekbone. With Shearer robbed of his strike partner, Newcastle endured a terrible run in which they did not win another game until December 28.
Later in the season, the Magpies were beaten for the first time under Kenny Dalglish when Southampton took home all three points from St James’ Park in a game which Shearer missed through injury and Ferdinand had to be taken off at the break.
The duo were subsequently unfit for the second consecutive 4-3 defeat at Anfield. Ferdinand did come on at the break, only to be substituted 10 minutes later.
Injuries, a rather a lack of, certainly played a part as Chelsea eased to the Premier League title in 2016-17.
While Tottenham lost Harry Kane for two separate spells, Manchester City had to make do without Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero, Arsenal rued the absence of Santi Cazorla and Liverpool waved goodbye to Sadio Mane, Chelsea had the footballing Gods to thank for a clean bill of health throughout the majority of the campaign.
As noted by the Daily Telegraph: “Chelsea, meanwhile, have seen a player miss three weeks or more on only six occasions all season: John Terry (twice), Jon Obi Mikel (twice), Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic.
“Of those players, Mikel and Ivanovic were considered disposable in January and only Fabregas has played a significant role on the pitch. Even he has been used sparingly.”