Arsenal the third best Premier League runners-up as Liverpool, Manchester United dominate

Matt Stead
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, Spurs players Dele and Harry Kane and Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson
No shame in finishing second here, especially with these points totals

Arsenal missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester City but can console themselves with the status of third greatest runners-up ever.

 

9) Manchester United 2009/10 (85 points)
Manchester City and Pep Guardiola made history this season, but Manchester United came within a single point of becoming the first club to ever win four consecutive English top-flight titles in 2010. Carlo Ancelotti raised a dismissive eyebrow at Sir Alex Ferguson’s attempts to dethrone him as Chelsea shattered the record for most team goals in one campaign.

Four defeats in nine games from October to December ended up costing United, who went top on April 24 but saw Chelsea win both their game in hand and final two matches to win a first Jose Mourinho-less Premier League crown.

It didn’t help United that Wayne Rooney was their top league goalscorer (26) with more than double the total of anyone else. Dimitar Berbatov was second with 12, followed by own goals on 11.

 

8) Chelsea, 2007/08 (85 points)
Whatever your thoughts on Manchester United, their efforts in the 2007/08 season should be forever cherished. Had Ferguson’s men not won the double of Premier League and Champions League that year, Avram Grant would be either a) a Premier League-winning manager, b) a Champions League-winning manager, or c) both. The Israeli would be managing Real Madrid, not Zambia. That is a dark, scary alternate reality.

Defeat to a self-confessed “f****d” Anderson in the penalty shoot-out of the 2008 Champions League final was still to come for Grant’s Chelsea, who had parted ways with Jose Mourinho the previous September. But there was still domestic heartache in store, again courtesy of United. Just two points separated the Blues from Ferguson’s side by the end of the season, with Chelsea losing fewer games but drawing a pretty sizeable ten.

 

7) Tottenham, 2016/17 (86 points)
Remember when Tottenham bottled the Premier League title by winning 12 of their last 13 games and falling short of what was then the second highest points total in the competition’s history?

Mauricio Pochettino’s side had tussled for the title with Leicester the previous season before inexplicably and hilariously finishing third behind Arsenal, but history would not repeat itself 12 months later. They kept a frankly ludicrous pace with Antonio Conte’s winning Chelsea machine but four consecutive draws from October to November really did end their challenge before it even started. They scored the most goals (86) and conceded the fewest (26) but still finished seven points off the top, which does seem remarkably Tottenham.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Where do Arsenal rank in your greatest runners-up? Join the debate here.

 

6) Liverpool, 2008/09 (86 points)
The 2013/14 vintage of Liverpool lives longer in the memory in the battle of Rafael Benitez’s facts versus the fiction of Steven Gerrard’s footing. Five years separated those two teams who could not have been more diametrically opposed.

Liverpool 08/09 lost two games; Liverpool 13/14 lost six. Liverpool 08/09 last led the table in January and won ten of their last 11 games but paid for a whole load of winter draws; Liverpool 13/14 were top in April but capitulated in the run-in. Their goal difference was almost identical but whereas Liverpool 08/09 scored 77 goals and conceded 27, Liverpool 13/14 scored 101 and conceded 50.

That 2008/09 iteration was a carefully crafted machine with an excellent core group of players and briefly the greatest goalscorer of all time, Andrea Dossena. They had Manchester United wobbling at one stage but Ferguson’s side eventually held firm to prolong Liverpool’s championship wait.

 

5) Manchester United, 1994/95 (88 points)
There have been just three English champions based outside of Manchester and London in the last 30 years. Leicester made history in 2016, but just over two decades earlier Blackburn secured a rather more predictable success.

Kenny Dalglish’s Rovers owed much of their title to the ‘SAS’ strike partnership, with Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton plundering 49 of the club’s 80 goals between them. But despite their best efforts, Blackburn could never quite shake off the challenge of United, two-time reigning Premier League champions. Two points separated the two teams heading into the final day; would Alex Ferguson’s men condemn the Lancashire club to a runner-up finish for the second consecutive season?

Nearly. Liverpool did their bit, beating Blackburn with a last-minute goal from Jamie Redknapp. United required only a victory at West Ham, 13th in the table, and with nothing to play for, to claim the title. But Ludek Miklosko. Ludek bloody Miklosko. The Hammers goalkeeper went full Yashin, thwarting Andy Cole, Lee Sharpe and Mark Hughes at Upton Park to secure a 1-1 draw. United’s 88 points was more than they managed in eight of their 13 Premier League title-winning campaigns, but Blackburn crawled over the line.

 

4) Manchester United, 2011/12 (89 points)
Fewer than two points have separated the Premier League champions from the runners-up on six occasions. Until Liverpool came agonisingly short against Manchester City twice recently, Manchester United had been involved each time. They pipped Arsenal to the title by one point in the historic 1998/99 season, but the Gunners beat them by one point the previous campaign, and Chelsea finished on 86 points to United’s 85 in the 2009/10 season. Then 2011/12 was the most bitter of pills to swallow.

Just once has goal difference come into play in deciding the destination of the Premier League title. After holding an eight-point advantage in April with six games remaining, United suffered a collapse unbefitting of a Ferguson side. A 1-0 defeat to Wigan allowed City to close the gap to five points. A 4-4 draw with Everton shortened that even further to just three. Then Vincent Kompany’s big old head put City top. Level on points on the final day, United faced – and beat – Sunderland, while City took on relegation-embattled QPR at home. Losing 2-1 heading into injury time, Edin Dzeko drew the scores level. Then…AGUEROOOOOOOOOOOO.

Not enough is said about that Manchester United bottlejob.

 

3) Arsenal, 2023/24 (89 points)
How fitting that the 2011/12 Manchester United side would be edged out as the third-best Premier League runners-up ever by Arsenal on that very same metric.

The Gunners were second but a sizeable five points back from Manchester City on 84 the prior season, but pushed Guardiola’s side to their absolute limit in 2023/24 by winning 16 of their last 18 Premier League games. The two exceptions were a creditable draw against City themselves – although Rodri is not alone in thinking that was Arsenal’s downfall – and a defeat to Champions League qualifiers Aston Villa.

Arsenal were left counting the cost of losses to Fulham and West Ham in December but ultimately it was luck and fine margins which did for them. They scored 91 goals and had the best defensive record of any team to match Manchester City’s goal difference and broke a fair few club records along the way.

 

2) Liverpool, 2021/22 (92 points)
For the second time in three seasons, Liverpool collected a hugely impressive total – but City still pipped them by a single point.

And just as in 2018/19, on the final day, City teased the Reds by going behind against opposition they were expected to beat. Aston Villa – Steven Gerrard’s Villa no less – went 2-0 up at the Etihad to give Liverpool not only hope of a 20th treble, but a first Quadruple, with the domestic trophies already in the bag and the Champions League final to come. But City, again, pulled their finger out and turned it around against Villa while Liverpool were beating Wolves.

The Reds were left to regret their missed opportunity when they played City as the finish line came into view. Liverpool were a point behind then and in need of a victory at the Etihad. But a thriller finished 2-2, with neither side subsequently dropping any more points.

 

1) Liverpool, 2018/19 (97 points)
Only three teams have ever recorded more points in a single Premier League season. Yet Liverpool, at this point still without a title since 1990, missed out because of Manchester City being just that tiny bit dafter.

Liverpool and City went toe-to-toe, playing some incredible football all the way down the final straight. In their penultimate games, Liverpool briefly gained the ascendancy with a dramatic late win at Newcastle. When City were struggling to keep up, Kompany strode forward and smashed in a beauty against Leicester to give the reigning champions the advantage on the final day.

Then, Brighton gave Liverpool hope by taking the lead against City. It lasted a minute. Pep’s side put their foot down and in some style, with 98 points, they became the first team for 11 seasons to regain the title. Liverpool made do with the Champions League instead before ending their Premier League title drought the following season.

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