Gunners Fire Themselves to Second Title
The 2001-02 season was the 10th Premier League campaign and it was one to remember as Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all battled for the title. Arsenal were crowned champions after an excellent year under Arsene Wenger and a very strong finish to the campaign, with Liverpool finishing seven points behind in second place. Manchester United took third spot, while Newcastle United finished in fourth. It was the Gunners’ second Premier League title and 12th English championship.
At the other end of the table, Ipswich Town were relegated to the Football League despite booking their spot in the UEFA Cup by winning the Fair Play League. Leicester City finished rock bottom of the division, while Derby County were the other relegated side. This was the Foxes’ last year at Filbert Street, as they moved into the King Power Stadium for the start of the 2002-03 season. For the first time in Premier League history, all three promoted clubs avoided relegation. Fulham, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers all managed to keep themselves up following promotion from the second tier the second before.
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Awesome Arsenal Have Season to Remember
Arsenal kicked off their season with a 4-0 win at Middlesbrough before suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Leeds United on matchday two. However, they did not lose again in the league until November. The title race was still wide open as we entered 2002, but Arsenal had a superb festive period and kicked on in the new year. After a 3-1 home loss to Newcastle in mid-December, the Gunners went unbeaten for the remainder of the Premier League season.
Wenger’s men ended their domestic campaign with an incredible 13-game winning streak to get their hands on the Premier League trophy for a second time. A famous 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in their penultimate game did the business. In a truly stunning season, Arsenal also won the FA Cup, beating fellow Londoners Chelsea in Cardiff. In doing so, Arsenal sealed their second double under Wenger, who signed a new four-year deal at Highbury shortly after.
Massive Slump Costs Liverpool Title
Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool were top of the Premier League table at the beginning of December, but the Reds went on to have an alarming dip in form which saw them slip all the way down to fifth place in the table. The Merseysiders had started well, winning 10 of their opening 14 games. However, from the middle of December to late January, Houllier’s troops picked up just one league victory from nine games.
To be fair to the Reds, they recovered extremely well from that horrendous slump and went on to win 12 of their last 14 matches and they lost only one of the last 17 games. If it was not for Arsenal’s outstanding run at the end, Liverpool could have won their first Premier League trophy this year. In the end, the Merseyside outfit had to settle for second and a place in the UEFA Champions League.
Poor Campaign for Defending Champions
Alex Ferguson’s Man United went into the 2001-02 season as the favourites with the bookies to win the title. The season before, the Red Devils had won the league by ten points. They made a decent enough start, winning five, drawing two and losing one of their opening eight. However, they lost five of their seven games from October to December, which was one of Ferguson’s worst run of results during his tenure at Old Trafford.
Man United followed up three successive losses with eight league wins in a row and made a strong finish to their season. However, they officially lost their title to Arsenal on the penultimate matchday, with a Sylvain Wiltord strike giving the Gunners a deserved 1-0 win at Old Trafford. They ended a forgettable campaign with a drab 0-0 home draw with Charlton Athletic.
Henry Wins Thrilling Golden Boot Race
The battle for the Premier League’s Golden Boot in the 2001-02 season was arguably the most captivating that we have ever seen. The likes of Thierry Henry, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Shearer all could have finished on top of the pile on the final day. In the end, Arsenal’s Henry won the accolade, beating Hasselbaink, Van Nistelrooy and Shearer to the post by just one goal.
Andy Cole netted 13 times combined for Man United and Blackburn, while Liverpool’s Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler (who moved to Leeds in December) ended on 19 and 15, respectively. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer netted 17 times for Man United to finish between Owen and Fowler in sixth place.
Relegations & European Qualifications
Leicester finished bottom after picking up just five wins from 38, meaning the first season in their new home was to be in the Football League First Division. Fellow East Midlands club Derby County were relegated alongside them in 19th position. Ipswich were the final team to drop down, finishing four points behind both Sunderland and Bolton who managed to reach the magic 40 point mark.
Arsenal winning the title meant they booked their spot in the Champions League group stage. Runners-up Liverpool joined the Gunners at that stage of the tournament while Man United and Newcastle qualified for the Champions League third qualifying round. Leeds, Chelsea and Blackburn entered the UEFA Cup, as did relegated Ipswich (due to their Fair Play record). Aston Villa and Fulham were awarded places in the 2002-03 Intertoto Cup.
Which Teams Were Relegated?
Leicester had a sad farewell to Filbert Street, finishing at the foot of the 2001-02 Premier League table. The Foxes struggled all season long, winning just five times and losing 20 times to end the campaign on just 28 points. In the end, Leicester were a significant 12 points adrift of safety.
In a turbulent season at Pride Park, Derby were relegated after picking up just 30 points from their 38 games. Jim Smith resigned, and his replacement Colin Todd was sacked. John Gregory took over in January but could not turn the Rams’ fortunes around. Derby suffered 24 league defeats, which was the most in the division during the 2001-02 campaign.
Ipswich were the winners of the Premier League Fair Play League, securing their spot in the qualifying round of the UEFA Cup as a result. However, they were also relegated to the second tier having amassed a poor total of just 36 points. Town finished fifth the season before, but George Burley’s men failed to replicate that superb success.
Which Teams Qualified For Europe?
After pipping Liverpool and Man United to the title, Arsenal booked their place in the Champions League group stage with high hopes of making an impact in the competition.
Liverpool also made it straight through to the group stage after finishing runners-up to the Gunners. Man United and Newcastle entered the qualifying rounds.
Chelsea were losing FA Cup finalists but were awarded a place in the UEFA Cup after Arsenal had already qualified for the Champions League. Leeds took fifth and qualified for Europe via the league route.
Blackburn beat Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final and earned a spot in the UEFA Cup, while – as mentioned – Ipswich also qualified by winning the Fair Play League. Aston Villa and Fulham entered the Intertoto Cup.