It was hard enough to whittle it down to twenty…
This season, thankfully, has well and truly spelled the end of an era in which big Premier League encounters were more renowned for grounding expectations with chess-like tactical caution or mind numbing predictability.
Remember the days when Benitez and Mourinho would slog it out, their respective sides inching into the opposition’s half before Claude Makelele or Xabi Alonso mopped up with ease? Things have changed dramatically.
Now we’re used to watching defenders scampering hopelessly after the likes of Bale and Valencia, teams setting out 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 instead of 4-5-1, comical goals, priceless goals and more than ever absolutely incredible goals.
These are the ten games which I believe have shown all these and more in abundance.
10. Manchester United – 2 Blackburn Rovers – 3, 31st December 2011.
A game Fergie will no doubt look back on with huge regret. Rovers were in the middle of a terrible spell of form having just lost to relegation rivals Bolton at home, but a Yakubu double fired them into an unprecedented 2-0 lead. A rare Dimitar Berbatov brace drew things level, but just as you thought United were going to snatch three points from the jaws of defeat in typical fashion, Grant Hanley stooped to claim one of the scalps of the season.
9. Arsenal – 5 Spurs – 2, 26th February 2011.
North London derbies are always incredible, and this was no exception. Spurs started the day ten points ahead of their rivals, and at 2-0 were cruising in the first half. However, Arsenal recovered immensely to thrash Redknapp’s men 5-2 in a completely unforeseen fightback. The pick of their goals of course came from Robin Van Persie, with his bullet of a strike flying past Brad Friedel to level the scores at 2-2. The Gunners ended the season ahead of their neighbours, and can now look forward to a safe passage into next years Champions League.
8. Blackburn Rovers – 4 Arsenal – 3, 17th September 2011.
Arsenal were already embroiled in unrest after their mauling at Old Trafford, whilst Blackburn had still to register their first win of the campaign under the hapless Steve Kean. But the Gunners floundered once more as their atrocious defence succumbed to Rovers, and in particular Yakubu, to pile the pressure on Wenger. For the first time in his reign as Arsenal boss, the Frenchman had to respond to questions concerning his ability to manage the club, and he went on to do so admirably.
7. Arsenal – 3 Norwich – 3, 5th May 2012.
Yet again the Gunners found themselves embroiled in a Topsy Turvey affair in the penultimate game of the season. With a win sure to guarantee their Champions League status, Arsenal harped back to previous seasons in contriving to shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity against a side they were expected to beat. Paul Lambert’s men were rampant throughout and thoroughly deserved their 2-1 lead, but they were undone by the quality of Van Persie and Alex Song. However the Canaries grabbed an equaliser in the dying moments with a stunning finish from Steve Morison. Arsenal’s bottle could, and perhaps should have cost them third spot.
6. Chelsea – 3 Manchester United – 3, 5th February 2012.
As a seemingly resurgent Chelsea side raced into a 50th minute 3-0 lead through David Luiz’s header, you just couldn’t see how United were going to drag themselves back into the contest. But not for the first time Wayne Rooney galvanised his team to spark a stirring fight back, scoring a brace before Javier Hernandez’s 84th minute winner. The game also featured one of the goals of the season in Juan Mata’s perfect first time volley to dispatch a quality cross from Fernando Torres.
5. Manchester United – 8 Arsenal – 2, 28th August, 2011.
Just pipped to being the curtain raiser for odd scorelines as it followed immediately after Man City’s 5-1 decimation of Spurs earlier in the day. But it grabbed all the headlines for producing one of the most crazy ninety minutes of football you’re ever likely to see.
Gunner’s fans will still be having nightmares after their shambolic defense were pulled all over the place by an incredibly offensive Utd outfit. At one point they seemed to be scoring with every attack as Nani, Young and Rooney ran riot, the later notching a hat-trick. Well and truly signaled the growing distance between two of the leagues oldest foes.
4. Chelsea – 3 Arsenal – 5, 29th October 2011.
Seems ridiculous that this only makes fourth, since it was one of the best games I’ve ever seen. When Chelsea eased into a 2-1 lead going into the second half, one might have thought AVB’s men (who at that point were going well in the league) would have closed out the game against their London Rivals.
But once again the magic of Van Persie shone through with a brilliant hat-trick accompany goals from Santos, Walcott and a sublime effort from Juan Mata to leave everybody rubbing their eyes at the final whisle. The season had hardly begun and we’d already seen some insane encounters, and that pattern was to continue throughout the campaign.
3. Manchester United – 1 Manchester City – 6, 23rd October 2011.
The day which truly announced the arrival of Manchester City as a force to be reckoned with. David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Mario Balottelli and Sergio Aguero were simply sensational as they dismantled a United side admittedly weakened by the sending off of Jonny Evans.
Fergie described it as their “worst defeat” as a gung-ho United were left to ponder the significance of what had just happened. It was their heaviest defeat since February 1955, and remains all the more testament to a sustained title bid which pushed their “noisy neighbours” to the very last kick.
2. Manchester United – 4 Everton – 4, 22nd April 2012.
The game which swung the title race. A win would have seen United move eight points clear of City, with the second placed side scheduled to play later in the day, and they initially fought off an impressive Everton outfit to lead 4-2 going into the final stages.
There was a feeling around Old Trafford that United were nearly home and hosed, and the pattern of play reflected that as the home side backed off from the Toffees advances. The excellent Marouane Fellaini and rejuvenated Steven Pienaar pegged back the former champions to round off yet another sensational 90 minutes. Hats off to Everton, who rejected the easy route of succumbing to their hosts and allowing the contest to fizzle out by instead taking the game to Utd and in turn flipping the title race on its head.
1. Manchester City – 3 QPR – 2, 13th May 2012.
Created one of the great moments in Premier League history. Nobody will ever forget this season, and both sides left in the title race contributed to that hugely. The emotion running through the Eithad that day was felt by the millions watching, whilst the torment suffered by all teams involved, including QPR, was tangible. It all came down to this, and football really didn’t disappoint.
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