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1997/98 Season Review

25 May 2018
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Arsene Wenger guides Arsenal to their first Premier League triumph

In his first full season as Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger guided his side to their maiden Premier League title, and their first top-flight league crown since 1991. Arsenal knocked Manchester United off top spot for just the second time in the Premier League era and capped a fantastic season by winning the FA Cup to complete the double.

The title charge seemed unlikely at Christmas for Wenger, but a run of 45 points from a possible 51 between 26 December 1997 and 3 May 1998 made them Premier League champions.

Club captain Tony Adams was the man to wrap up the title, charging on to fellow centre-back Steve Bould's through-ball and firing in the final goal of Arsenal's 4-0 triumph against Everton at Highbury. Despite losing their last two matches, United could moved only to within a point of Arsenal and Wenger became the first overseas manager to lift the Premier League trophy.

Wenger had prepared for his successful title charge with the additions of Marc Overmars from Ajax and Monaco’s Christopher Wreh and Gilles Grimandi. The void left by Manchester United talisman Eric Cantona, who retired that summer, was filled by Tottenham Hotspur’s Teddy Sheringham, who missed a penalty on his debut at White Hart Lane, in a 2-0 victory for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Newcastle United struggled to replicate their second-place finishes of the past two seasons after the departures of Les Ferdinand and David Ginola, both to Spurs, and finished 13th under Kenny Dalglish.

Arsenal set the pace

It was the club Dalglish won the Premier League title with in 1995 who set the pace as Roy Hodgson led Blackburn Rovers to four wins from their opening five matches, before a thrilling 4-3 loss to Leeds United resulted in them losing top spot.

Arsenal overtook Rovers and led the pack until the end of October. They were involved in some memorable encounters along the way. Dennis Bergkamp netted a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw at Leicester City. The treble included a sublime control and finish that won the BBC Match of the Day goal of the season. Ian Wright became the Gunners' all-time leading scorer with his 179th goal for the club in a 4-1 win over Bolton Wanderers, and Nigel Winterburn's thunderous strike from distance clinched a late 3-2 win at Chelsea.

Arsenal also beat Man Utd 3-2, thanks to David Platt's late header, but six consecutive wins followed for Ferguson's men, and they topped the table at Christmas, with Arsenal 13 points back in sixth. Blackburn were second at this point, with Ruud Gullit's Chelsea in third.

Chelsea parted company with Gullit in January 1998, and were galvanised under the guidance of 33-year-old player-manager Gianluca Vialli, who led them to UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and League Cup triumphs as well as a fourth-place finish in the Premier League.

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Klinsmann to the rescue

Spurs were in the relegation zone at the turn of the year, but the return of Jurgen Klinsmann, who had lit up the Premier League in his first spell at White Hart Lane in 1994/95, helped to drag them out of relegation trouble as he scored nine goals in 15 matches. His tally included four goals in a 6-2 win at Wimbledon, part of a five-match unbeaten run that steered Spurs away from the drop zone.

Spurs' resurgence meant the relegation battle was between Everton and the three promoted clubs, Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Barnsley. Palace and Barnsley were down by the final day.

Everton went 1-0 up against Coventry City, and when Chelsea led 1-0 against Bolton through Vialli, things were looking good for Everton.  But Dion Dublin's 89th-minute equaliser put Everton in danger as one more goal from Coventry would send them down. But the Toffees dug deep to hang on for a draw, while at Stamford Bridge a late sucker-punch goal from Chelsea midfielder Jody Morris, when Bolton were piling men forward for an equaliser, condemned the Trotters to relegation.

It meant that all three promoted teams suffered the drop

At the top, Man Utd were 12 points above Arsenal at the start of March, having played three matches more, but the Gunners won 1-0 at Old Trafford through Overmars and it proved to be the turning point in the title race. Eight successive victories followed as Arsenal wrestled the Premier League crown off United and began an epic rivalry at the top over the next few years.

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