Winning a Premier League title is a tough, tough ask. 38 Games worth of intense mental and physical strength aside for a moment, the level at which the game is currently played at now means that nothing short of being the very best in the land is allowed.
In that sense, it’s hard to go across an entire league campaign, emerge victorious and be regarded as ‘underrated’, especially given just how much coverage the English game now attracts.
That being said however, it’s certainly true that some clubs and seasons are remembered more than others. And whilst legendary sides such as Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble-winners in 1999 or Arsene Wengers ‘invincibles’ in 2004 rightfully have their name etched in football folklore, we’re going to attempt to explore some of the lesser known, yet equally impressive, title winners over the years.
Arsenal: 1997/98. League Record: W23 D9 L6 — Pts 78
People never fail to recall the great Arsenal side of 2003/04, but even the most ardent of Arsenal fan would probably have to rack their brain to name even half of the side that lifted Arsene Wenger’s first Premier League trophy.
Dismissed initially by Alex Ferguson upon his arrival, with the Scot welcoming Wenger to English football with the infamous ‘he should keep his opinions in Japan’ jab, Wenger’s revolutionary approach to modern football was instrumental in lifting Arsenal from fifth place, to dethroning Ferguson’s giant United side. Wenger would encourage healthier eating, stricter lifestyle choices and improve the mentality of an Arsenal side that had slumped under Bruce Rioch; his methods, once laughed off by his rivals, would soon be copied by almost every coach in the land.
Premier League and FA Cup winners in 1998, Arsenal were one of the first sides to also inflict a home and away win over Ferguson’s United in a single season. And whilst Arsenal are once again entering an era of talismanic personalities, there was something equally magical about the era of Seaman, Parlour, Dixon and Adams.
Chelsea: 2005/06. League Record: W29 D4 L5 — Pts 91
If the Premier League has proven one thing, it’s that retaining the trophy is probably the one thing harder than initially winning it. Jose Mourinho had taken the English game by storm when he arrived from Champions League winning Porto in 2004, with the now infamous proclamation of being the ‘Special One’.
What followed was an absolute masterclass in man-management and tactical genius as Mourinho’s Chelsea side ripped apart the stale dominance of Arsenal and Manchester United, bringing home the Premier League trophy in 2004/05 with a then record 95 points.
People overlook his achievement of retaining the title in 2005/06 however. Once again constructing a spine of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba that would spearhead Chelsea’s success for years to come, Mourinho saw off competition from some of the absolute giants of the game and proved that his words were no fluke.
Manchester City: 2013/14. League Record: W27 D5 L6 — Pts 86
When it comes to the 2013/14 season, it seems like everyone remembers everything except the actual Premier League winners. Mourinho’s ‘little horse’ quip, Gerrard’s infamous slip at Anfield and Suarez’s waterworks after ‘Crystanbul’ all seem to be remembered much more fondly than the Manchester City’s eventual triumph.
In Manuel Pellegrini’s first season in English football, Manchester City, despite the fond memories of Liverpool’s ‘SAS’ frontline, were the absolute best team in the division of the course of the 13/14 season. For example: whilst everyone remembers Liverpool as the dominant attacking force in the league that season, Manchester City actually outscored them over the course of the campaign, notching in 102 goals in comparison to Liverpool’s 101.
Yaya Toure, from the centre of midfield, hit over twenty goals over the season, Joe Hart claimed yet another golden glove, David Silva was in the form of his life and the combination of Dzeko and Aguero proved instrumental to implementing Pellegrini’s successful philosophy. In short, this title victory deserves far, far more respect than it’s given.
Chelsea: 2016/17. League Record: W30 D3 L5 — Pts 93
In the weeks leading up to the 2016/17 Premier League season, everyone was talking about Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. Absolutely no one was talking about Italian national side and former Juventus coach Antonio Conte’s arrival at Chelsea.
What followed was one of the most one-sided, dominant and revolutionary Premier League title wins ever seen. After an initially uninspiring start to the season, Conte’s tactical prowess came to the fold as he introduced the never-before-seen 3–4–3 formation to the English game, something no manager in the league ever truly found the answer for.
Sandwiched inbetween the Leicester City miracle of 2015/16 and the mesmeric dominance of Guardiola’s Manchester City, it’s easy to dismiss this season as ‘transitional’ for the top sides in England. That is, frankly, doing a disservice to the immense tactical ingenuity and infectious passion Antonio Conte injected into both his side, and English football on the whole which should absolutely be remembered more fondly.