The English Premiership, shortly into its 19th season has 7 clubs that will play their 700th Premier League match this weekend, the only clubs that haven’t been relegated since the 1992-1993 season and were there when the big change was made: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham. Here’s a summary of what each club has achieved in the Premiership during the last 18 seasons.
No.2 on the Premiership’s all time table, Arsenal have won three league titles, all of them under French manager Arsene Wenger, managing the club since 1996. Their first title came in 1997-1998, as Wenger finally succeeded with integrating the old Arsenal guard – Dixon, Adams, Seaman, Keown and Winterburn with the new, European chic – Bergkamp, Overmars, Viera and Petti. It took Arsenal a few more years to get their second and third, this time with much fewer Englishmen but one Thierry Henry, who scored 226 league goals during his time at London. In 2003-2004 Arsenal became only the second team in English Football history to finish an entire league campaign undefeated, something Wenger predicted two years earlier. The other club to finish an entire season undefeated were Preston North End, back in 1889. In recent years, especially since Henry has left to Barcelona, Arsenal rely on young international talent, a philosophy which has brought the team much praise for its attractive style, but no titles.
After three seasons of relative success but mostly a promise of a successful future, it has been a turbulent summer at Villa Park, with Martin O’Neill leaving and Gerard Houllier stepping in a few days ago. Villa haven’t won a league title in the Premiership. In fact, this year will mark 30 years since their last league title, back in 1980-1981. They finished second in the Premiership’s inaugural season under Ron Atkinson, with Welsh Dean Saunders doing lots of scoring for the club back then. Usually, Villa are an upper-mid table club, usually finishing 10-6, and with the current state of finances and power shifts in the league, it doesn’t seem to be a changing matter soon.
Don’t get me wrong – Chelsea were a a successful club before Roman Abramovich – becoming a pretty much Continental team, fist with the arrivals of Gullit and later Vialli, followed by the sublime Gianfranco Zola, but Roman’s arrival and the beginning of Chelski, a club with no financial limits, turned the fashionable West London club into a much less popular team among the neutrals but a juggernaut on the pitch. Besides money, you need to thank a man named Jose Mourinho for turning around the attitude, making this club a winning one. Ranieri was close, but Mourinho was the man for the job, along with the cash he got to spend. Three league titles (2005-2006, 2010) and a very strong squad, highlighted by Lampard, Terry, Drogba and Essien among others, and above all, a very rich owner.
After winning two league titles during the 1980’s, the 1990’s and the new world of the Premiership were very hard on Everton. They finished in the bottom half of the league 10 times during their first 12 Premiership seasons, but David Moyes appointment as manager changed things. Yes, he did almost get relegated in 2003-2004, finishing 17th, but it’s been pretty successful, in Everton standards, in the last 6 years. A fourth place finish in 2004-2005, above Liverpool(!!) and three more times in the top 6 with a club short on resources but big in fighting spirit and pride, mostly due to their Scottish manager.
Still no title, still yearning and missing those 1970’s and 80’s. The club that is the essence of Romance in soccer and represents a longing for the old days. Most of all, they represent a failure to win a league title for over 20 years and counting. Rafa Benitez was the latest manager at the helm who failed. He did manage to tie Liverpool’s best Premiership finish, making second, four behind Manchester United in 2008-2009, but a terrible 2009-2010 season ended his reign and the current hope for the league title. Steven Gerrard, Carragher and Torres are still there, and Roy Hodgson will try and succeed where Souness, Roy Evan, Gerard Houllier and Benitez have failed.
Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Paul Ince, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney. Amazing names. But when it comes down to it, two men have been there during all the 11 Premiership titles. Ryan Giggs as a player, and the man who’s name will be highlighted above this, in retrospect, largely Manchester United dominated era, is Sir Alex Ferguson.
Number six on the Premiership’s all time table and another club who hasn’t won a league title in a very long time (40 years to be exact). It’s been mostly mid-table disappointment for Spurs till the mid 00’s, including a nine season stretch that didn’t see them finishing above 9th. But since 2005, putting aside the Juande Ramos debacle in 2008-2009, Tottenham have been nibbling at the top four and finally, last season, with Harry Redknapp getting his first full season at the club, Tottenham finished fourth, their best since the 1989-1990 season when they finished third. More importantly, Champions League for the first time. This season hasn’t been the brightest of starts, a usual thing at White Hart Lane, but the future looks bright. Brighter than usual, at least.