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Premier League flashback - 2011-12 review - The greatest season ever

The Premier League is 20 years old and has enjoyed plenty of highlights. Here, Total Football concludes its series, looking back at some of the highs and lows.

Will anyone ever forget that dramatic finish to the 2011-12 campaign? Manchester City ended their 44 year drought for a championship trophy, in such dramatic fashion back in May.

Sergio Aguero’s injury-time winner against QPR will go down in folklore, as only goal difference separated the two Manchester clubs, this time in City’s favour.

Bolton’s long and commendable run in the top flight ended on the last day, whilst Lancashire rivals Blackburn had a year to forget and went down too.

Wolves joined these two teams in the Championship, replaced by Reading, Southampton and West Ham United.

CHAMPIONS: Manchester City

RUNNERS-UP: Manchester United


RELEGATED: Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wolves

TOP SCORERS: Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 30, Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) 27, Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) 23, Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur) 17, Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 17, Yakubu (Blackburn Rovers) 17, Demba Ba (Newcastle United) 16, Grant Holt (Norwich City) 15, Edin Dzeko (Manchester City) 14, Papiss Cisse (Newcastle United) 13, Mario Balotelli (Manchester City) 13, Danny Graham (Swansea City) 12

BIGGEST WIN: Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (28 August 2011)

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES: Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (28 August 2011), Arsenal 7-1 Blackburn Rovers (4 February 2012), Swansea City 4-4 Wolves (28 April 2012)

PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Robin van Persie (Arsenal)

PFA YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)

Manchester City ended their championship drought in such dramatic fashion last season, winning their first title since 1968.

Sergio Aguero’s 94th minute winner broke Manchester United hearts, as the soap opera club of the Premier League came back to become only the fifth club to win this prestigious trophy.

In the summer transfer window, City strengthened their attacking options, with the capture of talented striker Aguero from Atletico Madrid. Gael Clichy also moved for £7m from Arsenal to Eastlands.

Arsenal had a frustrating summer and lost their two star players in August. Cesc Fabregas finally completed his protracted £30m move to Barcelona and Samir Nasri joined Clichy at Man City for £25m.

With his squad thin on numbers, Arsene Wenger made some last-gasp signings, including Yossi Benayoun on loan from Chelsea, left back Andre Santos and a £10m deal for Everton midfielder, Mikel Arteta.

Once again, Manchester United’s transfer dealings focused on youth, as Ashley Young came in from Aston Villa and Phil Jones added to the defensive strength from Blackburn Rovers.

David de Gea was chosen as the replacement for the retiring Edwin van der Sar and they would also going to start the season without Paul Scholes, as he went into retirement.

Andre Villas-Boas became Chelsea’s new manager and their big signing over the summer, was the £23.5m capture of Spanish winger Juan Mata from Valencia.

Liverpool spent big in an effort to close the gap. Stewart Downing cost them £20m, Jordan Henderson £10m while Craig Bellamy, Jose Enrique and Charlie Adam came in too.

Other moves saw Danny Graham join newly promoted Swansea for £3.5m, West Brom snap up Shane Long, John Arne Riise returned to the English game with Fulham and Peter Crouch made a £10m move from Tottenham Hotspur to Stoke City.

Manchester 13, North London 3

On the first weekend of the season, Manchester City signalled their intentions, with a 4-0 thumping of Swansea City. Aguero scored twice on his debut.

Fellow newly promoted side QPR also got taught a lesson on the opening day, as they were beaten 4-0 at home by Bolton Wanderers.

Manchester United began with a narrow 2-1 victory at West Brom, before three second half goals saw off Tottenham 3-0 at Old Trafford.

On Sunday, 28 August, it finished Manchester 13, North London 3 as London’s finest clubs were put to the sword by the Manchester sides.

First, Edin Dzeko scored a brilliant four goals, as City dismantled Tottenham 5-1 at White Hart Lane.

Then hours later, Manchester United gave Arsenal a footballing masterclass at the Theatre of Dreams.

Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick and Ashley Young hit two crackers. Robin van Persie missed a penalty and youngster Carl Jenkinson saw red, as the Red Devils put eight past the Gunners.

It finished 8-2, as Wenger experienced the worst afternoon of his managerial reign with the North Londoners.

The two Manchester clubs continued to demolish their opponents into September. Aguero scored a hat-trick as City beat Wigan 3-0 and Rooney added another treble in Manchester United’s 5-0 away triumph at Bolton.

It took Swansea five games to score their first goals in the Premier League and record their first win of the season, beating West Brom 3-0 on September 17.

Torres misses a gaping goal

Chelsea’s first test under the Villas-Boas reign came at Old Trafford in mid-September.

They had more shots on target but lost the game 3-1 and Fernando Torres produced the worst miss in Premier League history.

The Spaniard rounded de Gea but somehow, shot wide with a gaping goal at his mercy!

The first signs of struggle at Liverpool came with a miserable trip to Tottenham. They lost the game 4-0 and had both Adam and Martin Skrtel sent off.

The Reds did recover to win the Merseyside Derby 2-0 at Goodison Park, as both Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez found the net.

In another local affair, a 30-yard shot from Kyle Walker helped Tottenham to defeat Arsenal 2-1. Walker’s consistent performances won him England recognition and the PFA Young Player of the Year award at the end of the season.

Questions were asked about Manchester City’s resolve, when Carlos Tevez refused to play in a Champions League match in Munich.

As the Argentine cried off home for six months, City carried on and didn’t seem to miss him, crushing Blackburn 4-0 and Aston Villa 4-1.

Steven Gerrard’s first appearance of the league campaign after injury saw him open the scoring for Liverpool at home to Manchester United. Javier Hernandez equalised to ensure a share of the spoils.

The game was overshadowed by a row between Suarez and Patrice Evra. The Uruguayan striker was banned for eight games by the FA in December, after being found guilty of racist abuse and Liverpool’s vocal backing of their star won them no fans in the country.

Six of the best for City

It was a scoreline that shook Premier League football and the game in general. Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City.

Mario Balotelli opened the scoring and in response to reports of setting fire to his home using fireworks, revealed a t-shirt saying ‘Why Always Me?’

Jonny Evans was dismissed after the interval and with that, the Red Devils were humiliated.

Balotelli again, David Silva, Aguero and Dzeko with two helped themselves to goals in a spectacular scoreline.

Sir Alex Ferguson later called it ‘His worst day in charge of Manchester United.’

In a stormy West London derby at Loftus Road on the same afternoon, QPR defeated Chelsea 1-0, thanks to an early Heidar Helguson penalty.

Both Jose Boswinga and Didier Drogba saw straight red cards before half-time and a racism row involving Anton Ferdinand and John Terry, had severe implications for the Chelsea skipper.

He lost the England captaincy for a second time and Fabio Capello resigned in his defence. The case went to court and although Terry was found not guilty, he still faces FA charges.

Chelsea then went onto lose 5-3 at home to Arsenal in another extraordinary match between the top teams. Robin van Persie hit a magnificent hat-trick; as he went onto total 30 Premier League goals.

The Dutchman went onto win the Golden Boot, the Football Writers award and the PFA Players Player of the Year award.

Gary Speed dies

The world of football was left in mourning after the sudden death of Wales boss and Premier League icon, Gary Speed.

Speed took his own life on Sunday, 27 November 2011. He was 42 years old and is still profoundly missed by the football community.

One of Speed’s former clubs continued to impress, as Newcastle surged into third place and remained unbeaten until November.

Demba Ba hit two hat-tricks, at home to Blackburn and an impressive treble at Stoke, with the Magpies unbeaten run, only coming to an end with a 3-1 loss to leaders Manchester City.

Bolton had endured a rotten campaign, which had them near the bottom throughout but they did enjoy thumping Stoke 5-0 in November, repeating the same scoreline that the Potters had done to them in the FA Cup semi-finals, the previous April.

More cracks appeared at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea lost 2-1 at home to a well-drilled Liverpool outfit. Glen Johnson scored a priceless winner at one of his former clubs in the 87th minute.

The first manager to be sacked was Steve Bruce at Sunderland. A 90th minute goal from Franco di Santo helped Wigan to a 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light.

Bruce was axed with the club sitting in a lowly 16th place. Martin O’Neill returned to the game as his replacement, after 15 months away from the top flight.

His first game in charge turned around the Black Cats season, as they came from behind to beat Blackburn 2-1. Sebastian Larsson scored a stunning winner in stoppage time.

Stoke inflicted a first defeat on Tottenham since August, with old boy Matthew Etherington hitting two in their 2-1 home win at the Britannia Stadium.

Chelsea end City’s unbeaten run

Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season ended at Stamford Bridge on 12 December.

Balotelli gave Roberto Mancini’s side a second minute lead but Raul Meireles netted his first goal for the West Londoners and a Frank Lampard penalty, sealed victory for Chelsea.

Once again, they bounced back well; with a Silva tap-in defeating Arsenal and a routine 3-0 win over Stoke City ensured they would go into Christmas as league leaders.

Marc Albrighton scored the Premier League’s 20,000th goal, equalising for Aston Villa in a home game with Arsenal. However, Benayoun netted a late winner for the improving Gunners in a 2-1 victory.

Bottom at Christmas were a Blackburn Rovers side in complete disarray. Fans protests against the Venky owners and Steve Kean’s management threatened to get ugly and a 2-1 home defeat to relegation rivals Bolton, just added to the distress at Ewood Park.

Manchester United kept the pressure on at the top, with consecutive 5-0 victories over Christmas at Fulham and at home to Wigan Athletic.

However, they were in for a shock on New Year’s Eve as Blackburn gate crashed Sir Alex Ferguson’s birthday. Some dismal defending allowed Rovers in for an unexpected 3-2 victory.

Villas-Boas’s Chelsea side continued to struggle, as they lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa. Already, the young manager was showing signs of feeling the pressure in the big time.

Just 24 hours after United’s surprising defeat, Manchester City also slipped up. Korean striker Ji-dong Won scored an injury time winner for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Swansea claimed their first Premier League away victory of the season, with a 2-0 win at an Aston Villa side, which played some of the dullest football around in Premier League history.

Howard the goalscorer

Newcastle continued to be the surprise package. Another spectacular goal from Ba, a special Yohan Cabaye free-kick and a catastrophic own goal from Phil Jones, helped them defeat the champions 3-0 at the Sports Direct Arena.

Tim Howard became only the fourth goalkeeper to score in Premier League history, when his clearance somehow looped over a stunned Adam Bogdan in Everton’s home match with Bolton.

The Trotters fought back to win 2-1, Gary Cahill scoring in his last game for the club, before sealing a big money transfer to Chelsea.

Other transfers in the January window saw Steven Pienaar return to Everton, with the Toffees also buying Darron Gibson from Manchester United and Nikita Jelavic from a debt-ridden Rangers.

Manchester City took David Pizarro in on loan, Newcastle brought Papa Cisse, Tottenham signed Louis Saha on a free from Everton and QPR acquired a new strikeforce, signing Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse.

The Hoops did this under a new manager, as Mark Hughes replaced Neil Warnock as boss in January. A 1-0 defeat to Newcastle in his first game in charge, showed the huge task ahead.

Manchester United managed to persuade Scholes out of retirement and he scored in his Premier League comeback match, the opener in a 3-0 victory over Bolton.

They followed this up with a hard-working 2-1 victory at the Emirates, consigning Arsenal to a third successive defeat.

Earlier that day, Tottenham’s title tilt started to fade, when they lost 3-2 at Manchester City. Balotelli’s behaviour was called into question again, after stamping on Scott Parker.

The Italian went onto score the injury time winner from the penalty spot but got banned for violent conduct afterwards.

Bad day for football

Another bad boy in the Premier League was Liverpool’s controversial striker, Luis Suarez.

At Old Trafford, he ignored agreements before the game with his manager and the board and refused to shake Patrice Evra’s hand.

Although United beat their arch rivals 2-1, Suarez’s poor sportsmanlike conduct drew different responses from the managers.

Sir Alex Ferguson said: “I thought it was a disgrace. Patrice and I had words this morning he said, I’m keeping my dignity, I’m shaking his hand. To do that is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club; they really should get rid of him.”

Under pressure from Sky interviewer Geoff Shreeves, Kenny Dalglish’s reply was: “I think you’re very severe and you’re bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened today.”

Both Suarez and Dalglish apologised but the damage was done and despite a Carling Cup final victory, the Scot lost his job at the end of the season.

Away from this and Manchester United inherited top spot in the table, when they beat West Brom 2-0 and negative Mancini tactics, saw his side beaten 1-0 by a strong Swansea outfit.

The gap continued to widen and reached eight points in early April, when United beat QPR and City lost 1-0 to Arsenal, thanks to a late winner from Mikel Arteta.

Balotelli was lucky to stay on early on, for a dreadful challenge on Alex Song and got his marching orders in stoppage time. It was his second silly dismissal of the season and the title race looked over.

Elsewhere, a humiliating 5-1 home defeat to West Brom, spelt the end for Mick McCarthy at Wolves. His assistant Terry Connor took over but they went down, with little fight and class.

Following their own loss to the Baggies, Chelsea dispensed with Villas-Boas services in early March, with Roberto di Matteo placed in caretaker charge.

He got the job permanently, following sensational successes in the FA Cup and Champions League finals.

Spectacular goals

The 20th season also saw some spectacular goals in the closing weeks.

Suarez reminded everyone of his world class ability, with a stunning hat-trick at Norwich, which included lobbing John Ruddy from 45 yards.

Hatem Ben Afra had recovered to full fitness and produced one of the best solo goals in Premier League history, as Newcastle beat Bolton 2-0 on Easter Monday.

Alan Pardew’s side only missed out on Champions League qualification on the last day of the season and finished a superb fifth in the table, helped by 13 goals from the unstoppable Cisse, which included an unbelievable strike at Stamford Bridge.

Peter Crouch rolled back the years with a breathtaking strike from the edge of the penalty area in Stoke’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City. However, they could only manage 14th at the end of the season.

Joining Wolves in the Championship were Blackburn and Bolton.

Rovers only won one of their last eight matches and were relegated by Wigan at Ewood Park on the penultimate weekend, with a chicken getting onto the pitch, which summed up their drab campaign.

Bolton lost Fabrice Muamba, after he suffered a massive heart attack in an FA Cup quarter-final tie at Tottenham. He would make a miraculous recovery but the Trotters went down on the final day. A 2-2 draw at Stoke, ended their ten year stay in the Premier League.

The greatest finish ever

Somehow, Manchester United blew their eight point lead, after losing 1-0 to Wigan, drawing 4-4 at home to Everton and then they lost the crucial Manchester derby at the Etihad.

Vincent Kompany’s header was the only goal in the grudge clash, which took Manchester City back to the top on goal difference.

When they beat Newcastle the following week, the job was all but done but no-one could predict the drama on the final day.

A goal from Wayne Rooney was enough for Manchester United to win 1-0 at Sunderland. They did what they had to do, so it was now left to City.

The mood eased at the Etihad Stadium, when Pablo Zabaleta opened the scoring five minutes before half-time. It was the Argentine’s first goal of the season.

However, another twist occurred when Joleon Lescott’s shocking header, allowed Djibril Cisse in to thrash in an equaliser for QPR.

Rangers went down to ten men after Joey Barton was deservedly sent off after losing the plot! He elbowed a returning Tevez, kicked out at Aguero and headbutted Kompany, which earnt him a ten game ban.

It looked like Mark Hughes was sending his old side towards heartbreak, when Jamie Mackie headed home with 25 minutes to go. The title was slipping through City’s grasp.

Dzeko equalised in the 91st minute to make it 2-2, whilst the final whistle blew at the Stadium of Light to have the Red Devils as champions, for now.

In the most dramatic of finishes and with practically the last kick of the season, Balotelli found Aguero who smashed in a shot past Paddy Kenny and sent City fans into absolute bedlam.

It is unlikely that we will see a finish like this ever again and as United fans suddenly heard the news on Wearside, silencing their celebrations, an explosion of noise erupted around the Etihad.

After 44 years without a championship, Manchester City had finally prevailed. They may have spent the cash to get the title but they deserved their moment of glory. At long last for their long suffering supporters, Premier League title dreams had come true in Blue.

It was a remarkable conclusion to the greatest season ever and a stunning 20 years. This period has produced some wonderful and unforgettable memories and here’s to the next 20 seasons of phenomenal Premier League football.

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

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