Five other unlikely EPL title challenges

NORWICH (1992-93)

• Position at Christmas: 1st

• Final position: 3rd

Premier League history might have been very different if Norwich were its first champions.

They could have been.

Mike Walker's passing team were still top at the end of March.

The key game came in April when Manchester United, in their 26th season since winning the title, visited Carrow Road. They scored three times in the first 21 minutes and went on to win the first of Alex Ferguson's 13 championships.


ASTON VILLA (1998-99)

• Position at Christmas: 1st

• Final position: 6th

A season that is remembered for United winning the treble started very differently. John Gregory's Villa spent more than three months as league leaders.

Strangely, the FA Cup ended their title challenge.

A 2-0 defeat by a Fulham team in the third tier led to a run of seven losses in eight league games.

The injury to star striker Dion Dublin did not help either.


WIMBLEDON (1996-97)

• Position at Christmas: 3rd

• Final position: 8th

Bottom of the table after three games, second after 16, Wimbledon, a club who no longer really exist, were the ultimate outsiders.

Their surge included a run of seven straight wins.

But midfielder Robbie Earle's goals dried up and they went four months without a home win.

And, by reaching the semi-finals of both Cup competitions, their attentions were diverted elsewhere.


EVERTON (2004-05)

• Position at Christmas: 2nd

• Final position: 4th

David Moyes had sold Wayne Rooney. His side lacked fire-power.

Indeed, they scored only 45 goals in 38 league games.

Yet, they had seven 1-0 wins by Christmas and were behind only Jose Mourinho's runaway Chelsea.

When the clean sheets dried up and Real Madrid signed their key midfielder Thomas Gravesen, a limited group endured more difficulties. They finished fourth but it was a rare season when 61 points earned a top-four spot.


SOUTHAMPTON (2014-15)

• Position at Christmas: 5th

• Final position: 7th

Leicester's title challenge has lasted 14 games so far. Southampton's lasted 12. In each case, no one saw it coming. Not after the Saints sold five key players and lost manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Ronald Koeman's team took 24 points in nine games. Then, they ran into the favourites. Losses to both Manchester clubs and Arsenal provided a reality check. They conceded as many goals in those games as in the previous 12.

Richard Jolly

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'Five other unlikely EPL title challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe