The Premier League’s tenth season was the first to feature Barclaycard as the main sponsor and the first to gift Champions League places to whoever finished fourth - giving birth to the importance of a top-four finish.
Notable transfers in the summer of 2001 included Frank Lampard’s controversial move to Chelsea from West Ham United, Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s arrival to Old Trafford from PSV Eindhoven for a club-record £18.5 million, and Fulham’s eyebrow-raising purchase of established goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar.
Perhaps the most headline-generating transfer in Premier League history occurred in the summer of ‘01 when Sol Campbell completed a move from Tottenham to Arsenal with no warning whatsoever. So shocking was the transfer that when reporters gathered at the press conference, they believed they were going to witness the unveiling of goalkeeper Richard Wright and had no idea Campbell was even in talks with the Gunners.
Campbell would be the recipient of severe personal and professional abuse from a minority of Spurs fans for years to come, being labelled as a Judas-like figure for moving from one end of North London to another.
The 2001/02 Season Summary
The Premier League title was anything but a one-horse race this season as Arsenal, Manchester United, Leeds United, Chelsea, and Newcastle United all embarked on impressive campaigns early on.
A classic fixture between Newcastle United and Manchester United occurred on 15 September 2001 as both teams hoped to lay down a strong foundation for the rest of the season. In a controversial game that saw a stunning Laurent Robert free-kick, a Wes Brown own goal, clinical Van Nistelrooy finishing, and a Roy Keane red card, Newcastle emerged 4-3 winners to secure consecutive home wins over the Red Devils.
Leeds United topped the table in November after an impressive 11-match unbeaten run just months after reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. Bolstered by prolific Irish striker Robbie Keane, Leeds announced themselves as early pace-setters and ignited hopes for a first title since 1991.
Arsenal were their usual remarkable selves and lost only twice before Christmas. Thierry Henry was loving life in England as the striker seemed to be scoring incredible goals every week. As good as the Frenchman was, it didn’t hurt that he was backed by Patrick Viera, Robert Pires, and Freddie Ljungberg in midfield. The Gunners drew first blood against Man Utd in November as the errors of Fabien Barthez proved costly and resulted in United losing 3-1 at Highbury. However, Arsene Wenger’s men lost to Newcastle soon after, a defeat which allowed the Magpies to leapfrog them to first place by Christmas.
Bergkamp Brilliance as Arsenal Cruise to Title
Perhaps the best Premier League’s best-ever goal was scored on 2 March 2002 at St. James’ Park. Newcastle United, whose title hopes were still alive, hosted an Arsenal side without Thierry Henry, meaning goalscoring duties fell on Dennis Bergkamp’s shoulders, and the Dutchman would deliver in style.
Receiving the ball on the edge of the Newcastle penalty area, Bergkamp flicked the ball up, around Nikos Dabizaz, before ghosting past the defender’s opposite side and sliding the ball past Shay Given. Sol Campbell added another goal to give Arsenal the three points in one of their toughest away games of the season.
The goal is lauded as one of the Premier League’s best and topped the polls as the fans’ favourite PL goal until Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick in 2011.
The Gunners would not lose a game in the Premier League again and their defeats to Newcastle and Chelsea were their only at Highbury all season. A 13-match winning streak followed for Arsenal as Henry, Pires, and Ljungberg found themselves in formidable form. It was only fitting that the crown was settled at Old Trafford - Manchester United had to win to take the title race to the final day, but a lone Sylvian Wiltord goal was enough to hand the Gunners their second Premier League title.
Manchester United would lose their following game to Blackburn, compounding them to a third-place finish behind archrivals Liverpool.
Heartbreak for Ipswich
George Burley’s Ipswich Town captivated the imagination when they finished 5th in the 2000/01 season. The Scotsman picked up the Manager of the Year award for his efforts and hopes were high that, with such a high finishing position, funds would be available to build on the previous season.
However, the Tractor Boys endured a torrid campaign, winning just nine games all season, and were relegated four points adrift of 17th place. Ipswich were to be joined in the First Division with Derby Country and Leicester City, who had just completed their final season at Filbert Street.
The 2001/02 season was a highly memorable one thanks to its wide-open title race, stunning goals, and classic fixtures. Arsenal consolidated their dominance by defeating Chelsea in the 2002 FA Cup final as stunning strikes from Ljungberg and Ray Parlour handed Arsene Wenger his second double in English football.
Season Statistics (Team)
Champions - Arsenal (87 points)
Runners-up - Liverpool (80 points)
Third Place - Manchester United (77 points)
Fourth Place - Newcastle United (71 points)
Season Statistics (Individual)
Golden Boot- Thierry Henry (Arsenal, 24 goals)
Most Assists - Robert Pires (Arsenal, 15 assists)
PFA Player of the Year - Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Manchester United)
PFA Young Player of the Year - Craig Bellamy (Newcastle United)
Premier League Player of the Season - Freddie Ljungberg (Arsenal)
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