The Hard Tackle takes a look at the five of the most crucial games from the recently concluded 2018-19 edition of the Premier League.
Every Premier League season has its share of twists, turns, heartbreak, and drama. Each of the 20 teams plays 38 games, and these games define their preparations and how far they go. While many clubs sought to achieve their respective goals, which many of them did, several others might look back at the season with disappointment.
The title belonged to Manchester City, but they never ran away with it as Liverpool gave everything in their power to finish only a point behind them. Take Arsenal, for instance, they looked favourites to finish fourth but ended the season in fifth; Tottenham were title contenders but finished sixth and Chelsea, they were predictably finishing outside of the top four but ended up third.
Each of those teams knows when they faltered or gained from a particular fixture. For instance, take Arsenal’s top four challenge; they collapsed at a stage when they were clear favourites to finish in Champions League places. Now it becomes difficult to point at a particular game, but there sure was one that changed the entire complexion of their season.
Spurs, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City, were the other teams that played one specific game that changed their fate. Liverpool lost just once in the league, but their 7 draws during the season ensured Manchester City took the title; or take Manchester United’s reign under Ole Gunnar Solkshaer, who impressively put in an unbeaten run only to falter badly in the end.
For United, there was a single game that started the downfall. These kinds of games are open to interpretation, and fans can point to other games than the ones chosen below. But in our experience, the following games changed the course of the season for the teams, especially the top-six sides this season. Let’s take a look at which ones feature here, and your vote will decide which one was the most significant.
Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool [4th January 2019]
Manchester City came into the game, not as leaders on top of the table. Instead, Pep Guardiola’s side had endured a challenging last three games wherein they lost two. Crystal Palace and Leicester City were able to punish City’s sloppiness and took advantage of it by securing all three points against the Champions. Man City needed a boosting win, and the Liverpool fixture couldn’t have come at any later.
By this time, barring Spurs, all other contenders were deemed out, and only Manchester City and Liverpool were tipped to compete for the title. Additionally, Liverpool were favourites to win this one considering how City had fared in their last three games. The Reds were taught a lesson in tactics and Guardiola went out with bragging rights.
As expected it was a tight game, as Roberto Firmino equalised in the second half after Sergio Aguero opened the scoring in the first period. Leroy Sane, who was seemingly out of favour to start most of the season, came off the bench to secure all three points for City. Now this game was significant to City’s cause as it helped them close the gap to just four points.
Before the game City were trailing Liverpool by 7 points and a loss would have virtually handed the title to Liverpool. After the victory at the Etihad, Manchester City had to play 17 more league games, of which they won 16 and lost one. Their 13 game winning streak was enough first to close the gap on the Reds and then take the Championships from under their noses.
Was this the most crucial fixture of the past season? Vote and express your opinion on the poll at the bottom.
Everton 0-0 Liverpool [3rd March 2019]
After suffering their first defeat of the season against Manchester City, Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Wolves. However, when they came back to play Premier League football, they still managed to collect three points and keep a four points cushion over rivals City. The next 6 games are what defined Liverpool’s season, with the most crucial one being the Merseyside derby.
Take the five games before the Merseyside Derby into account, and we will see three drawn games to Leicester City, West Ham United and eternal rivals Manchester United. Those games did cost the side much, allowing City to take control of the title race by a single point. Because after dropping points at Goodison Park, Liverpool collected every available point in the league, just like Man City.
Everton were the apparent underdogs in this edition of the Merseyside derby against a rampant Liverpool side. But Marco Silva had plans that involved playing Liverpool at their own game. the Portuguese’ stringent approach and some solid individual display’s ensured Liverpool took nothing out of Goodison Park but just a single point.
Those two points dropped made the difference in the end as Manchester City went on to clinch the title with just a point separating them and Liverpool. The Goodison faithful can surely pat themselves at the back for derailing Liverpool’s title challenge. Was this the most crucial fixture of the season? Vote and let us know.
Arsenal 2-3 Crystal Palace [21st April 2019]
Arsenal have created this image of being the bottlers in away games. But at home, they were only bettered by a few, including Liverpool and Manchester City. In the last five games, they had recorded three wins, one draw, and a single loss. The defeat came at Everton, but the Gunners had won against direct rivals Manchester United at home.
Additionally, before the Palace game, they had narrowly defeated Watford away and came into this game with much confidence, especially given it was at the Emirates. But fate had different plans that day as Wilfried Zaha & Co. ran rampant in North London, taking all three points, three precious points from Arsenal’s top-four race.
Following the defeat to Palace, Arsenal capitulated and dramatically lost the next two games to Wolves and Leicester City (both away). By the time they faced Brighton at home for, the damage had been done, all the hard work undone and top-four hopes hung by a thread. Arsenal did not waste time to destroy the thin thread as they dropped two points to Brighton.
Vote now and express if this was the game that ended Arsenal’s top four hopes!
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham [27th February 2019]
Coming into this particular game, Chelsea were in a rough patch of form. If crashing out of the FA Cup wasn’t enough, the Blues were beaten in the League Cup Final by Manchester City on penalties. Just a few games before that City thumped Chelsea 5-0 at the Etihad to add injury to insult on their already depleting top-four hopes.
That defeat to City in the league was their third loss in the last five games. Arsenal and Bournemouth were the other two teams, and the Gunners, in particular, relished at Chelsea’s misery in the top-four race. All Chelsea needed was a morale-boosting win to get themselves back into the top-four race as Tottenham came visiting Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea got their victory and seemed to relish when they beat Tottenham, especially at a time when Spurs’ hopes lie on games like these. Tottenham’s hopes to re-enter the title race were hanging in the balance, and this time again, Chelsea were the catalysts to send the balancing act one way, down! Add the bizarre Kieran Trippier own goal to the mix, and this was one of those interesting games.
Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City [25th April 2019]
Everton scored four goals past the Manchester United defence without a response from the visitors. Not the kind of game preparation Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed before a crucial Manchester Derby, but the result was looking inevitable even then. The day came, and Manchester City duly showed their class in the derby game with a convincing 0-2 victory.
If the significance of the game is in question, then know that it was important for both sides. City were facing the last of the top-six opponent while United were looking for inspiration to be considered again for a top-four race. While Liverpool were hanging around their necks more closer than Guardiola would have wanted, and United paid the price for City’s title pressure.
The game was fairly won by City, but it had a catastrophic effect on United, who were now considered out of the running for the top-four race. While Liverpool hopes were dashed, City did not repeat performance of their previous season at Old Trafford when they lost. At the end of the season, this game proved vital for United as they never recovered and finished sixth overall.
Which game do you think was significant in the past Premier League season? Use our poll below to cast your vote with the options. Was it City’s win over the Reds or Liverpool’s doomed Merseyside derby? Or Arsenal’s catastrophic end to the season due to the Palace defeat?
There is Chelsea ending Tottenham hopes while boosting their own or City with the final nail in the coffin on rivals Manchester United’s top-four hopes? Vote now!