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Opinion

The Premier League's top ten moments of the decade

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Roar Guru
31st December, 2019
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The Premier League has been memorable this decade for so many different reasons, as giants have fallen and new contenders have established a new order.

The division’s top ten moments go beyond just the sheer drama and excitement of a late winner or escaping the jaws of defeat in the last moment. The significance of these moments shaped the decade that was.

10. Jack Wilshere’s goal vs Norwich, 2014
Norwich City’s defence were left bamboozled by a sequence of one-touch passing between Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud that had to be seen more than once to understand what actually unfolded, such was the speed of thought and ingenuity on show.

Wilshere begins by running at the Canaries defence and then slips a short pass to Cazorla, who lays it into feet for Giroud, who then begins the string of flicks by flicking it back to Wilshere, who has continued his charge into the box. He duly responds in kind with an outrageous side-foot flick back to Giroud in mid air, where the Frenchman returns the favour with an equally brilliant flick into the path of a goal-bound Wilshere, who finishes with a cushioned volley past a despairing John Ruddy.

Once the ball met Olivier Giroud, not once did the ball see the grass. It was a team goal of the highest order where three brilliant minds came together in unison to create something closer to fantasy than reality.

For the last two decades, Arsenal have produced some belting team goals, and this took the cake for the decade such was the lightning incision and execution that seemed to happen in a flash. Despite Arsenal’s slump into the doldrums this decade, the goal was a reminder of the purity and beauty that Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were still capable of at their best.

Even without trophies to show for it throughout the 2010s, this goal encapsulated Arsenal’s commitment to winning football matches while still entertaining and upholding the aesthetic values of its history.

9. Manchester United 8 Arsenal 2, 2011
Arsenal were heavily undermanned due to injury and entered Old Trafford at their lowest ebb in a long time. The likes of Carl Jenkinson, Johan Djourou and Armand Traore were confronted with the challenge of containing a Manchester United team bouncing with vim and enterprise. Wayne Rooney’s free kick clinic and Ashley Young’s emphatic double from long range headlined a callous massacring of Arsene Wenger’s young Gunners, who were eviscerated from start to finish.

Nani’s dinked finish when found in acres of space demonstrated Arsenal’s defensive frailties to a tee.

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Nobody can deny what Manchester United versus Arsenal meant as a fixture during the halcyon days of Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane throughout the decade from the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s. The contest swung gradually into United’s favour for several years after Thierry Henry departed and Cristiano Ronaldo exploded to prominence in the late 2000s.

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

However, the manner of this defeat in the beginning of the 2010s was a symbolic reminder of United’s continued status as English football’s benchmark, while Arsenal were dismissed as a genuine rival of United as the new decade began. As the decade progressed, United would find themselves similarly in a malaise, but at the time in 2011, the sheer margin and manner of defeat felt emblematic of Arsenal’s regression as a club.

8. Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea, 2014
As he had done with such distinction throughout 2013-14 as a deep-lying playmaker at the base of Brendan Rodgers’ diamond, Steven Gerrard was receiving a routine pass from Mamadou Sakho. That’s when Gerrard’s momentary lapse in concentration was punished, as his loose control of the ball turned into a tragic slip as he tried to recover from losing the ball to Chelsea’s Demba Ba, who would go onto score the opening goal at Anfield.

This was not quite a direct title decider between Liverpool and Chelsea, but with Manchester City being the other real contender in what was the most intriguing title race of the decade, Steven Gerrard’s slip was a deep psychological blow. This was the club’s inspirational captain, who was looking to deliver Liverpool’s first league title in 24 years and had played such an instrumental role in catapulting the Reds to an improbable title bid off the back of Luis Suarez’s prolific form.

As luck would have it, Liverpool would lose to Chelsea after Gerrard’s slip, and then they would go on to capitulate at Selhurst Park to draw 3-3 with Crystal Palace to essentially hand Manchester City the title. Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat of City was significant in giving them belief, with Steven Gerrard’s demand in the post-match huddle of “this does not slip now!” becoming a cruel twist of fate in the final reckoning as one of the Premier League’s most celebrated names missed the chance to win the league in the twilight of his career.

7. Robin van Persie’s volley vs Aston Villa, 2013
Wayne Rooney pinged a beautifully weighted ball to Robin van Persie as he peeled off his Villa markers and then executed a beautifully timed volley that was hit so truly that the ball arrows past Brad Guzan to seal the title for Manchester United.

Van Persie had been renowned for his exceptional technique when it comes to volleying, as he showed with volleys against Everton and Charlton for Arsenal, but this was the first time a goal of such beauty was equally as important when it came to silverware.

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The 2012-13 season was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last at Manchester United and ended a 27-year managerial stint at Old Trafford. However, it can also been as the Robin van Persie season. His arrival at Manchester United, who beat Manchester City to his signature, swung the initiative away from the defending champions. Like Eric Cantona before him, Van Persie was a talismanic figure who won the golden boot and led Ferguson and United to title success for a 20th time in their history.

Robin van Persie

(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

United had already eclipsed Liverpool’s long-standing record of 18 league titles in 2011 by capturing their 19th crown, but the achievement of reaching the 20th felt significant in Ferguson’s desire to knock Liverpool off their perch. The jaw-dropping quality of the goal epitomised the dominant nature of their triumph.

6. Manchester City 6 Manchester United 1, 2011
Manchester City may rule the roost in Manchester these days, but back in 2011 they were simply the noisy neighbours who were on a mission to disrupt the aristocracy that was Manchester United. It was seismic day in English football as Manchester City ran rampant against a shell shocked and powerless Manchester United side, who hadn’t been this humiliated in an age.

City dominated from start to finish. Roberto Mancini’s men put on a clinic of ruthless attacking football at Old Trafford after Jonny Evans’ red card. Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko all finished with precision on the day as David Silva and James Milner as a creative pair pulled the strings in devastating fashion at the home of their most bitter rivals.

David Silva’s volleyed through ball to assist Edin Dzeko for City’s sixth goal was as big a statement of intent as you could make, exposing the gulf in class and depth.

With Chelsea’s old guard ageing and Arsenal in decline, Manchester City took the mantle of title contenders in a show of financial and now on-field might. Carlos Tevez’s defection to City had already put the wheels in motion for a power shift one day, with his transfer symbolic in City’s ability to now poach United’s best players when that very thought seemed a pipe dream when City were losing to the likes of Middlesbrough 8-1.

City had been edging closer to United as the derbies grew in significance. However, the 6-1 humbling signalled City’s arrival as a force in the English game, as City would go on to do the double over United in 2011-12 to win the first of their four titles this decade. It was a decade that belonged to City, knocking United off their perch.

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5. Wayne Rooney’s overhead goal vs Manchester City, 2011
It was once again derby day, and in a low-quality affair, Nani floated in a deflected cross into the box from the right then Wayne Rooney scored a bicycle kick of enormous magnitude and magnificence as a despairing Joe Hart was rooted to the spot. It is the most iconic and best goal of the decade.

Manchester City’s transformation into a title contender was gathering real momentum and they were not far off Manchester United at this point in the beginning fo the decade. City had become a physical and difficult team to play as Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards monstered the opposition.

They just needed more quality up front – a genuine cutting edge to win games of this scale against United, especially when a star like Rooney put City to the sword with a moment of world-class pedigree. It was a symbolic reminder of the gap that still existed with United at that stage.

4. Manchester City reach 100 points, 2018
Kevin De Bruyne’s pinpoint ball over the Southampton defence for Gabriel Jesus allowed the Brazilian to expertly dink over Alex McCarthy to seal a victory that delivered a 100-point tally.

Manchester City had already won the title, but their ambitions were far greater than that. Chelsea had previously set a Premier League points record of 95 in 2004-05, and with that figure already eclipsed with 97, Pep Guardiola’s men went for the jugular to do what nobody else had ever done.

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Not even the great Manchester United teams that won trebles or Arsenal teams that were invincible could muster 100 points in a season, and for Guardiola to lead City to uncharted territory was truly significant.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

(Adam Davy/PA via AP)

3. Vincent Kompany goal vs Leicester City, 2019
A title decider on a knife edge with Leicester City’s resolute defending leaving the game in the balance. On 70 minutes, Vincent Kompany refused to give in, and decided to unleash a thunderbolt from the blue that had title clincher written all over it.

Kasper Schmeichel had no chance of a saving a shot that was destiny, and the only goal Kompany ever scored from outside the box for City will go down in Manchester City and Premier League folklore as one of the most clutch moments ever.

Not since Manchester United achieved a three-peat of league titles from 2006 to 2009 had a team defended their title. Liverpool were sensational in pushing Manchester City to the very last day to seal the trophy, and City wouldn’t have claimed that silverware without their leader Vincent Kompany.

He had shown through his grittiness and determination in defence how much he wanted to defend the Premier League title that was so handsomely won with a record 100 points the year before, but it was his ability to hit the back of the net that proved decisive in the end.

The strike was a moment of fate, which ultimately helped the Belgian finish with a domestic treble to cap a wonderful Premier League career for one of the all-time greats.

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2. Sergio Aguero’s goal vs QPR, 2012
An absorbing title race between both Manchester clubs came down to the final day, when an injury time equaliser from Edin Dzeko set the scene for the most dramatic title-clinching goal of all time. Mario Balotelli’s only assist of the season was an elaborate yet effective one-two before Aguero proceeded to lash home the winner past Paddy Kenny.

It was the first title Manchester City had won since 1968 – and the dramatic fashion in which it was achieved, plus the fact it was against the team of the Premier League era in Manchester United, made it all the more sweet.

This was a coming of age for the noisy neighbours, who were just that bit better than their fierce rivals Manchester United. This set them on their way to a decade of delight as the spine of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero would rewrite the history books. Even for the neutrals, this is a moment in football history you were just glad to be a part of, whether you were at the Etihad or watching on the TV.

1. Leicester City win the Premier League title, 2016
The exact moment was when Eden Hazard’s trademark solo goal drove the final blow into the coffin of Tottenham’s title challenge and England welcomed its sixth ever Premier League winner. For Leicester, the squad watched on TV and celebrated wildly as Chelsea’s draw with Tottenham made history for Claudio Ranieri’s men.

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Leicester City English Premier League trophy 2016

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Leicester City were a 5000-to-1 chance of winning the league in 2015-16. As the defending champions Chelsea self-destructed and the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City were all below par in a season of intrigue and mystery, Leicester City were the only team not to blink.

From Kasper Schmeichel’s heroics in goals to Jamie Vardy’s clinical finishing up front, Leicester were a safe pair of hands as well as a devastating counter-attacking threat. Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and N’Golo Kante’s physicality and heart was key, while the PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez gave the Foxes the match-winning stardust all champions need throughout a nine-month, 38-game season.

The moment of the decade was a triumph for the little guy – the underdog. It inspired people all around the world as more than just as a sporting miracle, but as a message of hope and resilience.

After all, this is what sport is about: the romance and integrity of competition.