This article does what it says on the tin really, it's a compilation of ten teams that looked really awesome on paper but continuously failed to live up to expectation in reality. In addition to the really obvious super teams that won relatively little for the vast amounts of talents they had, some teams on this list would have several trophies domestically, but make the list because they did not assert themselves in Europe enough.
The greatest ever era in Arsenal football club's history will always be undermined by an air of underachievement.
They won the Premier League twice during this time frame, as well as the FA Cup and the Community Shield 3 times as well.
They arguably played the greatest football the Premier League has ever seen (cue Newcastle and Liverpool fans in disagreement). This was all plausible due to having the best ever Premier League player (Thierry Henry), the best ever Premier League midfield enforcer (Patrick Vieira), arguably the Premier League's best winger (Robert Pires) and a mean defence. The team also contained numerous World Cup 98/02 and Euro 2000 winners, as well as an Olympian in Kanu.
So why did they come off best in several occasions? Losing the Premier League on the last day to Man Utd by 1 point in 1999; 2000 UEFA Cup final vs Galatasaray; 2001 FA Cup final vs Liverpool; letting a gargantuan Premier League lead slip to Man Utd in 2003; never seriously competing in the Champions League, except in 2006, where they lost in the final.
A lack of squad depth based on small finances (before the days of the Emirates stadium revenue) can be blamed but that does not change the fact a multi-talented team with the potential to be the best underachieved.
After several decades in the doldrums Chelsea came back with a vengeance in 1997. Astute buys in world class experienced winners such as Marcel Desailly, Gianfranco Zola, Ed De Goey, Gustavo Poyet, Gianluca Vialli, George Weah, Frank Leboeuf, Didier Deschamps, Dan Petrescu, Albert Ferrer, Roberto Di Matteo and Ruud Guilt along with potentially world class talents such as John Terry, Celestine Babayaro, Eider Gudjohnsen and Carlo Cudicini had promised much.
Initial optimism was followed by an FA Cup victory in 97, a league cup victory in 98, a European Cup Winners Cup in 98, a Euro Super Cup in 98, missing out on the Premier League in 99 by 4 points and another FA Cup win in 2000.
Unfortunately, that was at good as got for this crop of Chelsea players. The experienced players began to regress in ability and many of the young players lacked focus. 3rd in 99 was followed by 5th in 2000, as well as two 6th places in 2001 and 2002.
A runners up position was followed up by winning the Premier League in 1995. Even though manager Kenny Dalglish had moved to a more executive position in the following season, Blackburn were left in good hands by assistant manager Ray Harford, a ton of cash and Alan Shearer.
The following season was to be a disaster as Blackburn made the worst ever defence to a Premier League title by finishing 7th (something Manchester United are close to repeating) and were ceremoniously dumped out the Champions League with only four points. They came 6th the following season after a young Roy Hodgson came in halfway to save a season destined for a relegation battle. However, he could do nothing about Blackburn's relegation in 1998 completing one of the biggest falls from grace ever.
Between the seasons 95-96 and 96-97, Newcastle (along with Liverpool) were the only team capable of matching Manchester United blow for blow before the Red Devils stepped it up to become one of Europe's best, nevermind the best in England.
However, before Manchester United really hit their stride and cemented their dominance, Newcastle were arguable the better side. They weren't called the 'entertainers' for no reason; in 1996 they thrashed Manchester United 5-0 and were also 12 points clear at one point (albeit in different seasons). Nonetheless, during both seasons Newcastle blew it and allowed Manchester United to take the title home. The 98-99 season was the biggest disappointment as they came an astonishing 13th and lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal, this despite spending £30 million (a deal then).
Furthermore, for the first time since the European ban imposed on English sides, Manchester United made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 97 after previously failing to get out the group stages. A 2-0 defeat eventual winners Dortmund did them in. An agonising away goals loss to a young Monaco team featuring Thierry Henry and Trezeguet knocked United out in the quarters in 1998. The next season United learned and a team reaching their peak won the treble, breathing new life into United's domination.
In hindsight you have to ask: how different would things have been if Newcastle had won the league immediately after Blackburn had in 1995? Dynasty's are built on confidence and United's would have been shot.
If you ignore Dimitar Berbatov you'll understand the point I am about to make.
After the 1999 treble winning year, United's domination had taken on a new dimension. Named the richest club in the world for the umpteenth time, United felt England was too small, they wanted to conquer the world.
If Real Madrid were the galacticos and Bayern Munich were 'FC Hollywood', United wanted to be the New York Yankees, a team packed with prestige but had the trophies to back it up. With former targets Ronaldo injured and Kluivert settled in Barcelona, Man Utd turned to rising star Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Meanwhile, Juan Sebastian Veron was widely regarded as the world's most complete midfielder (though Edgar Davids, Roy Keane and Vieira are right to complain) and was competing with Zidane and Gaizka Mendieta for title of best playmaker.
Other additions like World Cup 98 and Euro '00 winners Fabian Barthez, Laurent Blanc and later on Blanc's heir, Rio Ferdinand joined the team.
However, the team had serious problems trying to gel together. Legendary defender Laurent Blanc was exposed as a past it, sluggish defender. United conceded 45 Premier League goals that season and whilst Ferdinand was brought the season after, he was soon banned for 8 months for avoiding a drugs test. On top of a dodgy defence, Barthez did his best to make it look even worse with a series of blunders. Tim Howard and Carroll were equally as poor too.
Veron had serious issues converting his impressive European form into his Premier League form. The Jekyll and Hyde performances was deemed too much for United and he was sold for a cut price £15 million two years later.
Other disturbances included Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole who reportedly began to coast when Sir Alex Ferguson initially announced his retirement in 2001. David Beckham was also the recipient of Ferguson's ire as his celebrity status threatened to overshadow his United commitments. A gash to the face after a defeat to Arsenal - common place during the era - was the last straw.
If you start from the 2001/02 season, this period only saw United win one Premier League trophy (which Arsenal threw away, instead united deserving) and an FA Cup (against Millwall). Between 2000-2002, Manchester United were beaten by Liverpool 6 times in a row, suffered a few humiliating defeats to city rivals Man City and were given a lesson from Arsene Wenger's Arsenal into how team chemistry will always overcome individual talents.
At one point West Ham had: Paolo Di Canio, Fredric Kanoute, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Trevor Sinclair, Jermaine Defoe, Davor Suker, Ian Wright, Nigel Winterburn, David James, Michael Carrick, Rigobert Song, Titi Camera, Glen Johnson, Jimmy Bullard, Paulo Wanchope, Marc-Vivien Foe, Eyal Berkovic, John Hartson and Tomas Repka all in the same squad at one point.
Why were they not able to create a dynasty out of this? The best they ever achieved was 5th under Harry Redknapp in 1999. This was followed by 9th in 2000, 15th in 2001, 7th in 2002 and 18th in 2003.
Not good enough.
Leeds United had a fantastic team between 1997 and 2002. Strikers like Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka put fear into the minds of everyone in Europe. Their other strikers, Michael Bridges and Alan Smith were quickly creating a name for themselves. Behind them Harry Kewell was the creative genius supplying them, whilst Lee Bowyer was Leeds answer to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Add in defensive cover in the form of Oliver Dacourt, experienced Leeds legend Lucas Radebe and future England center back pairing Ferdinand and Woodgate, Leeds seemed primed for the big time.
When the vast majority of the side were merely still teenagers they managed to reach semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and Champions League, as well as finish 3rd in the Premier League in 2000 - this after topping the league at the halfway point.
Much like this season, with Sir Alex Ferguson announcing his retirement Manchester United dipped in form and with Arsenal only finishing four points ahead of Leeds in 2000, decreasing to only two by 2001, Leeds were one of the favourites to capitalise and win the title by 2002.
They brought Robbie Fowler and Seth Johnson to ensure this would happen and gambled on a new 50,000 seater stadium in order to fully maximise their potential future successes. By the end of 2001 it seemed all was going well as they topped the league table. However, a defeat to Cardiff in the 3rd round of the FA Cup sparked a 10 match winless run in all competitions that saw Leeds kicked out of everything by March.
In a Premier League season that was as competitive as this one, any winless streak was disastrous. It proved so as Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle United (in that order) scampered off and left Leeds 5 points adrift of the last Champions League place - something they desperately needed.
Bankruptcy kicked in as Rio Ferdinand was sold immediately and with that the potential of the side was never realised.
The Roy Evans years. Say that to Liverpool fans old enough to remember the 90s and they'll sigh, not so much in boredom - Roy Evans were a lot of things but boring wasn't one of them - but because of what could have been.
After Graeme Souness had effectively done what David Moyes has done to Manchester United this year, Roy Evans was the man who was tasked with rebuilding a great empire. Truth be told he did a great job, Liverpool were a threatening attacking side under his tutelage.
Much like Manchester United, Liverpool had found a great balance between youth and experience. For Cantona see Ian Rush; for Andy Cole see Robbie Fowler; for Solskjaer see Collymore; for Ryan Giggs see Steve McManaman; for Beckham see Redknapp; for Roy Keane see Paul Ince; for Mark Hughes see John Barnes; for Paul Scholes see Steven Gerrard; for Wes Brown see Jamie Carragher; for Karel Poborsky see Patrik Berger; for Peter Schmeichel see...calamity James? For Jaap Stam see...Neil 'fatman' Ruddock? For Denis Irwin see...Bjornebye? See a pattern emerging?
Indeed, Brendan Rodgers will do well to avoid Roy Evans mistakes as Liverpool manager. Evans managed to make a woeful attack into something aesthetically pleasing, he never quite got round to fixing the defence. Earlier on I wrote how Newcastle and Liverpool were the only teams capable of matching Manchester United before they and Arsenal took things to a whole new level; if Newcastle blew it in 1995/96, Liverpool blew it in 1996/97. They led the season for much of that season but a run of 2 wins in 7 games killed their season. In the end they had to settle for 4th as they had worst goal difference between Newcastle and Arsenal who all had equal points.
In addition to a poor defence, a poor mentality later led the club to be dubbed the 'Spice Boys'. Their weak mentality defined a 'how not to manage a club' guide for others long before Arsenal rewrote a chapter on that.
Arsenal will probably end their nine year wait for a trophy against Hull in the FA Cup final, though I also said that against Birmingham in the Carling Cup and we all know what happened there.
In 2008 they blew the title after an 8 game run where they only won once. Considering they only lost the title by 4 points you can see how catastrophic that was.
In 2009 they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and played against Manchester United; that game is most famous for the Sky Sports ad where Cristiano Ronaldo is running past invisible players. Those players were of course Arsenal players but they may as well have been invisible for the ease Ronaldo sauntered past their defence as they lost 4-1.
2010 was similar to the 2008 season in the Premier League, albeit not as dramatic because they were always chasing the lead. Nonetheless, Arsenal lost 3 out of four matches towards the end of the season, drawing the other consigning themselves to 3rd as Chelsea and Manchester United jousted for the title. Arsenal were 11 points behind eventual winners Chelsea, so you can see how Arsenal were hurt by going four winless.
Apart from the Birmingham loss that needs no revisiting, 2011 was also famous for another Arsenal collapse in the league. They were one point behind Man Utd by the end of February but ended up 12 behind the eventual champions. Why? Arsenal only won 2 out of the last 11 matches, losing 3 out of the last 5 for good measure.
The next two seasons they scrapped Champions League football by the skin of their teeths on the last and day, which brings us onto today.
Roy Evans Liverpool team were pathetic mentality, but not this pathetic.
The team more disappointing than Arsenal circa 2007 - now in the Premier League era is their North London rivals Tottenham from 2011 - now. They have had numerous chances to crack the top four since their maiden year in the Champions League and have failed each time.
In 2012 they actually succeeded but in the harshest of luck Chelsea and Didier Drogba had other plans and won the Champions League, taking Tottenham's place in the process despite finishing 6th.
Nonetheless, I cannot have any sympathy for them. In 2012 and 2013, Tottenham had let massive leads slip and allowed themselves to be dragged into last day skirmishes they otherwise should have avoided if they had any character about them.
Interim manager Tim Sherwood has questioned his side's character a lot this season and I am glad someone at that club is finally addressing the real issue; no matter how much money you throw on a project if the attitude of the people working on it is wrong, the overall outcome will stink. This season Tottenham spent over £100 million on players in the summer, yet they are far behind Liverpool and once again Arsenal who did not even spend half of that amount. That stinks to high heaven.