Top Tenner: Biggest wins in Premier League history
After Southampton's 8-0 destruction of a woeful Sunderland outfit on Saturday, now seems like an ideal time to take a look back at the top 10 biggest wins in Premier League history ...
There have been six 7-0 wins in the history of the Premier League. A couple have been fairly joyless pummellings (Manchester City 7-0 Norwich in November 2013 and Chelsea 7-0 Stoke in April 2010), and a couple have been by Arsenal -- one a drubbing of Middlesbrough in January 2006 and another a year earlier, against Everton.
There are two schools of thought about a team who have nothing to play for -- either they perform with freedom and abandon, the pressures of expectation cast aside and their true abilities shining through, or they slump, their motivation for anything else than the summer and a lads' trip to Ayia Napa nowhere to be seen.
In this case Arsenal, whose league title had been swiped a couple of weeks earlier by Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, most definitely fell into the former category, sashaying around Highbury like a team without a care in the world, slicing and dicing Everton at will with Dennis Bergkamp putting on a clinic of those joyous slipped, back line-splitting passes that he turned into an art form.
Robin van Persie opened the scoring, Robert Pires nabbed a couple, Patrick Vieira got one as did Bergkamp himself, while Mathieu Flamini poked home his first for the club and Edu, playing his last home game before his departure to Valencia, was given a chance to say goodbye with a goal, slotting home a penalty won by Thierry Henry.
The league season as a whole had been a disappointment, with their title and unbeaten record gone, but this was a glimpse of the football of which this Arsenal were capable.
"It's just like watching Brazil," sang the Barnsley fans, tongue lodged in cheek, before their promotion to the Premier League in 1997, although for a club who had just reached the top flight for the first and only time in their history, it quite possibly was.
However, their opening weeks in the big league were pretty brutal, to say the least: heavy defeats to Chelsea (6-0), Wimbledon (4-1) and Arsenal (5-0) occasionally interspersed with unlikely victories. Looking back some 17 years later, the addition of "... in the World Cup semifinal against Germany" might be an appropriate addition to the end of that famous chant.
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In October they came up against Manchester United, defending champions and at that point top of the league and something of a juggernaut, before they were later hauled in and beaten to the league title by Arsenal. The gulf in class was exposed with some gusto, Andy Cole (under pressure after only scoring twice that season) helping himself to a first-half hat trick, with a Ryan Giggs brace and one each for Paul Scholes and Karel Poborsky (a back-heel most definitely filed under "insouciant") finishing the rout.
Barnsley actually improved from that point in the season, with the hammerings kept to a minimum, but they still returned from whence they came at the season's end, their adventure brief but filled with goals. It's just a shame a few more strikes weren't theirs.
When Arsenal were finally beaten by Manchester United in 2004 to end their remarkable 49-game unbeaten run, they had already broken Nottingham Forest's record of 42 games, one that had stood for some 25 years, but they also took the Premier League undefeated mark of 25 games from Forest, set in 1995.
That run was brought to an emphatic end by Blackburn in November of that year, as the defending champions belied their own disappointing campaign (they were 11th at the time of the game) by ruthlessly dismantling their opponents, largely thanks to a former Forest player in Lars Bohinen.
"The Norwegian has brought a much-needed fresh note of invention to Blackburn's approach play that had them at last looking yesterday like reigning champions," reported the Independent, as Bohinen bagged two goals himself, and was instrumental in creating a number of the others, with Alan Shearer wheeling away, single arm aloft three times; Mike Newell scoring one; and Graeme Le Saux completing the rout with a 30-yard pile-driver that pleasingly pinged over the line via the crossbar.
Life at Manchester City started pretty well for Sven-Goran Eriksson. After Thaksin Shinawatra allowed him a summer splurge to recruit the likes of Elano, Martin Petrov, Geovanni and Vedran Corluka, City began the season at some pace, winning 13 of their first 17 in the league and remaining in the top four until the middle of December.
However, then things started to go a little south, as they won just five more games all season, with only an unlikely Manchester derby win to provide any real cheer post-Christmas. The final game of the season was the culmination of the downward spiral, as the loosely held-together City side came apart quite flamboyantly.
It was perhaps not the size of the defeat that was the most humiliating, nor even the dreadful limpness of the performance, but the identity of the man who scored a hat trick, as Afonso Alves, that cautionary tale that is raised whenever an English team buys from the Eredivisie, waltzed off with the match ball. After Richard Dunne was sent off, Stewart Downing bagged a pair, Adam Johnson, Jeremie Aliadiere and Fabio Rochemback all scored once, Sven looked dejected and was sacked a few weeks later.
In most other seasons, this would have been the standout result, the centrepiece of a season, a huge win that could perhaps have defined a team, never mind a campaign. Of course, for the 1998-99 Manchester United team this was a brief highlight in a season of such absurd achievement, ranking some way behind wins over Juventus, Arsenal, Liverpool, Inter and Newcastle.
Daniel Harris, in his book "The Promised Land" about the treble season, described this win, along with a few other poundings of the lower lights, as "mere details; ornate details, but details nonetheless."
Of course, the notable aspect of this game was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the perennial replacement and the man who took over the mantle of the quintessential "super sub" from David Fairclough, scoring four goals after leaping sprightly from the bench, brutally taking advantage of a Forest team who were terrible to start with, but whose spirit was by this point squashed in the Nottingham mud.
United were 4-1 ahead when Solskjaer replaced Dwight Yorke on 71 minutes, the Tobagonian having performed that season's usual trick of sharing the goals with Andy Cole. Solskjaer scored his first on 80 minutes, and by the final whistle he had his four, leaving Forest keeper Dave Beasant resembling Bambi on stilts, sprawled and with limbs akimbo in the goalmouth.
United coach Jim Ryan had told Solskjaer they "didn't need any more goals, just keep it simple" when he came on, but this is one of the few occasions when a player could probably get away with disobeying instructions. "It was one of those days you felt you were on the playground," said Solskjaer. "The ball just landed in my feet, if I missed it the first time it just landed back in my feet and you score again."
There were some nerves for Chelsea going into the final day of the 2009-10 season. They needed to beat Wigan at home, which while perhaps not the most arduous task, still needed to be done as Manchester United, who had Stoke at home, were poised to take advantage.
As it turns out, Chelsea need not have worried, as they took Wigan apart in a similar manner to their 7-0 battering of Stoke a few weeks earlier, settling both their nerves and the title. Nicolas Anelka got things started after six minutes, and we were then treated to the amusing sight of Didier Drogba, keen to finish as the league's top scorer, throwing a tantrum after not being allowed to take a 32nd-minute penalty.
Frank Lampard scored that one, but Drogba would get his chance, scoring three (one from the spot) as Salomon Kalou, another from Anelka and a flourish of a goal by Ashley Cole sealed things.
"Carlo Ancelotti's insatiable line-up have reduced the Premier League scoring record to dust," reported the Guardian. "Their tally of 103 is half-a-dozen better that Manchester United's total in 1999-2000. Statistics do get tiresome but Chelsea cannot get enough for the time being."
Chelsea weren't quite in such rampant form in December 2013, but they pulled off the same scoreline in a result that wasn't quite so much the result of total dominance and skill, but more a freak score that didn't really represent their general play under Rafa Benitez.
Nevertheless, this was a fair thumping, which Villa boss Paul Lambert likened to being beaten up, the blows coming from seven different players, with Ramires the surprise man to grab a brace. Fernando Torres, David Luiz with a fabulous free kick, Branislav Ivanovic, Oscar, Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard scored the others to complete the shellacking.
4) Southampton 8-0 Sunderland, October 2014
Life must be pretty sweet for Ronald Koeman and Southampton at the moment. After a summer in which all different shades of doom were foretold, the Saints sit third in the table, having lost only twice and handed out a heroic beating to a hapless Sunderland side.
Sunderland, of course, started as they meant to go on, with a surreal thunderbolt of an own goal by Santiago Vergini, hammered past his own keeper Vito Mannone with very little concept of what he was even trying to do.
Sunderland fans in the crowd shook their heads in bemusement and embarrassment, blissfully unaware that this was only the start of the shambles, with defensive calamities and pieces of attacking excellence of all stripes combining to give Southampton seven more goals.
Of course, it could all have been very different, with Gus Poyet incandescent that Saints keeper Fraser Forster wasn't sent off for seemingly taking Steven Fletcher down when through on goal; at 2-0, and with 10 men, it could all have been very different. "I used the word 'embarrassing' because I am trying to be respectful," said Poyet after the game. "What I said in the dressing room is private."
One shudders to think what Poyet really made of the whole thing.
The 1999-2000 season started off in shambolic fashion at St James' Park, even by Newcastle's slapstick standards. They picked up just a single point in their first seven games, in which time Ruud Gullit dropped Alan Shearer and committed career suicide before quitting, replaced by Bobby Robson at the start of September.
And, of course, he had an almost instant impact, recovering from a first-game loss to Chelsea with a solid 2-0 away victory against CSKA Sofia in the UEFA Cup, before his homecoming, his first game at St James' Park against Sheffield Wednesday.
Newcastle welcomed him home in some style, ferociously pounding the Owls from the 11th minute when Aaron Hughes opened the scoring. Alan Shearer netted a 12-minute hat trick to make it 4-0 at the break, and Newcastle kept on coming in the second half, Shearer notching twice more while Kieron Dyer and Gary Speed completed the scoring.
Robson is a hero on Tyneside for many reasons, and this game is certainly one of them.
While all the games on this list were of course one-sided, this was something else. Spurs scored nine goals, and should quite possibly have had more, taking a whopping 28 shots throughout a game in which Wigan may as well have put blue shirts on training cones and put those on the pitch, for all the good the actual players did them.
It was only 1-0 at half-time, with Spurs on top but not overwhelmingly so, and had only Peter Crouch's stooping header to show for their efforts, but the game exploded after the break.
Jermain Defoe was the star man, becoming the first player to score five in one game since Shearer a decade earlier, his trademark run-towards-goal-and-belt-the-ball-as-hard-as-possible style very much coming to the fore in this encounter.
"Even when I got the fifth I wanted another one and another one," said Defoe after the game, showing an insatiable appetite not seen since Augustus Gloop visited an eccentric recluse's chocolate factory.
For the record, Aaron Lennon, David Bentley and Niko Kranjcar got the others for Spurs, while the one, single, lonely scorer for Wigan was Paul Scharner.
Ipswich were heroically bad in the 1994-95 season, finishing stone bottom of the table and a full 21 points from safety. However, one of their seven wins that term was against Manchester United, beating the defending champions 3-2 at Portman Road in September, but the return game was rather different.
"Just as those within Barings bank were forewarned of a disaster," topically reported the Guardian, "so Ipswich supporters must have long feared that such an almighty crash was coming their way."
Andy Cole was still to convince the United crowd that he was worth the 7 million pounds paid to bring him from Newcastle that January, with two goals and a number of missed chances in his first six games. This game would go some way to casting aside some of those doubts, as Cole rippled the net five times, with one at the time suspected to have been the work of one of Ipswich's hapless defenders, the Canadian Frank Yallop, although close scrutiny and Cole's own insistence made it clear that the strike, and the five, were his.
Of the other scorers, Roy Keane (playing at right-back that day) started proceedings, while dotted among Cole's goals were a brace from Mark Hughes and one from Paul Ince.
It was perhaps Ince's goal that summed up United's mindset, as they were already 7-0 up when Ipswich keeper Craig Forrest handled outside his area, but Ince urgently bundled the ball from the protesting defenders, Hughes played a short free kick back to him while the opposition were squabbling and the midfielder gently dinked it over their bemused heads into the empty net.
It was as if United were 1-0 down in the closing stages of a cup final, rather than a routine league game against the worst team in the division that they had won in the first half an hour, but such was their keenness to score more and more, they pressed on.
The victory was enough to take United back to the top of the table, usurping Blackburn (who won 1-0 at Aston Villa that day), whose manager Kenny Dalglish sniffed that "you only get three points whether you win 9-0 or 1-0."
Of course Dalglish was right, and Blackburn beat United to the title, but they at least had this game, a hammering of extreme proportions.
Forrest, presumably shell-shocked after this onslaught, was also in goal for West Ham when they lost 7-1 to United five years later. The poor guy must get flashbacks every time he goes near Old Trafford.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.