Promoted to the Premiership for the 1997–98 season were Bolton Wanderers (Division One champions with 98 points), Barnsley (runners-up and promoted to the top division for the first time) and 1996–97 play-off winners Crystal Palace.
At the end of the 1997–98 FA Premier League season, a record total of nine English teams qualified for European competition.
Premiership champions Arsenal and runners-up Manchester United qualified for the Champions League, while UEFA Cup places went to Liverpool, Leeds United, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers. Qualifying for the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup were Chelsea (as defending champions) and FA Cup runners-up Newcastle United. Crystal Palace, while finishing bottom, qualified for the Intertoto Cup
The gap between the Premier League and Division One of the Football League was highlighted at the end of 1997–98 when all three newly promoted teams were relegated. Crystal Palace were confined to bottom place in the final table having won just two home games all season. Barnsley's first season in the top division ended in relegation, although they did reach the FA Cup quarter finals and knock out Manchester United in the Fifth Round. Bolton Wanderers went down on goal difference, with 17th place being occupied by Everton: despite preserving top flight football there for the 45th season running, Howard Kendall quit as manager at Goodison Park after his third spell in charge.
Another mark of the gap was that the three relegated teams in the previous season took the top three places in the 1997–98 Football League. Had Sunderland not lost the play-off final to Charlton Athletic on penalty shootout, the 20 teams from 1998–99 Premier League would have been exactly the same as those in the 1996–97 Premier League.PFA Players' Player of the Year and Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year was Dennis Bergkamp of Arsenal.
PFA Young Player of the Year was Michael Owen of Liverpool.
FA Premier League Manager of the Year was Arsène Wenger of Arsenal.
Carling Premiership Player of the Year was Michael Owen of Liverpool.
(as of 10 May 1998)Aston Villa manager Brian Little resigned in February 1998 and was replaced by John Gregory, previously of Wycombe Wanderers.
Chelsea sacked Ruud Gullit after a dispute with the board in February 1998 and appointed 33-year-old striker Gianluca Vialli as their new manager.
Crystal Palace manager Steve Coppell was named as Director of football in March 1998 and temporarily replaced by 31-year-old midfielder Attilio Lombardo and 28-year-old striker Thomas Brolin. Lombardo and Brolin themselves resigned two weeks before the season ended, and former club owner Ron Noades and coach Ray Lewington acted as caretakers for the remainder of the season. At the end of the season, Terry Venables was given the manager's job.
Everton manager Howard Kendall resigned as Everton manager after one season of his third period as manager.
Sheffield Wednesday sacked David Pleat in November 1997 and named Ron Atkinson as manager until the end of the season, after which he was replaced by Danny Wilson of Barnsley.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Gerry Francis resigned in November 1997 and was replaced by Christian Gross of Swiss side Grasshopper Zürich.
Updated to games played on 10 May 1998.
Source: Premier League
Rules for classification: 1) points; 2) goal difference; 3) number of goals scored
1 Chelsea qualified for the Cup Winners' Cup as defending champions and were the League Cup winners.
2 As Arsenal qualified for the Champions League, their Cup Winners' Cup place as FA Cup winners defaulted to Newcastle United, the losing finalists.
3 Despite being relegated, Crystal Palace qualified for the 1998 Intertoto Cup.
(C) = Champion; (R) = Relegated; (P) = Promoted; (E) = Eliminated; (O) = Play-off winner; (A) = Advances to a further round.
Only applicable when the season is not finished:
(Q) = Qualified to the phase of tournament indicated; (TQ) = Qualified to tournament, but not yet to the particular phase indicated; (RQ) = Qualified to the relegation tournament indicated; (DQ) = Disqualified from tournament.
1 ^ The home team is listed in the left-hand column.
Colours: Blue = home team win; Yellow = draw; Red = away team win.
In Arsène Wenger's first full season as manager, Arsenal went on a storming run during the final three months of the season to take advantage of having three games in hand over leaders Manchester United and clinch the Premiership title after overhauling United's 11-point lead. Two weeks after being crowned champions, Arsenal went to Wembley and beat Newcastle United 2–0 to clinch the FA Cup. In doing so, they became the only team to match Manchester United's record of two "doubles". Throughout the season, the team played a new form of a combination of continental football flair with traditional English defensiveness, epitomised best by the standout success of Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp in attack, and the solid back-five of David Seaman, Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn in defence.
When Brian Little resigned as Aston Villa manager in February, Villa were 15th in the Premiership and were starting to look like outside bets for relegation. Ruud Gullit, recently sacked by Chelsea, was linked with the vacancy, but the surprise choice for the job was Wycombe manager John Gregory, a former Villa coach. He influenced a late run of form which saw Villa climb to seventh place and become the lowest-placed English team to achieve automatic UEFA Cup qualification.
1997–98 was the first top flight season in Barnsley's 102-year history, and despite some courageous performances their stay among the elite lasted just one season. They were in the bottom three virtually all season long, though they did enjoy some success in the FA Cup, knocking out Manchester United in the Fifth Round before bowing out to eventual runners-up Newcastle United in the quarter final. Their relegation was confirmed a few weeks later, and manager Danny Wilson then moved to Sheffield Wednesday. 35-year-old striker John Hendrie was appointed player-manager following Wilson's departure.
After last season's slip-up, Blackburn Rovers emerged as title contenders under new manager Roy Hodgson, and even sixth place in the final table was enough for a UEFA Cup place. Chris Sutton's continued return to form saw him come joint top of the Premiership goalscoring charts with 18 goals, and led to him earning a long-awaited international call-up, though he did not make the final squad for the World Cup after refusing to play for the England B team.
In their new 27,000-seat stadium, Bolton Wanderers began the season as the strongest-looking of the newly promoted side, particularly after paying a club record fee of £3.5 million for Wimbledon striker Dean Holdsworth and holding Manchester United to a 0–0 draw. But it was a season-long struggle for Colin Todd and his men, who lost their battle on the final day of the season and occupied the final relegation place – on goal difference – to complete a hat-trick of newly promoted clubs suffering relegation. Controversially Bolton had a goal against Everton disallowed in the belief that the ball had not crossed the line after crashing down off the Everton crossbar. Television replays showed the ball had indeed crossed the line. The game finished goal-less and the two sides finished level on points with Everton surviving on their superior goal difference. Bolton fans complained bitterly that the goal and resulting 1–0 win would have kept them in the Premier League at Everton's expense. Everton fans countered by pointing to Bolton's inability to hold onto a lead during the season while Everton had a good record of coming from behind to draw or even win against their fellow strugglers. With an hour to play it is impossible to say with any degree of confidence that Bolton would indeed have been able to hold on to their goal lead.
With conceding goals being a major issue last season, Chelsea signed Dutch International goalkeeper Ed de Goey to solve the problem, and proved to be a relative success, Chelsea's only other major signings were young Norway striker Tore Andre Flo and Uruguayan International Midfielder Gus Poyet from Real Zaragoza, who added more goals from an otherwise very defensive midfield. Chelsea were well on course for a top-five finish and success in the European Cup Winners' Cup and the Coca-Cola Cup when manager Ruud Gullit was sacked on 12 February following a dispute with chairman Ken Bates. His job went to 33-year-old striker Gianluca Vialli, who took on the role of player-manager and achieved instant success – within three months of his appointment, Vialli had guided the Blues to glory on the continent and at Wembley. This success gave Chelsea fans hope that the following season could spell the end of their title wait which began in 1955. As of 2012, no team in Premier League history has drawn fewer games in a season than Chelsea did in this season.
After a last-day "houdini" act and the bonus of Middlesbrough having 3 points deducted kept Coventry up in 1996–97, manager Gordon Strachan was determined to avoid another season of struggle. He achieved it, and an 11th-place finish was Coventry's highest in four seasons. Their secure finish was helped no end by the loyalty of striker Dion Dublin, who pledged his future to the club after snubbing an offer from Blackburn. Right up to the final day of the season, the Sky Blues were within a shout of a UEFA Cup place, but they were beaten to it by local rivals Aston Villa. The two places above them were occupied by two other local rivals – Derby County and Leicester City.
Experienced Italian midfielder Attilio Lombardo was one of the most famous names to wear a Palace shirt when he arrived at Selhurst Park early in the season, and his influential form looked to have secured Palace's top flight status as they stood 10th as late as November. Fellow countryman Michele Padovano was also signed, but proved to be a complete flop, as did Swedish forward Tomas Brolin, and Palace were soon deep in relegation trouble.
With a takeover by computer tycoon Mark Goldberg on the horizon, Steve Coppell relinquished his managerial duties to become Director of Football. Lombardo and Brolin became joint player-managers on a short-term contract, but were unable to stave off relegation and were soon on their way out of the club.
When the Goldberg takeover was completed, Terry Venables returned to the manager's seat after an eventful 18 years away, with the new chairman boasting that Palace would be a European force by 2003.
Derby County began life at their new stadium by progressing further on the previous season's solid 12th-place finish. Jim Smith's team emerged as surprise contenders for a UEFA Cup place, and European qualification (for the first time in over 20 years) was still a possibility on the final day of the season. But results did not go Derby's way, and that final European place went to Aston Villa.
The end-of-season arrival of Argentine defender Horacio Carbonari gave Derby fans fresh hope of challenging for a place in Europe.
Everton began the season with four significant new signings – Slaven Bilić, John Oster, Tony Thomas and Gareth Farrelly – but the big news at Goodison Park was the return of Howard Kendall for his third spell as manager.
With financial problems growing and fans growing ever more hostile towards chairman Peter Johnson, Kendall was soon facing the biggest struggle of his managerial career. Everton – top division members continuously since 1954 – were battling against relegation and looked anything but a trophy-winning team that they so often had been during Kendall's earlier spells. They ended up surviving, but only avoided relegation to the Nationwide League Division One because they had a greater goal difference than 18th-placed Bolton. That kept Everton up, but Kendall resigned just weeks later and was replaced by the former Rangers manager Walter Smith.
After a goal-shy Leeds United side managed only an 11th-place finish in 1996–97, the acquisition of Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink bolstered their attack substantially and they were soon back to their winning ways after two seasons of struggle. George Graham's hard work in his second season as manager soon paid off with a fifth-place finish – the club's highest for three years – and UEFA Cup qualification.
Leicester City's return to European competition for the first time since the 1960s was short-lived, and they suffered a first-hurdle defeat at the hands of Spaniards Atlético Madrid. Their challenges in the domestic cups fared little better, and a 10th-place finish in the final table was not enough for another UEFA Cup adventure. But they managed to hold on to star assets like Neil Lennon and Emile Heskey, and most importantly they hung on to highly rated manager Martin O'Neill, giving fans hope of another challenge for honours in 1998–99.
Liverpool's season saw them feature regularly in the title race, though in the end they just couldn't get the better of champions Arsenal and runners-up Manchester United. But the real success of the season was the emergence of 18-year-old striker Michael Owen. The Chester-born youngster had impressed in a handful of appearances during 1996–97, but his impact during 1997–98 was outstanding – 18 goals from 36 Premiership games, especially after Robbie Fowler was ruled out for much of the campaign with a broken leg. In midfield, the arrival of Paul Ince sought to add steel to a side creatively centred on playmaker Steve McManaman, but the team were at the peak of their Spice Boys era, and underachieved in the end, eventually finishing in third place- meaning that Liverpool would be challenging in the UEFA Cup for 1998–99. In the summer it was widely speculated that manager Roy Evans would be sacked and replaced by either Ruud Gullit or Gérard Houllier, but in an unusual move the board instead opted to appoint Houllier as joint-manager with Evans. Many felt that the appointment meant Evans was effectively on borrowed time at the club.
On 1 March 1998, Manchester United were 11 points ahead at the top of the Premiership and looked all set for a fifth title success in six seasons. One bookmaker even paid out on the punters who had bet on United winning the league. But Arsenal had three games in hand, and Arsène Wenger's men won 1–0 at Old Trafford in mid-March to cut the gap to three points. The North Londoners went top in April, and any hope that United might have had of clinching the title ended on 3 May when Arsenal beat Everton 4–0 to confirm themselves as champions.
Just before the season started, star striker Alan Shearer suffered a serious ankle injury in a pre-season game and did not return to action until February. Two other key players, David Ginola and Les Ferdinand, were sold to Tottenham before the season started. Replacements like Jon Dahl Tomasson, John Barnes and Ian Rush failed to deliver where their predecessors had so memorably succeeded, and even Shearer's return to fitness could not bring Kenny Dalglish anything more than a 13th-place finish in his first full season as Newcastle manager. This showing gave particular cause for concern, as Newcastle had finished runners-up in the last two seasons and had never finished below sixth since returning to the top flight in 1993.
In spite of their dismal Premiership form, Newcastle enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup and reached the final for the first time in 24 years. They never looked like winners, and the final whistle blew with a 2–0 scoreline giving the trophy to opponents Arsenal. But as Arsenal had completed the double, Newcastle entered the Cup Winners' Cup.
Having narrowly missed out on a UEFA Cup place in 1996–97, the club record £5.7million signing of Italian striker Paolo Di Canio from Celtic gave Owls fans hopes of another challenge for Europe. But it was not to be, and by the time they lost 6–1 to Manchester United in November, relegation was looking a real possibility. Manager David Pleat was swiftly sacked, and Ron Atkinson – manager of the 1991 promotion and League Cup winning side – returned to the manager's seat on a short-term contract. He achieved safety in 16th place, and was disappointed on being told that his contract would not be renewed. Atkinson had been hoping to guide Wednesday to European qualification in 1998–99. He was succeeded by Danny Wilson, a former Owls player who played for them in the early, more successful part of the decade.
Under the management of Dave Jones, with no managerial experience beyond Division Two, Southampton were most people's favourites for relegation to Division One. After all, they had endured close brushes with relegation on no fewer than five occasions in the previous seven seasons. And most of the club's new signings were drafted in from the lower leagues.
But the Saints were more convincing than they had been in a long time, and most bookmakers had stopped placing bets on them being relegated before Christmas. In the end, a 12th-place finish gave the players and fans alike something to be proud of.
Despite the pre-season capture of Newcastle stars David Ginola and Les Ferdinand, Tottenham began the season badly and looked nothing like a side who were hoping to challenge for a European place. By the time Gerry Francis resigned in November, Spurs were in the relegation zone and chairman Alan Sugar was the target of more hostility than ever before. Swiss coach Christian Gross was named as Francis's successor, and soon after arriving he brought in former Spurs star Jürgen Klinsmann – who had been so successful and popular during his first spell three seasons earlier.
In the end, Tottenham beat the drop and finished 14th in the final table. Klinsmann retired from playing, to draw the curtain down on a brilliant career.
After last season's near miss with relegation, West Ham United looked more convincing than they had done for years during 1997–98. John Hartson matured into one of the best strikers in the Premiership, with his partner Paul Kitson also providing a steady supply of goals. Young centre-back Rio Ferdinand remained loyal to his employers despite endless speculation of a move to a bigger club. Things at Upton Park were looking better than they had done in a long time.
West Ham finished eighth in the final table – just one place short of UEFA Cup qualification. Holding on to Hartson and Ferdinand gave Harry Redknapp's men an even more enhanced chance of achieving that goal next time round.
Despite the early season sale of Dean Holdsworth to Bolton, Wimbledon showed the "Crazy Gang" spirit once more as they were still standing fourth at the beginning of December. Manager Joe Kinnear was hopeful that this could finally be the season when Wimbledon achieved a UEFA Cup place. However, the team's form steadily deteriorated during the second half of the season, and their 15th-place finish was their worst since reaching the top flight in 1986, though they had never looked to be in any real danger of relegation.