The 2011–12 Premier League (known as the Barclays Premier League due to its sponsorship by the Barclays bank) was the 20th season of the Premier League since its establishment in 1992. The season began on 13 August 2011 and ended on 13 May 2012 with Manchester City sealing their first league title since 1968 with victory over Queens Park Rangers on the final day. The title was City's first Premier League success, making them the fifth club to win the Premier League in its 20-year history. City finished level on 89 points with Manchester United, but their goal difference was eight better than their local rivals', making it the first time the Premier League had been won on goal difference and the first time a club previously relegated from the Premier League had won the title.
Manchester City won the title in a tense finale, their first championship since 1968. City's local rivals Manchester United were the early pace-setters, leading the table until October when they drew at Liverpool allowing Manchester City to overtake them. The following week, City increased their lead to five points with a shock 6–1 away victory at Old Trafford, which they maintained until December, when they dropped points and their lead narrowed, but City remained in front until March, when a defeat at Swansea City saw them drop behind United. City's bad form continued for the next month while United went on a winning run, so that with six matches remaining United were eight points ahead of City and the title seemingly decided. However, United then faltered with a defeat and a draw in their next two games, while City won all three to narrow the gap to three points. City then beat United 1–0 at the City of Manchester Stadium to move back ahead of United on goal difference. Both sides won their penultimate matches to maintain the situation.
Going into the final matches, which were played simultaneously, City were top of the league, ahead of Manchester United on goal difference. However, a Wayne Rooney goal away to Sunderland gave United the advantage. A 39th-minute goal from Pablo Zabaleta, his first of the season, put City back on top at half time. In a dramatic second half Djibril Cissé equalised for Queens Park Rangers in the 48th minute. Shortly after, Joey Barton of QPR was sent off for elbowing Carlos Tevez; on his way off the pitch, he kicked Sergio Agüero, attempted to headbutt Vincent Kompany and squared up to Mario Balotelli. Despite the numerical advantage, City went behind after Jamie Mackie gave QPR the lead in the 66th minute. As time wound down in both matches, it appeared that Manchester United would win the title with their victory over Sunderland. But Edin Džeko equalised for City in the 92nd minute. While United players waited on the field at Sunderland for a possible trophy presentation, Manchester City's Sergio Agüero scored the game winner in the 94th minute to clinch the title on goal difference. The 6–1 loss was even more important than it seemed at the time, as if the score had been 2–1 then both teams would have ended with identical records (points, goal difference, goals scored, win record, etc.) which by Premier League rules would have meant a play-off game at a neutral ground to decide the title.
For most of the season, Tottenham Hotspur were in third place, a couple of points behind the Manchester clubs, and there was much speculation as to whether Tottenham could mount a title challenge. However, from late February onward their season collapsed, starting with a 5–2 defeat to local rivals Arsenal, who they had been 10 points ahead of before the game, and just four wins in their last 13 games condemned Tottenham to finishing a point below Arsenal, who finished third to join Manchester City and Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League, completing a strong recovery from a disastrous start to the season including an 8–2 defeat at Manchester United in August. Tottenham finished in the fourth and final Champions League slot but missed out on qualification for the competition because Chelsea's victory in the 2012 Champions League Final automatically entitled them to defend their title in the 2012–13 tournament at the expense of the lowest ranked team that would otherwise qualify for the competition through league position. This was the first time that this rule had been implemented in the Premier League, having been introduced by UEFA after Liverpool's controversial qualification for the 2005–06 UEFA Champions League. This consequently marked the first time that the club finishing fourth in the Premier League had not qualified for the tournament since the fourth qualifying spot was introduced in the 2001–02 season. Newcastle United finished fifth and qualified for the 2012–13 UEFA Europa League.Everton finished 7th, just above local rivals Liverpool. Despite finishing above them for the first time in seven years, it was Liverpool who claimed the final Europa League slot, by virtue of winning the 2011–12 Football League Cup.
Elsewhere in the league, QPR avoided relegation, despite losing to Manchester City; Bolton Wanderers could only draw at Stoke City, failing to overtake QPR, and therefore joining Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers in being relegated to the Championship. For the second time in the Premier League's history, none of the three clubs promoted from the Championship in the previous season were relegated at the end of the season with the other two teams, Swansea City and Norwich City, finishing 11th and 12th respectively. The last time all three newly promoted teams stayed up (2001–02), Blackburn and Bolton were two of those teams.
The teams ending the 2010–11 season in the bottom three places of the table were relegated to the 2011–12 Football League Championship. West Ham United finished in last place, ending the East London side's six-year tenure in the league. Blackpool and Birmingham City both joined them in relegation, following dramatic games on the last day of the season.
Queens Park Rangers as 2010–11 Football League Championship winners and runners-up Norwich City were directly promoted at the end of the season. Queens Park Rangers appeared in the Premier League for the first time in 15 years, while Norwich City returned after a six-year absence and two successive promotions, becoming the first team since Manchester City to do so in 11 years. The last team to be promoted was decided by the Championship play-off final on 30 May 2011, where Swansea City defeated Reading 4–2 to become the first Welsh-based team to enter the Premier League.
1 Though the official name of the stadium was Sports Direct Arena, it was more commonly referred to as St James' Park, before its change back to St. James Park in the 2012/13 season after Newcastle United signed a new sponsorship deal with Wonga.com.
2 Molineux underwent redevelopment during the 2011–12 season. The season began with capacity limited to 24,259, but increased with the opening of the bottom of a two-tier new stand during September 2011.
7On 7 December 2011, Vidić twisted his knee during United's Champions League clash at Basel and left the field on a stretcher. Vidic missed the rest of the season and Patrice Evra assumed the captaincy of Manchester United.
In addition, Nike will have a new design for their match ball (white from August to October and March to May; high-visibility yellow from November through February) called Seitiro, featuring a modified flame design.
Source: Barclays Premier League
Rules for classification: 1) points; 2) goal difference; 3) number of goals scored 1Chelsea won the 2011–12 Champions League and thus qualified for the group stage of the 2012–13 competition as defending champions. This meant that Tottenham were to compete in the Europa League in the 2012–13 season, since, pursuant to the rules in effect at the time, only four clubs from the Premier League could play in the Champions League. 2Liverpool won the 2011–12 Football League Cup and thus qualified for the third qualifying round of the 2012–13 UEFA Europa League. (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.
On 21 December in a 2–1 loss to Arsenal at Villa Park, Marc Albrighton of Aston Villa was officially credited with the 20,000th goal scored since the formation of the Premier League in 1992. He was given £20,000 from league sponsor Barclays to donate to a charity of his choice. He chose Acorns Children's Hospice, who used to sponsor Aston Villa.
The Goal of the Season award was given to Papiss Cissé of Newcastle United for his second goal in their 2–0 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on 28 April, becoming the first player for the club to win the award since its inception.