Arsenal ended the previous season as league champions, becoming the first side since Preston North End 115 years earlier to do so undefeated. They completed their historic league campaign with 26 wins, 12 draws and 90 points.
Then there's the Champions League. The conversion of the European Cup tournament into an actual league in 1992, with more marquee matches (and more matches, period), increased revenue dramatically for those lucky enough to participate. The further expansion of the Champions League to include not just league champions increased the margin of error for the top clubs as well. They could more reliably count on Champions League participation and spend accordingly.
Still, the pandemic years certainly shined a bright light on the effects of inequality, bringing major hardship to lower-level clubs and leagues and showing all the cracks in even the higher levels of the sport. And last spring's failed Super League venture showed us both how stratified the haves-versus-have-nots divide is and how difficult it will be for said divide to ever get bridged.
During the 1990s, the best clubs in Europe, per Elo Football, were Real Madrid (1990), Arsenal (1991), AC Milan (1992), Barcelona (1993), Manchester United (1994, 1996 and 1999) and Juventus (1995, 1997 and 1998). Pretty familiar names. But their levels of dominance weren't so huge as to preclude Cinderella runs. Marseille, after all, won the Champions League in 1993, along with Ajax (1995) and Borussia Dortmund (1997). Even as late as 2004, a string of upsets gave us a Porto-Monaco final that officially introduced the world, for better or worse, to Porto manager Jose Mourinho. And teams from lower-level leagues -- Turkey (Galatasaray in 2000), Russia (CSKA Moscow in 2005 and Zenit in 2008), Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk in 2009) -- were strong enough to win the Europa League not too long ago. 2b1af7f3a8