The 10 worst English top-flight title defences ever

Etienne Capoue

Leicester weren't supposed to be *this* bad, right? Michael Gowler recalls the other sides who've made a hash of protecting the top-flight trophy

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10. Manchester City (1937/38)

After claiming their first English league triumph in the 1936/37 season, going on a 22-game unbeaten run and scoring over 100 goals in the process, few could have anticipated just how badly City’s title defence would pan out. Twelve months on, the Manchester club became the first – and subsequently only – team to be relegated having lifted the trophy in the previous season, after finishing in 21st and 16 points behind Arsenal.

Incredibly, the champions were relegated despite being the league’s top scorers, having bagged 80 goals and recording a positive goal difference of three. A leaky rearguard bemoaning the second-worst defensive record ultimately proved their downfall, however.

Ernie Toseland

Ernie Toseland left City in 1938, but the outbreak of war limited his Sheffield Wednesday career

After a war-enforced break, the league resumed and City were once again competing in English football’s top flight after promotion at the end of the 1946/47 campaign. Little did City know that over 60 years later, relegation would be the least of their worries.

9. Liverpool (1947/48)

Having edged a hard-fought title race by a single point over Manchester United and Wolves, the Reds claimed the first English title after the Second World War. The 1947/48 season proved to be less exciting, however. Strike partners Albert Stubbins and Jack Balmer netted 24 apiece on the way to Liverpool’s fifth title, but the latter found goals harder to come by one year on.

Captaincy proved a burden for Balmer, who notched only 15 in all competitions, only to be eclipsed by Stubbins’s 26 goals. George Kay’s Merseysiders scored 19 fewer goals in their unsuccessful defence, and shipped nine more as they ended the season in 11th, 17 points adrift of Arsenal.

Arsenal keeper George Swindin gathers the ball as team-mate Laurie Scott holds off Liverpool's Cyril Done

8. Chelsea (1955/56)

Despite a run of four straight defeats and being 12th at the start of November, Ted Drake’s Chelsea lost just three of their next 25 games as they went on to seal a maiden English league title in 1954/55. England frontman Roy Bentley captained the side, scoring 21 times en route to the title as the Blues finished four points clear of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

One year on, it was all so different. Chelsea’s ageing squad struggled and two of their young up-and-comers, Frank Blunstone and Stan Wicks, were struck with injuries. With age creeping up on Drake’s side, they finished the following campaign in 16th, 21 points behind champions Manchester United. It would be half a century before Chelsea clinched the title again, under a certain Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea's Frank Blunstone tries to round West Brom goalkeeper Jimmy Sanders