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The 10 worst English top-flight title defences ever

Etienne Capoue
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3. Blackburn Rovers (1995/96)

With local businessman Jack Walker investing heavily into the club, promotion to the shiny new Premier League in 1992 soon followed for Blackburn. After a number of notable signings, Rovers claimed their third English title – 81 years after their last – by a single point in 1995. However, defending their title turned out to be far more difficult than anticipated. Kenny Dalglish, who masterminded the triumph, became the club’s Director of Football, with his assistant Ray Harford replacing him in the managerial hot seat.

A poor start to the season, and early Champions League exit in the group stage, was compounded by injuries to Chris Sutton and Graeme Le Saux. Much of the season was spent in the bottom half of the table, with the Lancashire club eventually finishing seventh, 21 points adrift of Sir Alex Ferguson’s United.

Tim & Co. were powerless in their attempts to defend their title

The late revival was largely thanks to Alan Shearer’s net-busting (he finished on 31 goals), but the England striker was subsequently sold to Newcastle for a then-world-record transfer fee of £15 million. It proved to be the first of many key departures over the following years, leading to Rovers’ relegation in 1999.

2. Manchester City (2014/15)

Manuel Pellegrini's men should have been forward-thinking after breaking Liverpool hearts with their late 2013/14 salvo, having only been top of the pile for 15 days of the campaign. 

But so it was that their Chilean chief saw little point in bolstering his squad significantly over the summer, bringing in Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard on free transfers, backup goalkeeper Willy Caballero and £44m worth of Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala (neither of whom would fulfil their price tags).

But then Pellegrini hadn't accounted for a resurgent Chelsea buoyed by the incomings of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa (with Thibaut Courtois returning from his loan spell with the capital club). While the west Londoners romped to an unbeaten 11 wins from their opening 14 games of the season, City's start was somewhat more laboured with defeats to Stoke and West Ham putting them six points off the early pace by early December. 

Defeat at Burnley was the nadir

It would get much worse. Sure, Mourinho's Chelsea suffered a reality-check 5-3 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane but their title rivals were faring much worse, going on to pick up just seven points from six games in late December to early February and then losing at Liverpool, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Manchester United before mid-April.

With six games to go they were fourth, some 15 points behind Chelsea and heading for a miserable finale. They won their remaining fixtures to overhaul Manchester United and Arsenal into second, finishing eight points behind the Blues in a title race they never gave themselves a chance with.

1. Chelsea (2015/16)

This appalling season at Stamford Bridge finished with a 10th-placed finish below Stoke, some 31 (thirty-one!) points behind eventual winners Leicester. Indeed, it was the Foxes who hammered home the final nail in Jose Mourinho's Blues coffin with a 2-1 win at the King Power Stadium in mid-December, leading to Michael Emenalo's now-famous statements of "palpable discord" between the Portuguese and his players.

Chelsea's campaign started badly and never recovered: they only won four of their first 17 league games, losing nine of those, and even after Guus Hiddink arrived to steady the ship they found victories tough to come by. The west Londoners claimed just seven in the Dutchman's 21 forgettable matches in charge, in between meekly limping out of Europe (Champions League last 16, to PSG) and the FA Cup (quarter-finals, to Everton). With players like Eden Hazard failing to turn up until Tottenham offered the chance of irresistible schadenfreude, Blues fans were understandably miffed. 

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