Ranked! The 20 greatest Premier League sides by points total
It’s hard to argue with the league table in football. When someone says: “The table doesn’t lie” they’re probably being smug or reaching for their failsafe in order to undermine an unrelated discussion, but tiresome motives don’t make the statement any less true. Teams are ranked by their scores according to a pre-established points system. Even Donald Trump couldn’t argue with… OK, he would, but you get our drift.
As the Premier League’s boundaries shift, however, the same points tally can mean very different things from one season to the next. It’s like inflation: what do your points get you today? In the same way that 25p used to buy a Wispa but now leaves you wetting yourself outside a train station toilet, the 75 points that once created Premier League champions will today position that team in the Europa League places.
For instance, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea (twice) have all finished third – not even second, but third – with 82 or 83 points, which would be title-winning totals in seven of the Premier League’s 23 completed 38-game seasons. Harsh. And an ever-increasing gap between the best and the rest means that to be champions of England requires more points than before.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side are on course to become the Premier League’s first 100-point champions. Do that and they’ll pass all of these teams below, who recorded the top 20 points tallies to date.
Can some of these teams consider themselves unfortunate? Are Antonio Conte’s Chelsea better than Arsenal’s Invincibles? Maybe, maybe not. Just remember: the table doesn’t lie.
(NB: While the Premier League’s first three years featured 42 games rather than 38, adjusting the points tallies resulted in no teams from those seasons making this countdown. Sorry, Blackburn.)
20. Liverpool 2013/14
84pts (+51), 2nd
Oh, Brendan. All was well until Mr. Rodgers’ neighbourhood became the scene of a Homeric tragedy, with Steven Gerrard playing the hubristic hero. After April’s 3-2 win over Manchester City took Liverpool six points clear of them (albeit with an extra game played), the captain screamed at his team-mates in front of Sky’s cameras: “Hey! This does not f**king slip now! This does not f**king slip. This is gone – we go to Norwich, exactly the same, we go again.”
The gods of mischief smiled. Liverpool did go to Norwich and did do exactly the same, winning 3-2. Then Gerrard slipped on the Anfield turf to give Chelsea the lead, tried and failed to win the game on his own, and Liverpool ill-advisedly looked to rack up a cricket score against Crystal Palace to aid their inferior goal difference – only to draw 3-3 having led 3-0 with barely 10 minutes remaining.
Despite netting 101 goals, 31 of them through Luis Suarez and another 10 courtesy of Gerrard spot-kicks, Rodgers’ Reds finished second. One of the two teams in Premier League history to outscore them were that season’s champions, Manchester City. If their 2017/18 counterparts win a few more games, this Liverpool team will “f**king slip” out of our top 20.
19. Chelsea 2007/08
85pts (+39), 2nd
Is Avram Grant football’s unluckiest manager? No – but he deserved some sympathy in 2008.
The former Israel boss inherited Jose Mourinho’s unhappy campers in September 2007 with the Blues in fifth; eight months later, they went into the final day level on points with leaders Manchester United. Alex Ferguson, who’d bested Grant in his first Chelsea match, stood in the way at home and then in Moscow, where United won the Champions League final. Grant could only watch as John Terry slipped taking the potentially trophy-clinching penalty.
Of course, more than luck separates Avram Grant from Alex Ferguson. And Chelsea were uninspiring runners-up in the league, scoring more than two goals in only three of their 22 wins under Grant. Still, he never lost a home game in any competition and, as Steven Gerrard knows, things would be very different but for one loss of footing.
18. Manchester United 2009/10
85pts (+58), 2nd
In the summer of 2009, Ferguson’s Glazer-tied hands waved goodbye to Cristiano Ronaldo and ushered in Michael Owen, Mame Biram Diouf and Gabriel Obertan.
Despite this, and helped by an unlikely 10 own goals across their Premier League campaign, Manchester United went into the final day as potential champions – they just needed Chelsea to slip up against Roberto Martinez’s Wigan. Chelsea won 8-0.
17. Liverpool 2008/09
86pts (+50), 2nd
Speaking of transfer woes, Rafa Benitez’s seven summer signings in 2008 were Robbie Keane, Albert Riera, Andrea Dossena, Philipp Degen, Diego Cavalieri, Peter Gulacsi and David N’Gog. Draw your own conclusions. Benitez preferred to draw games (*slow handclap*).
Liverpool were unbeaten at home and lost only twice all season, but having spoken so earnestly about them in January that year, Rafa eventually had to face Facts: 11 draws left them with too much to do. Even taking 31 points from their final 11 games wasn’t enough.
16. Tottenham Hotspur 2016/17
86pts (+60), 2nd
Rival supporters and even most neutrals are tired of reading claims that Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham were England’s best team for a couple of years, despite not winning any trophies, so we won’t make that claim. Nor will we say that Spurs ‘deserved’ to be 2016/17 Premier League champions, because that’s not how it works. Unfortunate, unfair – these are words you won’t find in any league table preserved in the history books.
What we will say is that it could be considered a shame that this excellent Spurs outfit, built with young players on a net spent of £2m over five seasons (Manchester City’s being over £500m, for instance), will ultimately win zero Premier League titles.
Points win prizes, however, and in 2016/17, Chelsea got more of them. Tottenham took 53 points from 57 available at home in White Hart Lane’s farewell season, scored more goals and conceded fewer than every other team, and recorded the second-highest points tally of any non-champions – enough to win them the league in a third of all Premier League campaigns, including 2015/16 – and you know what all that means? Precisely nothing.