Ranked! The 20 greatest Premier League sides by points total
5. Arsenal 2003/04
90pts (+47), 1st
That’s right: The Invincibles are fifth. Drawing every third game will do that. Perhaps it’s a mere quirk of statistics that Arsenal’s 2003/04 side are considered the greatest Premier League team; after all, they did lose six games in the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.
Still, unbeaten across a 38-game league campaign – it’s not bad, is it? And while they didn’t exactly crush many teams – a 5-0 defeat of relegated Leeds being the only time they helped themselves to more than four goals in one sitting – Arsenal did do the double over second-placed Chelsea. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
4. Chelsea 2005/06
91pts (+50), 1st
In Mourinho’s second season, Chelsea led continuously from August to May, having won 20 of their first 22 matches to see off the early challenge of new boys Wigan (seriously, they were still second in late November).
Like Arsenal’s Invincibles, Chelsea scored five in a game only once. Still, they’d be top of this list if they hadn’t followed up the title-clinching win over Manchester United by losing their final two matches to goals from Steven Reid and Titus Bramble for the purposes of banter.
3. Manchester United 1999/2000
91pts (+52), 1st
How do you follow the Treble? With the Quadruple, clearly. But if you can’t do that – because, say, you’ve withdrawn from the FA Cup so that you can lose to Vasco da Gama in FIFA’s inaugural Club World Cup – then winning the league by a record 18 points will have to do.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Manchester United’s 1999/2000 triumph, apart from that winning margin and 97 goals scored, was that they did it without a Peter Schmeichel, a David de Gea or even a Tim Howard.
The Premier League’s third-highest points tally was earned despite Mark Bosnich playing in 23 games, being replaced in three of them by 36-year-old Raimond van der Gouw, who probably didn’t expect to be quite such a busy substitute goalkeeper. The Dutch veteran started another 11 league games on top of that, while four were reserved for the infamous Massimo Taibi, and future Prescot Cables keeper Nick Culkin took a free-kick against Arsenal for the shortest Premier League career in history.
2. Chelsea 2016/17
93pts (+52), 1st
Was it really less than a year ago that Antonio Conte set a Premier League wins record (30) in his first season in England? The Italian isn’t alone in debuting with a title – ask Mourinho, or Ancelotti, or Pellegrini – but Conte did it with a team that had just finished 10th, playing with a perennial loanee and a former Bolton and Sunderland defender as wing-backs, in a season that was supposed to see Mourinho and Pep Guardiola battle it out for the title and which also involved Tottenham notching up 86 points. It seems almost absurd now.
A 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in September was, famously, the catalyst for Conte’s switch to a back three, but the immediate impact of the change was staggering. The Blues promptly won their next 13 matches and didn’t concede a goal for two months, battering Mourinho’s Manchester United 4-0 along the way.
Chelsea never let up: they got ahead and stayed ahead. Spurs won 12 of their final 13 matches, but they were already 10 points adrift by that point. Even when Chelsea’s lead closed to four points (and an inferior goal difference) with half a dozen fixtures remaining, they dispatched Southampton, Everton and Middlesbrough 4-2, 3-0 and 3-0 to be sure.
Ninety-three points. Crikey.
1. Chelsea 2004/05
95pts (+57), 1st
Take your pick of preposterous statistics from Mourinho’s first Premier League season: 25 clean sheets, with just 15 goals conceded in their other 13 matches; 11 (eleven!) 1-0 wins; only one defeat; Champions League qualification confirmed in mid-March with a 30-point lead over fifth… yet Chelsea’s top scorer in 2004/05 was Frank Lampard with 13 goals.
Roman Abramovich had, of course, spent big in the summer of 2004. Transfer fees totalling £90m+ made a bigger difference then than they do now, especially when spread over seven players – and this was on top of a £120m outlay the previous season. Winning the league was simply the expectation. Still, you have to spend the money wisely, and buying Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho and Arjen Robben for a combined £62m up front represents some OK business. We’ll just ignore Mateja Kezman for now.
Mourinho’s side were ruthlessly efficient. After taking 20 points from their first eight fixtures despite averaging one goal per game, Chelsea grew in confidence and ended up winning 4-0 or 4-1 on seven occasions (though they never scored five – that would be a waste of resources). Their Champions League dream ended at the hands of an Istanbul-bound Liverpool team, but a 95-point Premier League campaign was astounding. Mourinho even gave Lenny Pidgeley a go at the end.
Ninety-five points. Better than the Invincibles? Yes.