RANKED! The 10 worst title-defending teams in Premier League history

Premier League
(Image credit: Getty)

Liverpool currently sit on 43 points. That means that they're going to escape relegation - but more pertinently, their 1.6 points-per-game average will only be enough to secure 60 points, at the end of this long and winding season. 

That's 39 points worse off than last season. If Liverpool are to continue on the current trajectory, they will become the worst Premier League champions of all time. Which is saying a lot, considering some title-winners have been in relegation scraps, just months after their bus parades. 

But the Reds aren't alone in not being able to recreate the wonders of a title-clinching campaign. Plenty of Prem winners have put in mediocre shifts the year after. Call it a hangover, if you like. Call it a "year off", as some have, in reference to Manchester City wiping the floor with everyone again this season after their poor showing last season. Or "bad champions", as Roy Keane growled about Jurgen Klopp on Sky Sports just weeks ago.

We've ranked the 10 worst according to how poorly they performed in relation to their own points tally the previous season - since it doesn't seem fair to judge a champion being poor on another team being ferociously good the following season. And boy, have their been some "bad champions" over the years...

10. Arsenal, 2002/03

Points in their title-winning 2001/02 season: 87
Points the following season:

Nine points off their previous campaign

Arsenal started the 2002/03 season where they'd left off from their double-winning term of 2002: destroying just about everyone in their path. They were 30 games unbeaten heading into a clash against Everton in October, with Arsene Wenger comparing the side to Ajax of the 1970s.

Well, Wayne Rooney put an end to that with his first goal in the Premier League. Arsenal were still occasionally phenomenal for the rest of the season but fell away at the death, caught in the end by Manchester United, who snatched the title back (Sir Alex Ferguson won the title every year that he'd finished second the year before). It wasn't a bad showing but compared to their previous standards, the Gunners lacked ruthlessness.

9. Manchester City, 2012/13

Points in their title-winning 2011/12 season: 89
Points the following season:

11 points off their previous campaign

Sergio Aguero

(Image credit: Getty)

Similarly to Arsenal, City put up a good defence of their title in 2012/13 and were just pipped to it by a wiser Man United side. In fact, both Arsenal of '03 and City of '13 won 23, drew nine and lost six the season after winning the league - City are higher up in this list though, by virtue of having clinched the trophy by more points.

This was the season that Sir Alex Ferguson bought Robin van Persie to bag United's 20th title: sure enough, the December derby in which RVP grabbed the vital late winner became the turning point in the season.

8. Chelsea 2010/11

Points in their title-winning 2010/11 season: 86
Points the following season:

15 points off their previous campaign

2010 was a vintage year at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won the double under Carlo Ancelotti, with Didier Drogba enjoying his peak in England, scoring 29 goals. Everything looked rosy.

Chelsea were top of the league the following term too, until mid-November. A shock 3-0 defeat to Sunderland was followed by two months in which the Blues clawed just one solitary win, significantly denting their title defence. The goals had dried up for Drogba and though Ancelotti's side hit the reset button to pull themselves back into the top two, United sauntered to a first place finish. 

Florent Malouda ended as the Blues' top scorer and Ancelotti paid for the disappointing defence with his job. 

7. Manchester City, 2019/20

Points in their title-winning 2018/19 season: 98
Points the following season: 81

17 points off their previous campaign

Pep Guardiola

(Image credit: PA)

Manchester City didn't lose from January onwards in the Premier League when they retained their crown in 2019. One of the driving forces behind the extraordinary display was Vincent Kompany, returning to the backline in his twilight to provide character and strength en route to another triumph.

So when City set out to make it three titles in a row with Kompany having departed for Anderlecht - before losing Aymeric Laporte early in the season to a long-term injury - it was always going to be a struggle. 

Similarly to Liverpool, City used midfielders in their back four in the absence of defenders. Their final tally of 81 points would have been enough to win a trophy some seasons - but after raising the bar of expectation, they go down as one of the worst modern-day title-defenders by not matching their own standards. 

6. Chelsea, 2017/18

Points in their title-winning 2016/17 season: 93
Points the following season:

23 points off their previous campaign

Antonio Conte's first season in English football was triumphant. He changed the tactical landscape of an entire country by implementing a back-three, as a solid Chelsea side marched to glory. The sequel league campaign, however, can only be described as an utter disaster. 

Lynchpins Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic were both sold, as Chelsea embarked on one of the weirdest transfer windows of any big club in modern memory. They lost out on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Romelu Lukaku, drafting in Davide Zappacosta, Danny Drinkwater, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata for around £160m combined. The result should have been expected.

Not only had the entire division figured out how to play against Conte's back three, his players themselves also seemed bored with the overly-pragmatic style of play. After Christmas, Chelsea dropped out of top-four contention, ultimately winning the FA Cup but dropping silly points up until May. Conte was dismissed - and most of his second season signings have since gone too.

5. Manchester United, 2013/14

Points in their title-winning 2012/13 season: 89
Points the following season:

25 points off their previous campaign

David Moyes

(Image credit: Getty)

In terms of pure impact, this might be the worst season ever from a Premier League champion. It was unprecedented for Manchester United not to finish within the European spots: it set off a demise that is still being felt to this day and completely altered the direction of the club for years to come. 

Still, it's not statistically the worst that a champion has ever performed. David Moyes managed 57 points until he was sacked, with interim boss Ryan Giggs rounding it up to 64 in the final weeks of the campaign, as Manchester City, Everton and Liverpool all did the double over a sorry United. 

4. Blackburn Rovers, 1995/96

Points in their title-winning 1994/95 season: 89
Points the following season:

28 points off their previous campaign

Colin Hendry

(Image credit: Getty)

Blackburn Rovers should have seen their struggles coming in 1995, losing three of their final games and stumbling over the line in their title-winning season. Sure enough, they finished seventh in 1996, won just one of their Champions League fixtures, lost the Charity Shield and were dumped out of the FA Cup in the third round.

It wasn't quite the collapse that it may look on paper, though. Rovers were without Chris Sutton, Jason Wilcox and Graeme Le Saux through injury for swathes of the season, as Ray Harford stepped into the void left by Kenny Dalglish's resignation. The club were on course for UEFA Cup football until the final day of the season, too. A poor season was as much down to an inability for Harford to catch a break, as anything else. 

3. Leeds United 1992/93

Points in their title-winning 1991/92 season: 82
Points the following season:

31 points off their previous campaign

Eric Cantona

(Image credit: Getty)

It's important to remember that Leeds United's 1992/93 season may be the third-worst defence of a league title in Premier League history by points alone - and the only defence of a Division 1 title in the Premier League era - but it does come with the caveat of being part of a 42-game season. 

Still, that's 10 defeats worse off than Leeds's title-winning season. By October, the Whites had slipped into the relegation zone and they only managed to win two games on the bounce in March of '93. Incredibly, they didn't win away all season.

The league title was just about the peak of Howard Wilkinson's side, though. The league-winning midfield of Batty, McAllister, Speed and Strachan was fantastic; Eric Cantona glittered. Leeds triumphed in a vacuum in which Man United weren't the finished article and Liverpool's giants were on the slide. 

The era ended when Cantona famously crossed the Pennines. Perhaps this kind of season was always on the cards from a safety-first manager enduring the hangover of a glorious title win. 

=1. Leicester City, 2016/17

Points in their title-winning 2015/16 season: 81
Points the following season:

37 points off their previous campaign

Claudio Ranieri

(Image credit: Getty)

In January 2016, a draw with Aston Villa was enough to see Leicester City climb to the top spot, 22 games into the season, where they would remain until Matchday 38. The following season, it took them all 38 matchdays just to reach that same points tally. 

What goes up must come down. Leicester began their title defence with a 2-1 loss to eventually-relegated Hull City - who were woeful all season, by the way - and just like that, the title-winning momentum was zapped. Claudio Ranieri's aura was gone. The miracle was over and Leicester were rendered mortal once more.

There was real panic that Leicester could be relegated, too - and become the first title-winning side to drop down a tier since Man City in 1938. Without N'Golo Kante, the Foxes looked tired; Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez toiled without the same spark and the club managed just five victories up until February.

The saving grace was a superb Champions League campaign in which they reached the quarter-finals. Of course though, no one expected much of Leicester the season after they'd reached the Premier League summit. Unlike...

=1. Chelsea, 2015/16

Points in their title-winning 2015/16 season: 87
Points the following season:

37 points off their previous campaign


(Image credit: Getty)

Jose Mourinho was talking long-term in 2015. The man who never stayed longer than three years wanted to capitalise on his glorious second coming and remain in the Chelsea hot-seat for years to come. His Blues had waltzed to a third league title under his leadership (and a first since his return). He had the world at his feet again.

What happened next is still hard to fathom. In the first game of Chelsea's defence against Swansea City, Chelsea team doctor Eva Caneiro came on to treat Eden Hazard. Mourinho was apoplectic. Caneiro would later take the club to court and eventually win a £5 million settlement, while Chelsea unravelled from that very moment.

Swansea swiped two points from the champions; City won three just a week later, as captain John Terry - ever-present in the title-winning season - was hooked at half-time. Crystal Palace, Everton, Southampton, West Ham United, Liverpool Bournemouth and Stoke City all beat Chelsea before Christmas. Eventual title-winners Leicester handed Mourinho the smoking gun, as the Special One was sacked after defeat to the Blues boss he first replaced, Claudio Ranieri. 

Mourinho appeared to lose the dressing room one by one; Eden Hazard didn't score until April 2016, Cesc Fabregas looked a shadow of the same player and Alexandre Pato was drafted in by January as an on-loan Radamel Falcao contributed next to nothing (don't worry, everyone forgot about that). It was a sorry season for all involved with the Blues eventually lumbering into tenth, with supply teacher Guus Hiddink at the reins. 

They may have racked up the same difference in points as Leicester could the following year - but this must be the worst title defence ever, surely?


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