Straightforward stuff, Jeff
Yes, Liverpool are officially killing it – Saturday's 4-0 rout over Southampton, followed by Manchester City's capitulation at Tottenham, means Jurgen Klopp's side hold the biggest lead anyone has ever enjoyed in English top-flight history. Yes, ever.
But can they claim the Premier League record for a title romp? And who are they blowing out of the water? These fellow victors were taking it easy by the end, too...
In the First Division’s inaugural season, Preston North End were peerless. They went undefeated in 24 matches in 1888-89, while scoring more and conceded fewer than any other team as they marched to an impressive domestic Double.
West Brom were the only other side to top the table that campaign – on goal average (goals scored divided by goals conceded), and on the opening day of the season. That was the closest anyone came to putting up a challenge against Major William Sudell’s all-conquering (and original) Invincibles.
The fifth season of the Football League was a one-sided affair, with Sunderland barely breaking sweat en route to a second consecutive championship crown. The Black Cats won 22 of their 30 matches and were beaten only four times, all away from home.
The result was one of the most comfortable title triumphs the top flight has seen, with runners-up Preston finishing 11 points adrift in the days when only two were awarded for a win. Sunderland were unable to make it three in a row in 1894, but they were back on top of the pile 12 months later.
Aston Villa (1896-97)
Aston Villa became the second side to win a league and FA Cup Double, losing only four games in 1896-97. Their eventual winning margin of 11 points (in the days of two for a win, from just 30 games) said almost as much about the paucity of the opposition as it did George Ramsay’s innovative take on the game.
Second-placed Sheffield United triumphed in just 13 of their 30 assignments, although they did concede nine fewer goals than the champions. Villa, though, outscored the rest of the division with 73 goals in 30 games, and were undoubtedly deserved title winners.
Manchester United (1907-1908)
No team has won more English league titles than Manchester United, who went from seven crowns to 20 during the Alex Ferguson era. Their first ever success came in 1908, and it was one of the club’s most impressive: United amassed nine more points than second-placed Aston Villa, who finished as close to 18th place as they did top spot.
Ernest Mangnall’s side came flying out of the traps, winning 13 of their first 14 encounters to establish a sizeable lead at the summit of the standings. They would have finished even further ahead of Villa had they not taken their eye off the ball in the closing weeks, winning just one of their final six games.
West Brom (1919-20)
After five years on hold during the First World War, no one knew what to expect when the Football League returned in 1919. That first campaign following the division’s resumption was therefore one of the most unpredictable of all time, and it ended with an unlikely champion in West Brom.
Even more surprising was the ease with which the Baggies claimed the prize. A club that had finished 10th in 1914/15 accumulated nine more points than second-placed Burnley, scoring 104 goals across 42 matches to scoop the trophy in style.
Sheffield Wednesday (1929-30)
Following their title triumph in 1929, The Wednesday rebranded to include the name of their city in the club’s moniker the following season. It proved a wise decision: the Yorkshire outfit were even more dominant in 1930, increasing their winning margin from one point to 10.
Runners-up Derby won more home games than Wednesday, but it was the latter’s away form that saw them win the league at a canter. The Owls won more than half of their 21 road trips to finish with the joint-most points (60) in Football League history.
Having dominated the latter years of the 19th century, the mid-30s Sunderland (pictured above with the FA Cup they won in 1937) found themselves without a league title since 1913. Johnny Cochrane had been doing his best to arrest the club’s lack of success, steadily building a new team after assuming control in 1928.
They finished second in 1934-35 after spending the season chasing Arsenal, but the following year the Black Cats established an imposing lead by Christmas. It was to prove the northeast outfit’s last top-flight title to date but at least they did it in style, finishing eight points ahead of Derby.
Manchester United (1955-56)
In the three seasons following their 1952 title win, Manchester United finished eighth, fourth and fifth. They returned to their perch in 1956, though, finishing a mammoth 11 points clear of Blackpool and Wolves under the guidance of Matt Busby.
Busby’s young side swept all before them, with Tommy Taylor scoring 25 goals and Duncan Edwards impressing at half-back. Blackpool and Wolves scored more goals than United, whose success was built on their defensive solidity.
Now this is how you dominate an entire campaign. Bill Nicholson’s superb Spurs side featuring Danny Blanchflower, Bobby Smith and Dave Mackay ended the title race before it had even begun by winning 15 of their first 16 encounters, building a healthy lead which Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves never looked likely to overcome.
Tottenham scored 115 goals and won an exceptional 16 of 21 games away from White Hart Lane; they also lifted the FA Cup, thus becoming the first club to win the Double since Aston Villa in 1897.
After drawing three matches in a row in February 1970, Everton found themselves behind Don Revie’s defending champions Leeds in second spot. The Merseysiders couldn’t afford any more slip-ups, but it was under this pressure that they found their best form of the season, emerging victorious from eight of their final nine matches – including a famous 2-0 win at the home of cross-city rivals Liverpool.
At the same time, Leeds' form collapsed and Everton ended up coasting to the crown. Converting old money into three points for a win would have seen them triumph by a whopping 17 points.
Nottingham Forest (1977-78)
Nottingham Forest winning their first ever league title was a hugely impressive feat. Winning it in their first season after promotion was highly unusual and now arguably unrepeatable. Winning it by seven points in the days of two for a win, losing only three of 42 games and having topped the table from October onwards, was truly staggering to everyone – except Brian Clough, who probably expected it.
Clough had built a team in trademark style, blending journeymen, hungry youngsters and the odd lavish signing like goalkeeper Peter Shilton. Even Bob Paisley’s Liverpool couldn’t get close.
Having missed out by a sizeable margin the previous year, Liverpool enacted their revenge on Nottingham Forest in 1978/79 (in the First Division, that is – Brian Clough’s side knocked the Reds out of the European Cup in an all-English first-round clash).
Liverpool finished with eight more points to their name than runners-up Forest, with their home form key to their success; the Reds won 19 and drew two of their 21 league games at Anfield, conceding a preposterously low four goals along the way.
Liverpool finished four points clear of the chasing pack in 1981/82, amassing 87 to Ipswich’s 83. The Reds actually dropped off the following campaign with 82 points, but that was 11 more than second-placed Watford.
Bob Paisley ended his nine-year tenure at Anfield with one of his most comfortable title triumphs, as a team featuring Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and Graeme Souness proved far too strong for the rest of the division.
One of the most impressive title wins in English football history started and ended with a whimper. Everton lost their first two matches of 1984/85 to Tottenham and West Brom, and were also beaten by Nottingham Forest, Coventry and Luton in three of their final four outings.
Howard Kendall’s men were brilliant in between, however, winning 27 of 37 games to finish in top spot for the first time in 15 years. Everton ended the campaign on 90 points, 13 more than Liverpool and Tottenham.
The final table might show that Liverpool won the league by ‘only’ nine points, but this was a season in which the Reds dominated from start to finish.
It started with a rebuilding job. Off the field, a sewer collapse under the Kop meant the team played its first three games away. On it, Ian Rush had been sold to Juventus and player-boss Kenny Dalglish intended to step down from getting his boots dirty. Instead he signed John Barnes and Peter Beardsley, promoted January signing John Aldridge – and watched them blitz the league.
They remained undefeated until Everton beat them in March to prevent their Red neighbours breaking the record for an unbeaten start to a campaign. They lost again two weeks later to Nottingham Forest, but took magnificent revenge by later thrashing Brian Clough’s men 5-0 in what is regarded by some as the finest performance in English football history.
Manchester United (1999-00)
The 1998/99 season remains the most celebrated in Manchester United history, as Alex Ferguson guided his team to an unprecedented treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. But whereas United finished just a point clear of Arsenal in the title race that year, they ended the 1999/00 campaign with 18 more points than the Gunners.
A 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough in January moved the Red Devils into first place, and they remained there for the remainder of the season, losing just one of their final 18 fixtures to retain their crown with ease.
Arsenal became the first team since Preston in 1888-89 to go an entire campaign unbeaten – unprecedented in the modern era, and unlikely to be repeated anytime soon (even Manchester City have lost in 2017-18).
Arsene Wenger's charges began 2004 trailing Manchester United, but a 2-0 triumph over Aston Villa in mid-January saw them climb to the top of the table. And that's where they stayed for the remainder of the season, going on to win the title by 11 points. Arsene Wenger had fashioned a perfectly balanced side boasting both beauty and brawn, with striker Thierry Henry stroking home 30 league goals in front of a stingy backline which conceded just 26 times.
It was immediately obvious that new manager Jose Mourinho wasn't lacking in self-confidence, but many still questioned whether he had the walk to match his talk. Chelsea promptly beat Manchester United in his first league match at the helm, didn’t lose one until October and then avoided defeat for the rest of the campaign. They amassed 95 points – still a Premier League record – and conceded a remarkably parsimonious 15 goals.
It was the west Londoners’ first championship crown in half a century, sealed at Bolton in late April thanks to two goals from Frank Lampard. Chelsea amassed four fewer points the following campaign, but still won the title at a canter.
Manchester United (2012-13)
That Alex Ferguson produced a string of all-time great teams is undeniable. This, however, was not one of them – the Scot had built an unbalanced squad lacking much of the bite that characterised his best sides. However, just as he had reacted to the tactical changes brought to the English game by Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, Ferguson had made note of a handy trend: signing a goalscorer helps you win.
The Red Devils duly snapped up Robin van Persie from Arsenal, and the Dutchman’s goals inspired his new employers to win after win. United snared the league title by 11 points; given Ferguson’s relatively limited resources, it could be argued that this title triumph was his most impressive achievement at Old Trafford.
Manchester City (2017-18)
Pep Guardiola's first year in English football didn't go according to plan, with his Manchester City finishing 15 points adrift of table-topping Chelsea in 2016/17. He put that right the following campaign, as his side strolled to the title via a record-breaking season.
City's 100 points in 2017/18 represented an all-time high in the English top tier, as did their away points (50), gap between second place (19), goals (106), goal difference (+79) and consecutive victories (18). Never before had the league been dominated to such an extent.
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