Winning the Premier League is hard enough with 38 matches over nine months of unrelenting football. But retaining the title would appear to be even tougher given the struggles of Leicester City, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in recent years. Let’s take a look at six of the worst title defences on record in recent years.
Leicester City (2016/17)
A desperate 2-1 defeat to lowly Sunderland is not the stuff that champions are made of. The defeat at the Stadium of Light was their seventh of the season, having only lost only three times in their ENTIRE 2015/16 campaign when they defied the odds to win the title in remarkable fashion. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth haven’t been the rocks at the back they once were, while goal-machine Jamie Vardy is enduring a spluttering campaign.
But perhaps the biggest reason for their demise is that the surprise factor has gone, helping to explain why their European form is so much better than it is domestically – as unsuspecting continental teams can still be out-foxed.
Leicester’s dreadful title defence follows in the wake of Chelsea’s failure to fire a shot as champions in the 2015/16 season. Chelsea lost four of their first eight games to set the tone for a season where they fell well short of expectations and were happy to scrape into the top half of the table, finishing in 10th, some 31 points off the pace and with only 12 wins to their name – culminating in Jose Mourinho getting the bullet.
A failure to strengthen the squad in key areas, while title rivals like Manchester City moved on apace with their recruitment bringing in big money buys like Raheem Sterling is widely credited as the major reason why the Blues bombed so badly.
Manchester United 2013/14
The first season of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era was every bit as difficult as people imagined it would be. United finished outside of the top three for the first time in Premier League history. United registered their lowest-ever points total in the Premier League and, as a result, failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1995. Used to gorging on a feast of attacking play at Old Trafford, United’s fans were not only deprived of success but entertainment, too. United only scored 29 goals and lost seven times at home.
One Scot quickly followed another out of the door after a dispiriting loss to Liverpool in April led to David Moyes. Ryan Giggs stepped up as caretaker manager but fared no better.
Manchester City 2012/13
City’s 111th season of league football – an unlucky number in Australian sporting parlance – was a major disappointment after what had come before. Cash-rich City went from the high of Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp title winner to settling for second-best to rivals Manchester United by a country mile. An F.A. Cup final defeat to Wigan only rubbed salt into the wounds.
Defensively, City were sound – Joe Hart kept the cleanest sheets in the league with 18 – but only three players hit double figures for goals scored and even Aguero failed to get past 14 as they finished with just 66 goals for the season – the joint second-lowest total of the top seven teams. Roberto Mancini paid the price by losing his job.
Blackburn Rovers (1995/96)
If the title-winning season of 1994/95 was all about the SAS strike partnership of record signings Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, the season that followed was more like SOS. After Kenny Dalglish moved ‘upstairs’ into a director of football type role, Ray Harford came in as manager.
Despite winning the opening game, the champions got off to a bad start in the defence of their crown and were more or less out of the title race before it had even really begun. With just six games gone, they had picked up just four points. Rovers slipped to as low as 11th but a second-half of the season rally, spearheaded by Shearer, ensured they ended the 1995/96 campaign in seventh place and 21 points off the top.
Leeds United (1992/93)
The last champions of the old First Division, Leeds made a real mess of their title defence, remarkably failing to win a single game away from Elland Road and finishing just two points above the relegation zone. Howard Wilkinson went from hero to zero and the team’s level of performance added further weight to the claims of critics that United had been the luckiest team to ever be crowned champions.
The December sale of star man Eric Cantona to deadly rivals Manchester United, after a bust-up with the manager, was made all the more galling by the fact the Frenchman went on to win the league with the Red Devils, while Leeds finished in 17th, some 33 points behind the new champions.