Winning the Premier League title is one of the most difficult achievements in football, with competition throughout the division and success requiring unwavering consistency.
That said, the landmark for a truly great team is often regarded to be their ability to defend their crown and whilst several sides have succeeded throughout the Premier League era, many defending champions have failed in truly spectacular style.
The five worst title defences in Premier League history:
Blackburn Rovers – 1995/96
The Lancashire side had enjoyed a meteoric rise backed by the millions of businessman Jack Walker, the club’s owner having pumped investment into a Blackburn side and turned Rovers into genuine contenders.
Inspired by the goals of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, Blackburn would win the Premier League in 1995, securing the club’s first league title in 81 years by finishing just a point ahead of Manchester United following a thrilling final day of action.
The club would fail to build on that memorable success, however, title-winning manager Kenny Dalglish moving into a Director of Football role and the succession plan involving former assistant Ray Harford failing to bring success.
Blackburn would enjoy a poor start to the season, languishing in the bottom half and suffering a group stage exit in the Champions League, struggling to find the level of performance that had brought success the season prior.
Alan Shearer’s Golden Boot haul of 31 goals sparked a late revival and saw the club eventually finish seventh, though they were 21 points adrift of the United side who they had pipped to the title just a year before.
Blackburn would fail to re-establish themselves as contenders and Shearer was sold to Newcastle in a world-record deal that summer, Rovers eventually suffering relegation to the second tier in 1999.
Manchester City – 2014/15
Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City would emerge victorious from one of the most thrilling title races in recent memory in 2014, finishing two points ahead of Liverpool after a run-in that included that slip from Steven Gerrard and the Merseyside club’s ‘Crystanbul’ collapse at Palace.
Despite the tense nature of the previous season, Pellegrini opted not to significantly strengthen during the summer and it would prove to be a decision that both the Chilean and City would come to regret.
Under new threat from a resurgent Chelsea, City soon falling adrift in the opening weeks of the campaign. The west London side had been bolstered by the additions of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and returning loanee Thibaut Courtois, and under Jose Mourinho embarked on an impressive charge to the summit.
Chelsea would hit the front from August and not relinquish their position, losing just twice before sealing the title with three games to spare. City would claw back a deficit that stood at 15 points with six games remaining to finish eight behind, though they were never in a title race in a poor defence of their crown.
Chelsea – 2015/16
The worst defence in Premier League history?
Many predicted a new era of success for Chelsea following their title-winning season under Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese having lifted a third title at Stamford Bridge having returned for a second spell at the club.
What would unfold, however, would be complete capitulation.
Chelsea’s defence would begin in torrid fashion, losing seven of their opening 12 Premier League fixtures as the relationship between Mourinho and his players deteriorated. The Portuguese would leave the club in December, though the appointment of Guus Hiddink on an interim basis would do little to stop the rot as the club finished an embarrassing 10th in the division, behind the likes of Stoke, West Ham and Southampton.
Such was their poor form they would finish on just 50 points, a huge 37 less than the previous season and 31 points adrift of surprise champions Leicester.
Leicester – 2016/17
A fall from 1st to 12th may be the greatest drop off in position that the Premier League has seen, though Leicester’s fall from grace was less surprising given their improbable title triumph the previous year.
The Foxes rise to glory from odds of 5000-1 at the start of the season is one of the greatest sporting underdog stories in history, and their struggles the following season further emphasised the magnitude of their success.
N’Golo Kante’s summer departure to Chelsea left a huge void in their title-winning side, and defeat to newly-promoted Hull City on the opening day was a sign of things to come for Claudio Ranieri’s side.
Leicester would win just twice in their opening eight fixtures, though it would be a concerning run of five consecutive defeats across January and February that would call for action, Ranieri sacked with the club sitting just one point above the Premier League’s relegation places.
Craig Shakespeare’s arrival would coincide with a five-game winning run and the club would eventually finish 12th, though they would be a mammoth 49 points behind champions Chelsea.
Chelsea – 2017/18
For the fourth consecutive year the champions would falter, Chelsea once again making the meekest of defences after winning the title.
The 2017/18 campaign would truly belong to Manchester City, Pep Guardiola’s influence taking full effect in his second season at the Etihad as the club broke a whole host of records on route to the championship.
City’s records included most points (100), most wins (32) and most goals scored (106), though Chelsea would be far from the champion’s nearest challengers, four defeats in five games between late February and early March putting an end to their faint hopes and the club would eventually finish fifth – missing out on qualification for the Champions League.
Antonio Conte’s side would finish a huge 30 points behind City, though they would also trail Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool in what would prove to be the Italian’s final season at Stamford Bridge.
Updated on 8 February 2021.