Watching Chelsea lose games week on week in 2022-23, it felt like the kind of end-of-days season from which most other clubs would struggle to recover. Following the upheaval and crazy summer of spending that came with Todd Boehly’s takeover last May, Chelsea were all over the place on the pitch. Under three different managers in Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and then Frank Lampard, they somehow managed to surprise us on a weekly basis with results that just kept on getting worse.
They finished the season an astonishing 30 points worse off than 2021-22, with their total of 44 their worst points total in any season since 1987-88 (42). Their final position of 12th is their worst Premier League finish since 1993-94, making it their worst in a 38-game season.
Given the talent in their squad, it was a jaw-dropping underperformance and yet, it isn’t even the worst ever drop-off in points that Chelsea have experienced in the Premier League era. They are a club that can absorb the financial hit that comes with this level of failure, and history suggests they will bounce back. The newly-appointed Mauricio Pochettino certainly shouldn’t worry too much about the quality of his squad. Chelsea have been here before and they’ll be back to competing at the top of the table before long.
So, which teams have endured and enjoyed the biggest points difference from season to season in the Premier League era? Here, we list the worst and best performances by teams when comparing consecutive seasons’ points totals. As you’ll soon see, the ever-erratic Chelsea, with their hire-and-fire managerial approach, appear a few times.
Worst Regressions by Points Total, Season on Season
Chelsea, 2014-15 to 2015-16: -37 points
After guiding Chelsea to his third Premier League title, losing just three games all season, José Mourinho and his team capitulated quite amazingly in the first few months of 2015-16. They lost nine of their first 16 games of the season before he was sacked, and the also-returning Guus Hiddink could not turn things around. After storming to the league with 87 points, they did not strengthen sufficiently – their summer recruitment included £28m spent on Baba Rahman, Kenedy and Asmir Begovic – while also losing senior players in Petr Cech and Didier Drogba. They managed just 50 points and finished 10th in the table.
Chelsea being Chelsea, though, they were back up at the top again before long. More on that later…
Leicester, 2015-16 to 2016-17: -37 points
Leicester followed up their own title-winning campaign with their form falling off a cliff in a similar fashion to Chelsea the year before. Claudio Ranieri guided Leicester to 81 points and an historic title in 2015-16, but then struggled terribly following the departure of N’Golo Kanté to the 2016-17 title-winners, Chelsea. Ranieri only survived until 23 February and was sacked following a run of five consecutive defeats without a single goal being scored. There was a slight upturn in their fortunes after Craig Shakespeare came in, but that didn’t last long, and Leicester eventually finished 12th on 44 points – 37 down on the previous campaign.
Sheffield United, 2019-20 to 2020-21: -31 points
After securing a hugely impressive top-half finish in their first season back in the Premier League, Chris Wilder’s side, overlapping centre-backs and all, fell down the table in 2020-21. Wilder was sacked in March with the club bottom of the table, and they only scraped to an abysmal 23 points after caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom picked up three wins in the final six games of the season. They finished bottom, with all optimism of the previous season having long since evaporated.
Chelsea, 2021-22 to 2022-23: -30 points
This is where the current Chelsea crop… ahem… crop up. Third place and 74 points in 2021-22 wasn’t even, by Chelsea’s standards in recent years at least, all that good a performance. They won just over half of their games and finished 19 points behind Manchester City. Maybe the signs were there of what was to come?
In 2022-23, they won just 11 of their 38 games, which was only two more than relegated Leicester, scoring just 38 goals – the fifth fewest in the Premier League despite spending nearly £600m on new players. It can only be described as a complete disaster of a season.
Ipswich Town, 2000-01 to 2001-02: -30 points
George Burley’s stint in the Premier League with Ipswich was an eventful one. After promotion via the playoffs in 1999-2000, Ipswich produced one of the best ever seasons by a newly-promoted side, finishing fifth in 2000-01 with 66 points, fuelled by the goals of Marcus Stewart.
A year later, though, they managed just 36 points and were relegated, never to be seen – so far at least – in the top tier again.
Liverpool, 2019-20 to 2020-21: -30 points
After finally ending their 30-year wait for a league title, Liverpool fell away dramatically in 2020-21, finishing third, 30 points worse off than their phenomenal 99-point haul in 2019-20. Although Mo Salah hit 22 goals, the spread of goals became a problem, with no other player managing more than 11, and only four players scoring more than twice all season. That said, with 69 points, they still finished third and were only 17 points behind eventual champions Manchester City. They are in this list because their form in their title-winning campaign was unsustainable, rather than their 2020-21 season being particularly poor.
Leeds, 1994-95 to 1995-96: -30 points
This collapse was slightly less catastrophic than the other examples, simply because Leeds’ drop from 73 points in 1994-95 to 43 in 1995-96 straddled the Premier League’s reduction from 22 to 20 teams. Leeds, therefore, had four fewer games to play and pick up points in.
That said, going from fifth place to 13th in the space of a season still represents a huge underachievement for a talented squad that included many players, such as Gary McAllister, Gary Speed, David Wetherall and Tony Dorigo, who were part of the Leeds team that won the First Division title in 1991-92.
Biggest Improvements by Points Total, Season on Season
Chelsea, 2015-16 to 2016-17, +43 points
Well, well, well. Who could have seen this coming? Following the 2016 appointment of Antonio Conte and the summer signing of Kanté, Chelsea left their 2015-16 slump well behind them, winning the title straight away with their second-highest points total in the Premier League era. Their improvement of 43 points is the biggest season-on-season points rise ever seen in the Premier League.
A change in formation was key, with Conte starting at Chelsea with a back four, but switching to a 3-4-3 at half-time in a defeat at Arsenal. The switch sparked a remarkable improvement in form, Chelsea going on a run of what was then a Premier League record of 13 straight wins. Having briefly lost top spot early on, they swiftly went back to the top of the table and never gave it up as they marched to another title.
Leicester, 2014-15 to 2015-16: +40 points
You all know the 5000-1 fairytale of Leicester’s improbable title win, but people sometimes forget just how remarkable the jump was compared the season before. They spent 140 days bottom of the table – right up until mid-April – before Nigel Pearson led them to safety against the odds. Claudio Ranieri then came in and, well, the rest is history, with Leicester jumping from a survival-securing 41 points to a title-winning 81 a year later. This isn’t the biggest improvement in numbers, but it is most certainly the best.
West Ham, 2019-20 to 2020-21: +26 points
Following a relegation battle in 2019-20, which they only fought their way out of with three wins in the final seven games of a Covid-interrupted season, West Ham enjoyed one of their best campaigns in recent memory. Gaining 26 more points than the previous season, their improvement was the third best the Premier League has ever seen. Goals were spread out impressively across the squad, with Michail Antonio and Tomáš Souček their top scorers in all competitions with just 10 goals each, as David Moyes secured the club a return to European football.
Liverpool, 2004-05 to 2005-06: +24 points
After finishing fifth in the table in 2004-05, that night in Istanbul spurred Rafa Benítez’s Liverpool on to a much improved 2005-06 and 24 points more than the previous campaign. Liverpool shot up the table in two outrageous bursts: they won just two of their first eight games, before winning 10 in a row, then won just one in six, before winning 12 of their last 14 matches. They finished the season on 82 points, which was arguably worthy of a higher finish than third place. Yet again, a very good, Steven Gerrard-inspired Liverpool missed out on the title.