Manchester City’s shock defeat to Wolves means the record for best start to a Premier League season will remain with Chelsea for at least another year.
Everything seemed to be pointing towards Manchester City challenging the record for the best start to a Premier League season; they’d been rampant and ruthless despite losing Kevin De Bruyne to injury.
Then, along came *checks notes* struggling Wolves. Yes, Wolves. Gary O’Neil’s side had only won one of their first six Premier League this season, but they beat City 2-1 at Molineux on Saturday to give the rest of the Premier League a little more hope.
Nevertheless, City’s start to the 2023-24 season has still been impressive. So, how close did they get to breaking the record? Below are the best starts to a Premier League season…
9 Wins: Chelsea, 2005-06
Chelsea hold the record for the best start to a Premier League season with nine consecutive wins.
In what was a golden era for the club, the defending Premier League champions set out to retain their crown in ravenous fashion and José Mourinho’s side had the rest of the pack panting in their wake within just a few weeks.
Wigan Athletic, Arsenal, West Brom, Tottenham, Sunderland and Charlton Athletic were their first six victims, seeing them equal the Premier League record for most successive wins at the start of a season.
Then, a 2-1 comeback triumph at home to Aston Villa courtesy of a Frank Lampard double saw Chelsea set a new record, which was then extended with 4-1 and 5-1 hammerings of Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers, respectively.
They were halted in their pursuit of the all-time top-flight record (more on that later…) by Everton on Matchday 10, only able to leave Goodison Park with a 1-1 draw. Manchester United inflicted their first defeat of the season in early November, but Chelsea ended up coasting to the title with an eight-point lead over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
8 Wins: Liverpool, 2019-20
Having gone agonisingly close to a Premier League and UEFA Champions League double the season before, only winning the latter, Liverpool began 2019-20 with a vengeance.
Norwich City, perennial lambs to the slaughter at Anfield, were gutted 4-1 on the opening day of the campaign, and Jürgen Klopp’s side ploughed on thereafter. They didn’t fall behind until Matchday 5 when an early Jetro Willems goal put Newcastle United 1-0 up on Merseyside, though a Sadio Mané double turned things around prior to half-time and Mohamed Salah sealed a 3-1 win.
Three more wins followed, the last of which – 2-1 at home to Leicester City – required a 95th-minute James Milner penalty. They were within touching distance of equalling Chelsea’s 14-year-old record, but a ninth consecutive victory eluded them as they salvaged a 1-1 draw away to Manchester United thanks to Adam Lallana’s late leveller.
That was a mere, momentary blip in an otherwise tremendous season, however. They then embarked on a remarkable 18-match winning run in the top flight and went on to win their first league title in 30 years, and a first Premier League crown ever.
6 Wins: Newcastle United, 1994-95
Long before dignitaries of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund started fluttering eyelashes towards St James’ Park, Newcastle had been one of the early powers of the Premier League.
But their 1994-95 season is a cautionary tale to any team that begins to believe its own hype. They were, after all, the first team to win each of their first six games of a Premier League campaign, and they did so in thrilling fashion.
Manager Kevin Keegan was renowned for his rather gung-ho tactics, and this run encapsulated them perfectly. Each of their opening six games saw at least four goals, and they only kept one clean sheet. They crushed Coventry City (4-0) and Southampton (5-1) within the space of a few days; they also beat Chelsea 4-2 and Arsenal 3-2, the latter being at Highbury.
And yet, the wheels soon fell off. A 1-1 draw at Liverpool ended the winning run in late September, and they’d only pick up another six league victories before the end of January. Another bad run towards the end of the season consigned them to a sixth-placed finish.
6 Wins: Chelsea, 2009-10
Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea became only the third team in Premier League history to win their opening six games of a season en route to securing the 2009-10 title in record-breaking fashion.
A largely kind fixture schedule during the early weeks helped Chelsea set the tone. They beat Hull City, Sunderland, Fulham, Burnley and Stoke City, before then sweeping Spurs aside 3-0 on 20 September.
The fact they scored 15 times in those first six games and conceded just three made the abrupt end to that run so surprising. It’s a wonder Ancelotti’s eyebrow didn’t go into orbit; they were beaten 3-1 at Wigan Athletic, though clearly the red card shown to Petr Cech for hauling down Hugo Rodallega – who dispatched the resulting penalty – played a significant part in the shock defeat.
Chelsea avenged that loss in astonishing fashion on the last day of the season, however, beating Wigan 8-0 at Stamford Bridge. It was a result that helped Chelsea become the first Premier League team to score over 100 goals (103) and the first top-flight club since Tottenham in 1962-63.
6 Wins: Manchester City, 2016-17
Pep Guardiola enjoyed an emphatic start to life in the Premier League. Six matches down and City had maximum points, having beaten Sunderland, Stoke, West Ham, Man Utd, Bournemouth and Swansea City.
But within that run there were signs of imperfection; a single clean sheet from a relatively kind run of games in hindsight was a sign of trouble. On Matchday 7, City’s unblemished start was ended by Spurs, who were 2-0 winners at White Hart Lane – Erik Lamela also missed a penalty.
City went on to only record one shutout in their next eight league games, drawing with Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough, and losing to Chelsea and Leicester City.
Despite such a promising start, Guardiola’s City finished third, 15 points adrift of champions Chelsea – though the Catalan coach has since brought unrivalled success to Eastlands.
6 Wins: Liverpool, 2018-19
Much like Newcastle in 1994 and City in 2016, an excellent start to the season did not lead to the title for Liverpool; though unlike the other two, it’d be fair to say Klopp’s side were incredibly unlucky to miss out.
Liverpool’s inability to win the Premier League in 2018-19 was less about them not being good enough and more to do with City being remarkable.
A beginning to the campaign that saw them beat West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton, Leicester, Spurs and Southampton put Liverpool on track. A 1-1 draw at Chelsea on 29 September brought the winning start to a halt, but you could argue they were only just finding their groove.
They didn’t lose a game in the league until a 2-1 defeat to City on 3 January, which was their only loss of the entire campaign. Eventually, they were pipped to the title by Guardiola’s side, who finished a point ahead of them on 98.
Liverpool’s 97 points remains the most ever accumulated by a team to not win the English title, though they were able to console themselves with Champions League success and ultimately ended their long top-flight championship drought the following year.
6 Wins: Manchester City, 2023-24
The current Manchester City team equalled their club record of six consecutive wins to start a Premier League season, set in Guardiola’s first season at the club; 2016-17. They’ll hope to finish the campaign stronger than that season’s third-place finish behind Spurs and Chelsea, however.
The 2023-24 City side picked up wins against Burnley, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Fulham, West Ham and Nottingham Forest – the last of those coming with a 2-0 victory despite going down to 10 men following Rodri’s throat-grab on Morgan Gibbs-White just 27 seconds into the second half.
City’s winning streak came to an abrupt end at Wolves, however, despite dominating the encounter. O’Neil’s men won 2-1 thanks to a Rúben Dias own goal and Hwang Hee-chan’s strike either side of Júlian Álvarez’s equaliser.
Few will expect this to be anything more than a brief blip, however, with City being the strongest men’s club side in world football according to the Opta Power Rankings:
Manchester United, 2011-12
Manchester City, 2015-16
Top-Flight All Time
Of course, English football did exist before the Premier League’s creation in 1992, and there were actually two instances of teams bettering the season-commencing nine-match winning streak recorded by Chelsea in 2005.
Here’s the definitive list of the best winning starts in England’s top-flight history:
11 Wins: Tottenham, 1960-61
10 Wins: Manchester United, 1985-86
9 Wins: Chelsea, 2005-06
8 Wins: Liverpool, 2019-20
8 Wins: Liverpool, 1990-91
8 Wins: Sheffield United, 1903-04
8 Wins: Everton, 1894-95
7 Wins: Leeds United, 1973-74
7 Wins: Sheffield Wednesday, 1904-05