If there’s one thing harder than winning a Premier League title, it’s defending one once you have it. Not only are you suddenly the side everyone wants to beat, but it can be tough motivating a team of champions to go out for a new season and match the drive and determination all over again.
Here are some of the heaviest defeats ever suffered by a Premier League champion.
Coventry City 5-0 Blackburn Rovers (9th December 1995)
Backed by the millions of owner Jack Walker, Blackburn Rovers had enjoyed a meteoric rise up the table in the early ‘90s. Thanks to the goals of Alan Shearer and the management of Kenny Dalglish, Rovers became the first side to win the Premier League that wasn’t Manchester United when they pipped the Red Devils to the post in the 1994/95 season.
It saw Blackburn’s stock soar in the football betting markets, however, the pressure of being champions soon began to hit King Kenny’s men. They lost the Charity Shield 4-0 to Everton, were dumped out of the Champions League by Rosenborg, Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw and were languishing in 15th place after their first nine games, despite Shearer continuing to bang in the goals.
This lack of defensive stability would really peak in December when Rovers visited Coventry however. Coventry had only won once all season and were rock bottom of the table, but they raced out to a shock lead thanks to David Busst. Dion Dublin, David Rennie, Peter Ndlovu and John Salako would pile on the misery for the league champions, rounding out a scarcely-believable afternoon.
Newcastle 5-0 Manchester United (20th October 1996)
Kevin Keegan’s ‘I would luv it’ rant might just be one of the most infamous moments in Premier League history and the embodiment of Sir Alex Ferguson’s mind tricks, costing Newcastle United the title during the 1995/96 season, however, he did get the chance to taste a particularly sweet victory over the Red Devils in October the following season.
Following their capitulation in 95/96, Newcastle kicked off their season in the worst possible way with a 4-0 loss to United in the Charity Shield. The two rivals met for the first time in the league in October at Saint James’ Park, but there was something in the air for Keegan’s men that day.
Darren Peacock, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer and Philippe Albert would all find the net during the game, and Ferguson would leave Newcastle that day with his worst ever Premier League defeat at the time.
Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United (3rd October 1999)
Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble-winning side of 1998/99 might just be the greatest side the Premier League has ever seen, however, less than five months on from that famous night in Barcelona, the same mighty Manchester United were being run ragged and conceding five at Stamford Bridge.
Despite all the memes about Chelsea being a side formed in 2003, they were certainly no mugs in the late 1990s, finishing third in 1998/99 under Gianluca Vialli and boasting talents like Gianfranco Zola, Roberto di Matteo and Gus Poyet.
The two sides met at Stamford Bridge on matchday 8 in the 1999/00 season, and Chelsea took lead just a minute in thanks to Poyet. The Uruguayan would net again in the fifty-fifth minute, with Chris Sutton, Jody Morris and Henning Berg’s own goal dishing out Ferguson’s second 5-0 loss in less than four seasons.
Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City (23rd October 2011)
What is it about playing in October after winning a title that makes Manchester United capitulate so wildly?
United were on the back of a Champions League runners up place and a Premier League title heading into the 2011/12 season and entered the first derby day of the campaign at Old Trafford unbeaten and with famous wins against Arsenal and Chelsea already under their belt.
The Manchester Derby had been hotting up ever since the Cityzens were taken over by Abu Dhabi United Group, however, what unfolded on the 23rd October not only essentially turned the title from red to blue, but it effectively marked a changing of the guard in who the powerhouse was in the city.
An opening goal from Mario Balotelli and a red card to Jonny Evans put City firmly in the driving seat, with the 1-3 scoreline in the 85th minute somehow spiralling out of control to 1-6 by the time the referee put United out of their misery.
Leicester City 1-6 Tottenham (18th May 2017)
To be fair, by the time Tottenham knocked their sixth past Leicester City on the penultimate matchday of the 16/17 season, most people had probably forgotten Mauricio Pochettino’s side were up against the champions of England.
2015/16 was the ultimate fairytale story for Leicester, with stars like N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy propelling the Foxes to their 5,000/1 title triumph. Their defence of said title, however, was far from smooth.
Drama behind the scenes led to the downfall of Claudio Ranieri, and even Craig Shakespeare’s revival couldn’t prepare Leicester for the visit of the league’s second-best side. Son Hueng-min scored twice and Harry Kane hit four on the day in what would finish as the second biggest win of the 2016/17 league season.
Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool (4th October 2020)
The curse of October continues…
Jurgen Klopp’s heaviest ever defeat as a manager and the first time a Premier League reigning champion has ever conceded seven goals in a game, Liverpool’s recent defeat at Villa Park was just one of those freak matches that came out of absolutely nowhere.
Ollie Watkins hit a hat-trick after just forty minutes, Jack Grealish completed a hattrick of assists and bagged two for himself and Jon McGinn and Ross Barkley would both find the net as the Reds’ defence capitulated in a way never seen before.
It remains to be seen how Klopp’s men will recover from this humbling, however, the evidence suggests that it’s hard for champions to really come back from such a pasting.