Strong defensive foundations are fundamental to football success, but two of the Premier League’s five best rearguards were unable to inspire a title-winning campaign.
Here is the list of those top-flight teams who have been so difficult to break down since the EPL started in 1992.
Chelsea 2004-05 – 15 goals conceded
Some might think that seeing Arsenal pip them to the title with an unbeaten season the year before was perhaps the big motivation for Chelsea in 2005.
Owner Roman Abramovich snared Porto’s manager Jose Mourinho, which helped the London club gain their first title success since 1955.
It was the second season of the Abramovich-era and Mourinho’s decision to pair new signing Ricardo Carvalho with youth product John Terry proved inspired. The Blues kept 25 clean sheets in their 38 league matches. They won 15 away matches, which was another record, and 29 matches altogether.
Their only league defeat came as a result of a Nicolas Anelka penalty at Manchester City on October 16, and they went 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal from a 4-0 win over Norwich on December 18 to a 3-1 win against the same opposition at Carrow Road on March 5.
Arsenal 1998-99 – 17 goals conceded
The 1998-99 season will always be remembered for Manchester United winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble, but Arsenal’s role in that campaign should not be forgotten.
The Gunners, who were a saved Dennis Bergkamp penalty away from beating United in the FA Cup semi-finals, took Sir Alex Ferguson’s side all the way that campaign despite drawing four of their opening five matches.
They lost 3-2 to Aston Villa on December 13, which proved to be the only occasion when they conceded more than once in the league, and then went on an unbeaten 18 match run.
Arsene Wenger’s team went toe-to-toe with United but a 1-0 defeat at Leeds in their penultimate game proved crucial.
Chelsea 2005-06 – 22 goals conceded
Mourinho’s Chelsea were at it again the season after their initial Premier League success and they celebrated their centenary with another great league season.
There was no let up in the big spending but the addition of midfielder Michael Essien from Lyon proved to be one of the Special One’s best signings.
The Blues were relentless from the outset, winning their first nine games and not conceding until their seventh outing of the campaign.
Chelsea went on to win 20 of their opening 22 matches and became the first Premier League outfit to beat every other team in the same season.
Manchester United 2007-08 – 22 goals conceded
United have won the Premier League 13 times and they had their tightest defence in the 2007-08 season, something that was perhaps overshadowed by 31 league goals from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side won their third Champions League by beating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow, but their season took time to get going as they drew against Reading and Portsmouth in their opening two games and then lost to Manchester City, who did the double over them that season.
However, they pushed on from that uncertain start and kept 20 clean sheets as they won the league by a two-point margin over Chelsea.
Liverpool 2018-19 – 22 goals conceded
Liverpool lifted their sixth European Cup when they beat Tottenham in 2019, but they were probably the most unfortunate team in Premier League history that season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side amassed a whopping 97 points and conceded fewer goals than any team had in the previous decade, but it was still not enough to catch Manchester City, who won the title by a two-point margin.
A 2-1 defeat courtesy of a 72nd minute Leroy Sane winner proved to be crucial and the Reds were unable to catch Pep Guardiola’s side despite winning their last nine matches of the campaign.