Why is it so difficult to retain the Premier League Title?

By Zorawar Singh Ghumman
Mar. 11, 2017

Apart from Sir Alex Ferguson, only Jose Mourinho has managed to win back-to-back titles since the leagues inception in 1992. Ferguson was the master at retaining the title, doing it on 6 occasions. However, since 2009, no team has even come close to retaining its title with most defending champions struggling the following year. Manchester United, City, Chelsea and most recently Leicester have launched abysmal title defenses in the last 5 years alone. 

Fallen Foxes: Leicester have struggles all season and their problems have been compounded by the sacking of Claudio Ranieri

With Leicester languishing near the relegation zone, lets examine why English clubs struggle to win consecutive league titles. 


"Don't Let a Win get to your Head"

It is often said that it is more difficult to win a second championship than it is to win the first title. In the players mind, they have already conquered the world and it may be difficult for them to put in the work again. A recent example is Leicester. After their shocking title last year, their top players were awarded mouth watering contracts and they gained a superstar status. When they returned from the summer break it was noticeable that the same work ethic was not visible and the players lacked the drive and motivation to win again. The players felt that they were the best and hence they lost what made them champions, and that was their work ethic.  They have looked almost lethargic this season and the players look a shadow of themselves. 


"Change is the only constant"

It is a well known cliche in sports that don't change what works. Managers are often advised that "if something aint broke, don't fix it" What managers do not realize is that what worked previously may not work the next year. Teams adapt to counter what worked previously and hence even the champions must adapt in order to improve. A classic example is the Chelsea team that won the 2014/15 PL title. They had easily swept aside competition the previous year and were expected to repeat  the same again. However, in the summer they did not conduct any transfers and stuck to their out-dated tactics. What followed was a calamitous title defense which saw them slip to 16th by Christmas and Jose Mourinho being sacked. Since they failed to adapt and bring in fresh faces, they were left behind. Sir Alex Ferguson always said that "players are at their most vulnerable after winning, you must bring in fresh faces and new tactics if you wish to win again". Most clubs fail to adapt and are hence left behind by the competition. 


"With fatigue comes a lack of concentration" 

An interesting phenomena has arisen in the Premier League over the last 4 years or so. The last few champions have always been  clubs that were not involved in any European competition or eliminated early. Moreover they usually did not have lengthy cup runs so had their full focus on the league. The extra rests, and not worrying about midweek games has revitalized clubs to push on for title wins. However the same cannot be said about a title defense. The Champions are always expected to do well in Cups and Europe so having to divide their attention and play more games through the course of they year can be ta. PL Clubs play the most games every year because there is an extra cup competition as well as a lack of a winter break. That is why defending champions fail in conjuring up the same energy levels. 


"The Premier League requires you to be at 110% every game because any team can stage an upset. In La Liga you can be at 90% and still win, such is the quality of teams in the PL"- Bale

The Premier League is often regarded as the most competitive league in the world. This is compounded by the fact that the TV Broadcasting deal means that the smaller clubs can also compete financially with the bigger teams. Every game in the Premier League requires a team to be at 100%, otherwise they will lose the game. The 'middle class' of teams often  stage upsets, and with the added pressure on the champions, they suffer as a result. Moreover, the top 5-6 teams have the added motivation and incentive to beat the champions and this leads to them putting massive investments to bolster their squads. 


"Underdogs have nothing to lose, but everything to gain"

The best feeling for a team is beating the Champions. Smaller teams often raise their levels a few notches when competing against teams of a higher caliber or the reigning Champions. They go into the game with no expectation and that is when they are at their most potent. Beating a team of Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United's level can be a massive confidence boost for teams. Moreover, these clubs are more than happy to relinquish possession and play defensive to eventually hit teams on the counter. Playing the champions motivates teams to play better than they normally would. 

Another startling fact is that, since 2012, the manager who has won the PL title has been sacked the following season (Mancini, Mourinho, Ranieri) or retired (Ferguson). The manager ends up taking the slack for losing most of the time. Maybe that is why Wenger does not want to win the Premier League!! Watch out Antonio Conte!!

Retaining the Premier League Title is certainly not Rocket Science but the mentality of players and the increased expectation can really harm a teams chances. 

“Only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat- and I expect us to do that”- Sir Alex Ferguson 

Perhaps it is up to the coaches on motivating their players to perform better, perhaps teams should invest more after winning and perhaps the players just need to take responsibility  for raising their levels. Have your say in the comments down below. Like and Subscribe if you enjoyed the content!