john terry

While many fans watch the Premier League for goals and action, most teams are only successful in the English top flight with solid defensive foundations.

However, which teams have had the best defensive records in the Premier League in a single top-flight campaign?

Chelsea (15 goals conceded in season 2004/05)

The Blues hold the record for the least goals ever conceded in a Premier League campaign, having conceded just 15 goals in the 2004/05 season. Only AC Milan in the 1993/94 season can match their record in European football’s top-four leagues of the Premier League, Serie A, the Bundesliga and La Liga.

This season was a special one, as the campaign saw the Chelsea debut season in the managerial seat of a certain Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese boss guided the Blues to a title victory to end the Premier League title domination of Arsenal and Manchester United, breaking many records along the way, including his team keeping 25 clean sheets.

The achievement was, of course, helped by the financial backing of oligarch owner Roman Abramovich, who funded the signings of defensive duo Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira from Mourinho’s former club Porto.

The pair’s arrival, combined with the likes of John Terry, Willian Gallas and Wayne Bridge, provided a secure backline. The summer signing of goalkeeper Petr Cech also played a pivotal role in the team’s stellar defensive record.

Arsenal (17 goals conceded in season 1998/99)

A list of defensive achievements would not be complete without a mention of Arsenal, who, down the years, have had some fine defensive units. The team from north London under boss George Graham attracted the chants of “1-0 to the Arsenal” and “Boring, boring Arsenal”.

By season 1998/99, the Scot had moved on after claiming two top-flight English titles and a new era of success under Arsene Wenger had begun. However, his faithful back five was still in situ in defence. In front of goalkeeper David Seaman were Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn, with veteran Steve Bould still also in the squad.

Much like they were for Graham’s success in north London in the First Division, the Arsenal defence were rock solid in season 1998/99. However, their solid defence was not enough to claim the Premier League title. Sir Ferguson’s Manchester United pipped the Gunners to the title by just a point, despite the north London team being reigning champions.

Arsenal kept a highly credible 22 clean sheets. Still, a surprising lack of goals contributed to the failure to win the title, as they failed to score in ten of their league matches, scoring just 59 goals in the campaign, while seven league games ended in goalless draws.

Manchester United (22 goals conceded in season 2007/08)

United’s 2007/08 team is considered by many to be the greatest of Sir Alex Ferguson’s long spell as Red Devils’ boss. Their main attraction was a lethal front three of Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the latter winning both the Player of the Year and Golden Boot at the end of the season.

However, their performances at the other end of the pitch were nearly as impressive as the Red Devils conceded just 22 goals. A backline of Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra were excellent, with the latter three continuing their stellar form from their previous campaign.

First-choice goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made 29 Premier League appearances, with Tomasz Kuszczak and Ben Foster also figuring in-between the sticks for the Red Devils. Between the trio, they kept an impressive 21 top-flight clean sheets.

United’s defensive efforts led the Red Devils to a second straight Premier League title, plus a third European Cup after a penalty kick win over top-flight rivals Chelsea in the competition’s final.

Liverpool (22 goals conceded in season 2018/19)

Under the charismatic Jurgen Klopp, the Reds came agonisingly close to ending their long wait for an English top-flight title in season 2018/19, only to lose out on the English crown by a point to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

In the process, their 97-point haul earned them the record of the runners-up with the most points in the English top flight.

When many think of this vintage of Klopp’s team, they will likely remember their excellent attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. However, at the other end of the pitch, the men from Merseyside conceded just 22 goals, which gave them a better defensive record than eventual champions City.

Goalkeeper Alisson, who won the Golden Gloves award by keeping 21 clean sheets, centre-back Virgil van Dijk and tough-tackling Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho all played a crucial role in the defensive achievement.

Liverpool may have missed out on the English title that season, but they lifted the Champions League trophy by defeating English rivals Tottenham 2-0 in the Madrid final.

Chelsea (22 goals conceded in season 2005/06)

Unsurprisingly, under the defensive astute Mourinho, Chelsea has a second entry on our list. Just a season after breaking the record for the least Premier League goals conceded, Chelsea produced another tremendous defensive campaign, conceding a respectable 22 goals.

Terry, Carvalho, Gallas and Cech all still played crucial roles, as did defensive midfielder Claude Makelele and summer signing Ghana international Michael Essien. Cech once again claimed the Golden Gloves award, as the big Czech Republic star kept 20 clean sheets.

The Blues retained their Premier League title, claiming an impressive 90 points, having started the campaign with six consecutive clean sheets and recorded nine straight wins.

Which team has the best defence of the Premier League era?