The Analyst’s Premier League History Part V: Tactical Star Wars
Soccer

The Analyst’s Premier League History Part V: Tactical Star Wars


The Analyst’s Premier League history series analyses the best stats and insights from every single Premier League campaign.

After crunching our way through 2011-2016, an era of unpredictability, chaos and romance, we move into the current Premier League era. This one is defined by the ascension of Liverpool and Manchester City under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.  Between them, the pair have shattered records and re-defined the boundaries of excellence within the English game.

But it didn’t start off as planned…


2016-17

Ahead of the 2016-17 season, there was only one name on everyone’s lips: Pep Guardiola. The Spanish manager, already seen by many at this stage as one of the greatest managers of all time, joined Manchester City in the summer of 2016 after a trophy-laden four years at Barcelona and three years of domestic dominance in Germany.

SeasonTeamPointsPosition
2007-08Barcelona B83Winners
2008-09Barcelona87Winners
2009-10Barcelona99Winners
2010-11Barcelona96Winners
2011-12Barcelona91Second
2013-14Bayern Munich90Winners
2014-15Bayern Munich79Winners
2015-16Bayern Munich88Winners
2016-17Manchester City78Third
2017-18Manchester City100Winners
2018-19Manchester City98Winners
2019-20Manchester City81Second
2020-21Manchester City86Winners

Together with Jürgen Klopp, who had joined Liverpool the previous season, the pair were set to inject their modern tactical philosophies into the English game, bringing it into line with how the game was played on the rest of the continent.

The Premier League also rebranded ahead of the season; it would be known simply as the Premier League without any sponsor’s name attached. How vouge.  

The glamour of Pep’s arrival drew the attention away from fellow managerial newcomer, Antonio Conte. The Italian arrived at Chelsea after three successive Serie A titles at Juventus (2011-14) and a Euro 2016 quarter-final run with Italy. And it was London, rather than the North West of the country, that would provide the teams in the title race this season.

To call it a title race though, would be overselling it. Chelsea won their fifth Premier League crown easily in the end, finishing seven points clear of Tottenham, who finished eight points clear of the rest.

At the core of Chelsea’s victory was a heady three-month spell between October and December when they were untouchable. The Blues went on a 13-game winning streak, equalling the then-record run of consecutive top-flight wins in a single season.

At the heart of that streak was Conte’s decision to switch to a back three, which he first deployed at half-time against Arsenal in September 2016. The Blues had been thrashed in the first 45 minutes and went into the break trailing 3-0. Conte’s tactical switch stymied the Arsenal attack and, although they still lost that match, it set the foundations for the rest of the season. Conte set his side up in their new shape for the next match again Hull, and from there they embarked on their 13-game streak, scoring 32 goals and conceding just four times in the process.

In fact, after that tactical tweak, Chelsea won 27 of their remaining 32 league games, becoming the first top-flight side to win 30+ games in a 38-game season.

It was Tottenham who ran the champions the closest, amassing 86 points as they finished second. It remains their highest points tally in a top-flight season and their total of 86 points would have been enough to win the Premier League in 11 previous campaigns. Spurs also finished the season with the statistically best attack (86 goals) and best defence (26 conceded), as Harry Kane proved he was merely a three-season wonder – scooping up the Golden Boot with 29 strikes.

The season also marked the end of Tottenham’s 118-year stay at White Hart Lane. Spurs paid tribute to their old ground, remaining unbeaten at home for the first time in a league season since 1964-65.

All that and they still finished second…

Pep Guardiola’s first season in England ended in disappointment, as he was only able to guide Manchester City to a third-placed finish. It remains Guardiola’s lowest league finish in his managerial career, which speaks volumes about his domestic success.

Pep did manage to best his nemesis José Mourinho however, as the Portuguese’s first season in charge of Manchester United saw them finish sixth – the first time he’d finished a season as a manager outside the top three. In the midst of a season of mediocrity, United actually embarked on a 25-game unbeaten run between October 2016 and April 2017 – their longest-ever unbeaten run in a single top-flight season – but the fact they drew almost half these games (12) showed the side lacked the ruthlessness of previous outfits.

Leicester City’s title defence started poorly and went downhill from there. On Matchday 1, they became the first reigning champions in Premier League history to start their title defence with a loss, being beaten 2-1 by newly-promoted Hull. Come February, with the club toiling in 17th place, the Foxes parted ways with Claudio Ranieri, just nine months after he’d guided them to a remarkable title. The decision, which sparked moral outrage across the footballing world, was quickly vindicated as caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare won his first five Premier League games in charge. Such was their turnaround in fortunes that Leicester became only the second team in Premier League history to record five wins straight after five successive losses. Still, their final league position of 12th and total points tally of 44 both remain the lowest recorded by reigning champions.

Worst defense of a PL title in history

In a stat that will please everyone, Peter Crouch scored his 50th headed Premier League goal in Stoke’s final match against Southampton, becoming the first and only player to reach this landmark in the competition.

Most headed goals in premier league history

In case you were wondering (you weren’t) which player has scored the most Premier League goals without a header, it’s Damien Duff (54).

After several successive escapes from relegation, Sunderland’s resilience finally broke and they dropped into the Championship after a decade, finishing bottom for the third time in their history (also in 2002-03 and 2005-06), a joint-record they share with Nottingham Forest (1992-93, 1996-97, 1998-99). The Black Cats’ manager, a certain David Moyes, resigned promptly after the season’s conclusion. It meant that just four years after signing a six-year contract at Manchester United, Moyes had been dispensed with by three clubs.

Hull City and Middlesbrough, the latter of who managed just 27 goals, two fewer than Harry Kane, would join Sunderland in the Championship.


2017-18

Ah, 2017-18. The season it turned out that Pep Guardiola is quite good at this managing thing. We knew it all along of course, but there were a few, loud Pep-detractors who were adamant that he couldn’t translate his playing style into success. Not over here, not in our Premier League.

Well in 2017-18, Pep proved that he could dominate in England just as well as he could in Spain and Germany.

And dominate he truly did, with his side City smashing all sorts of records on their way to their third Premier League title. The Citizens became the Premier League’s first and only team to amass 100 points in a single season. They scored 106 goals in the process, the most recorded in a Premier League campaign, and unsurprisingly set a top-flight record for the best goal difference seen in a single campaign (+79). City racked up the most wins (32), most away wins (16) and biggest points margin of victory (19) ever seen. Lastly, between August-December 2017, City won 18 consecutive Premier League games setting a new English top-flight record. Some haul.

Manchester City 2017-18 records

Characterised by Guardiola’s unmistakable style, City smothered teams. Their 5-0 victory over Swansea in April 2018 saw them average 83% possession, the highest figure ever recorded in the Premier League.

Chelsea’s Premier League title defence looked doomed from the start, as they opened the campaign with a chaotic 3-2 loss at home to Burnley in which Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas were sent off. It was just the second season in which the defending champions had lost their first game after Leicester had done the same a season before. Conte’s side struggled to deal with the departures Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa, and their form deteriorated in the second half of the season, culminating in a seven-game stretch between January and April where they lost five matches. An FA Cup triumph over Manchester United saved an otherwise drab campaign.  

Speaking of United, despite what felt like an underwhelming season, José Mourinho’s men finished second behind City, four spots and 12 points better off than in his debut season. Mourinho owed a lot to the superhuman efforts of David de Gea in goal. According to our expected goals on target model, De Gea prevented 13.7 goals in 2017-18. Only Simon Mignolet in Sunderland’s relegation-threatened (not that that’s much of a useful differentiator) 2012-13 campaign prevented more in a single season.

The Spanish shot-stopper was rewarded for his efforts by becoming the first goalkeeper to appear in four consecutive PFA Teams of the Year since Neville Southall between 1986-87 and 1989-90.

Goalkeeper goals prevented all time

If one match typified De Gea that season, it was United’s 3-1 victory away at Arsenal. The Gunners peppered De Gea’s goal, landing 16 shots on target and amassing close to five expected goals. A De Gea brick wall provided the platform for United to ruthlessly punish some characteristic defensive errors from Arsenal.

Arsenal v Manchester United - david de gea

For Arsenal, 2017-18 was Arsène Wenger’s 22nd and final campaign in charge of the club. Wenger’s slow demise at the helm of the London side had been a long time coming and even an FA Cup victory in the summer of 2016 wasn’t enough to inspire a change in fortunes. Arsenal’s sixth-placed finish and 63 points were both the lowest totals of the Wenger era.

His final game against Huddersfield was his 828th in total in the Premier League, more than any other manager in the history of the competition.

The Gunners also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League, a competition Burnley qualified for by finishing seventh place. Sean Dyche’s men racked up a club-record 54 points to secure their first European campaign for more than 50 years.

A Champions League final and consecutive top-four finish rounded off a successful season for Liverpool. More important was the Reds’ transfer business, as 2017-18 saw them acquire three stars who would become the bedrocks of their first team: Mohamed Salah, Andy Robertson and Virgil Van Dijk. Salah, returning to the Premier League after an unremarkable debut campaign at Chelsea back in 2014-15, had a phenomenal season winning the golden boot with 32 Premier League goals – the most scored by a player in a 20-team season in the competition.

Premier League 20-team seasons, highest goalscorer

Second in the scoring charts was Harry Kane, who became the first English player to score 30 Premier League goals in a season since Kevin Phillips in 1999-00. His haul of 30 is the second-highest in Premier League history for a player not to win the golden boot after Alan Shearer scored 31 in 1993-94.

Having returned to his boyhood club, Wayne Rooney became just the second player to score 200 Premier League goals when he scored for Everton against Manchester City.

For the third time in Premier League history, all three promoted clubs – Newcastle, Huddersfield and Brighton – avoided relegation (also 2001-02 and 2011-12). Huddersfield tried their best to go down, scoring just 28 Premier League goals, a joint-low for a side to avoid relegation in the competition’s history (level with Leeds in 1996-97).

Instead, it was West Brom, Swansea and Stoke that were relegated to the Championship.


2018-19

After winning the title at a canter the season before, 2018-19 saw Manchester City pushed right to their limits in one of the Premier League’s closest title races. In a season that crystallised the Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp rivalry, Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over Brighton on the final day saw them edge out Liverpool to become the first club to retain the title since Manchester United in 2008-09.

City are no strangers to winning titles on the last day of the season. In total, this was the eighth different time the Premier League was decided on the final day of the campaign, with City winning it on three of those occasions (2011-12, 2013-14 and 2018-19).

But this title victory did not have the last-minute thrill of 2011-12, or the helter-skelter chaos of 2013-14. Instead, by the turn of the year this title felt inevitable, as Pep’s side mechanically churned out win after win, with victory at Brighton on the final day their 14th successive victory to round out the season. They finished with 98 points, just two fewer than the historic 100 they earned in 2017-18.

But even that haul was only one point more than Liverpool, who despite suffering only one defeat all season ended as runners-up.

Klopp’s side must have felt like their quest for a first Premier League title was cursed. Liverpool’s tally of 97 points was the joint-third highest total a team has ever achieved in a single English top-flight campaign (converting to three points for a win), and the most for a team not the win the league.

Most points without winning Premier league title in history

Unsurprisingly, the top two’s combined total of 195 points was also the most ever.

Adding insult to incredulity, Liverpool lost just one Premier League game in 2018-19 – only the fifth occasion of a side losing one or fewer across an entire English top-flight campaign (Preston 0 in 1888-89, Arsenal 1 in 1990-91, Arsenal 0 in 2003-04 and Chelsea 1 in 2004-05). The common thread linking all those sides together? Yeah, they won the top-flight in that year. Sorry LFC fans.

Chelsea were among the early pacesetters as new coach Maurizio Sarri became the first ever manager to remain unbeaten throughout his first 12 Premier League matches. The Italian also handed Man City their first loss of the season, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in December. That defeat was the first in a weird winter blip for the Citizens who suffered three defeats in four matches.

Liverpool capitalised on this slip with a nine-match winning streak of their own to move seven points clear at the top of the table at the end of 2018. All eyes darted to January 3, where the top two met for the second time this season. After sharing the spoils in a cagey draw at Anfield in October, the clash felt like a title-decider, even with the Christmas decorations still up. Fine margins went City’s way as John Stones superbly prevented the ball from going over the line by just one centimetre while the score was goalless.

John Stones prevents ball from going over the line vs. liverpool

Then Leroy Sane’s strike went in off a post to earn a 2-1 win for the hosts, swinging the title race in favour of City again. A 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United in January was the last time they dropped points, while Liverpool suffered a run of four draws in six matches.

Key to Liverpool’s so-close-but-so far title chase was the way in which Klopp deployed fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Tasked with maintaining heavily advanced positions, the pair were transformed into left- and right‑sided playmakers, supplying the ammunition for Liverpool’s deadly front three.

Indeed, Alexander-Arnold’s 12 assists in 2018-19 was the most by a defender in a single season in the competition’s history. His fellow fullback-in-crime, Robertson, provided 11.

They would both go on to break those records the following season, and the fact that they hold the top four sports for season-high assist numbers for defenders highlights the way in which the pair have completely redefined the role.

Most assists in PL season by a defender

In the goalscoring charts, three players tied for the Golden Boot with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah all notching 22 times. Indeed, three African players scored 20+ goals in the Premier League in 2018-19 – no previous campaign had seen more than one player from the continent reach that figure.

Despite missing out on the individual honours, Sergio Agüero scored 20+ Premier League goals for the fifth consecutive season, becoming only the second player to do so in the competition (after Thierry Henry between 2001-02 and 2005-06). Agüero also became the first player to reach 200 goals in all competitions for Manchester City, scoring against Chelsea in the 2018 Community Shield.

Despite their remarkable mid-season turnaround under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – who oversaw a six-game winning streak after taking charge – Manchester United finished 32 points behind champions Manchester City. That’s more than they finished behind the top-flight winners when they were relegated in 1973-74 (30 points, albeit with only two for a win in those days). A porous defence was United’s downfall, as they conceded 54 goals, their most ever in a single Premier League campaign and most in a league season since 1978-79 (63).

In April Shane Long broke a record that had stood for nearly 19 years – the fastest Premier League goal in history. Just 7.69 seconds into Southampton’s clash against Watford at Vicarage Road, the Irish international striker had the Saints 1-0 up. From kick-off, Long charged down Craig Cathcart’s long ball forward, snatching the loose ball and dinking the on-rushing Ben Foster. A full breakdown of the league’s fastest ever goals is available here.

Harvey Elliott broke another record in 2018-19, becoming the youngest player to feature in a Premier League game at the tender age of 16 years and 30 days when he debuted for Fulham against Wolves in May 2019.

Youngest players in premier league history

At the sharp end of the table, Huddersfield’s scoring woes (22 goals) were insurmountable this season and The Terriers were officially relegated on March 30th, the second-earliest date a team has been relegated (after Derby County on March 29th, 2008). Only that Derby side (20) and Sunderland in 2002-03 (21) have scored fewer Premier League goals in a season in history and Huddersfield’s goal difference of -54 is the third-worst in premier league history.

Fulham suffered from a different, equally damaging deficiency, shipping 81 goals in total in 2018-19, the second-most the side have ever conceded in a Premier League campaign (85 in 2013-14). The Cottagers, alongside Cardiff City, also suffered relegation.


2019-20

This one’s about as unique as they come. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2019-20 season was one that nobody was even certain would finish.

But when people look back at the 2019-20 campaign for footballing reasons in years to come, it will be most remembered as Liverpool’s year. The year the hurt finally ended. After 30 long years of waiting, the Reds got their hands back on English football’s top crown, their 19th in all and first of the Premier League era.

Having finished as runners up on five occasions between 1991 and 2019, most notably earning 97 points in 2018-19 without it being enough, few believed Liverpool would end up finally winning the Premier League as comfortably as they did. It wasn’t dramatic, it wasn’t a titanic back-and-forth struggle as most would have felt it needed to be if Liverpool were to usurp Manchester City’s recent dominance.

Rather, it was a procession. Records were broken as Liverpool cruised their way to victory. Eighteen consecutive league wins, 24 home victories in a row, 32 wins in their 38 games in all, beating all 19 other sides in the division before February, confirming the title with seven games to spare – all are figures that no side in English top-flight history has ever bettered. The Reds amassed a staggering 99 points in all, falling just one short of City’s 2017-18 centurions.

Liverpool 2019-20:

CategoryStatAll time top-flight rank
Consecutive Wins18=1
Consecutive Home Wins241
Points992
Wins32=1
Winning Margin (Points)182
Games Remaining When Won Title71

Despite Leicester narrowly missing out on a top-four finish, striker Jamie Vardy did end the campaign with some individual awards to his name. In a season where he became the first Foxes player to reach 100 goals in the top-flight since 1933-34 (after Arthur Lochhead), Vardy would eventually finish with a haul of 23 league goals.

Those 23 goals were enough to seal him the Premier League Golden Boot award for the season and Vardy, at the age of 33, the oldest player to win the award in the competition’s history.

Oldest Golden Boot winners

The relegation zone claimed its first certainty on July 11th, as Norwich’s fate was sealed following a 4-0 defeat to West Ham. The Canaries suffered the drop for the fifth time in the Premier League, the most of any team in the competition’s history. While they burned brightly in the beginning, with Teemu Pukki netting six goals in his first five Premier League games, Norwich were soon revealed to be under-equipped for the task.

Daniel Farke’s side lost 27 games in the Premier League this season – only four teams have ever suffered more defeats in a single campaign in the competition. They also ended 2019-20 with ten consecutive league defeats, the third-longest losing run by a team in Premier League history.

Joining Norwich in the Championship were Bournemouth and Watford, who both finished a point behind Aston Villa following the final day action. After finishing as high as ninth in the Premier League back in 2016-17, Bournemouth said farewell to the Premier League after five seasons in the top-flight of English football.

While the Cherries had consistently punched above their weight in the Premier League, a recurring theme of their stay was conceding a high number of goals. Eddie Howe’s side became the only team to concede 60+ goals in five consecutive Premier League seasons. Similarly, among teams to have played a century of games in the competition, Bournemouth have the highest goals conceded per game average of any team (1.7). Eventually, this became a weakness of their game they couldn’t overcome.

Completing the trio, Watford returned to the Championship following a turbulent season on and off the pitch. The Hornets became the first team in Premier League history to dismiss three different permanent managers in a single season, with Javi Gracia, Quique Sánchez Flores and Nigel Pearson all coming and going during the campaign.

After Manchester City and Liverpool have each set astonishing points records in three successive seasons, the league is often criticised for being uncompetitive. With Liverpool running away with the title and Norwich 13 points adrift at the bottom of the table, it’s easy to assume that 2019-20 does nothing to dispel those theories. But in reality, this isn’t the case.

The battle for both Champions League and relegation went down to the final day. And there are significant barometers for both that suggest 2019-20 has been one of the toughest in years for most clubs.

Manchester United finished third with 66 points. That’s the lowest by any side finishing in the Premier League’s top three since 1997-98, when Liverpool finished third on 65 points. Indeed, Chelsea finished this season fourth in the table having conceded 54 goals, the most by a side finishing as high since Norwich ended the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season third, despite shipping 65 goals.

In fact, despite Liverpool’s dominance, where they only lost three matches as champions, the top four lost a combined 32 Premier League games this season. Since the Premier League became a 20-team league in 1995-96, only two seasons (1997-98: 37 & 2000-01: 33) have seen the top four lose more combined.

Looking down the table, Aston Villa survived relegation with just 35 points. In Premier League history, only West Brom in 2004-05 have ever avoided the drop with fewer (34). These low returns of points up and down the table don’t suggest a lack of quality in the league – it is simply a sign of how difficult it was for sides to gain points in 2019-20 and that’s down to the competitiveness of the league.


2020-21

And so to 2020-21. The most recent Premier League season in the books. It was to be another season interrupted by COVID-19, played without fans for the most part. Against that eerie backdrop, Manchester City comfortably claimed the title, their fifth in the last 10 seasons. The triumph brought them level with Chelsea and moves them to eight behind rivals Manchester United (13) for Premier League titles. Overall, City have now been champions of England seven times and remain the only reigning winners to suffer relegation in the following season, doing so in 1938.

It was a strange season.

“We got nervous. We got anxious. We didn’t create much,” a shellshocked Pep Guardiola said after his side’s harrowing 5-2 defeat at home to Leicester in September.

A month prior his side had collapsed to a spirit-crushing 3-1 defeat to Lyon in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Manchester City then won just twice in their next six league games, a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in November 2020 signalling their worst start to a Premier League season since 2008-09. It felt like Guardiola’s grip on English and European football was slipping.

On Christmas Day, City were eighth in the league and eight points behind leaders Liverpool. Only two teams in Premier League history have been eight or more points behind the team in first at Christmas and won the league – Arsenal in 1997-98 (13 pts) and Man Utd in 1995-96 (10).

Premier League Champions - Points Behind at Christmas

Fast forward six months and City had won the league extremely comfortably.

Following a run of five wins in their opening 12 Premier League games, they then embarked on a 15-match winning run in the competition, only bettered three times in the history of the English top-flight, one of which was by Pep’s City back in 2017.

Another side that started off very slowly were Sheffield United. Unfortunately for Blades fans, their ending was not as happy as those on the blue half of Manchester. Defeat at Crystal Palace in January saw them set a new record for the longest run without a win from the start of a Premier League season (17 games), and with six games remaining, Sheffield United suffered the joint-earliest relegation in Premier League history, alongside Ipswich Town (1994-95), Derby County (2007-08) and Huddersfield Town (2018-19).

Their torrid season was made all the more surprising by their impressive campaign the year before. Chris Wilder’s side finished ninth in their first season back in the Premier League. With their relegation in 2020-21, United became the first team to finish as high as ninth in the Premier League and be relegated the following season since Birmingham City (ninth in 2009-10, relegated in 2010-11). Their numbers from the campaign tell a sorry story:

Sheff Utd PL 2020-21

It really was a strange season.

Liverpool, fresh off their maiden Premier League crown, hit the ground running once again. Barring a freak 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa on October 4, in which Liverpool shipped as many as seven goals in a game for the first time since April 1963 (7-2 vs. Spurs), they started the campaign with the same hunger and drive that had characterised their success the prior year.

The Reds 3-0 win against Leicester in November saw them set a new club record for the longest unbeaten run at home in the top flight (64 games). Further wins against Wolves and Tottenham, before a 7-0 evisceration of Crystal Palace – the first time in Premier League history that seven different players assisted a goal for a team in a single match – had them top by Christmas, four points clear of Leicester. By this point, Machester City were languishing in eighth. New signing Diogo Jota was influential in their early-season purple patch, becoming the first player in Liverpool’s history to score in each of his first four home top-flight league appearances for the club, and netting seven goals in his first 10 matches.

Diogo Jota - Goals in first 10 liverpool apps

But then things went drastically, horribly, bafflingly wrong. Back-to-back draws against relegation-threatened West Brom and Newcastle to round off 2020, before losing to Southampton at the turn of the year. But it was a home defeat to Burnley which sent the Reds into a tailspin. Defeat to Sean Dyche’s side was Liverpool’s first loss in 69 Premier League games at Anfield (W55 D13) since losing 1-2 to Crystal Palace in April 2017. It was the second-longest unbeaten home run in English top-flight history after Chelsea’s 86 games ending in October 2008.

They then proceeded to lose to Brighton, Manchester City, Everton and Chelsea in a staggering run of performances at Anfield. Their fortress was crumbling. Liverpool’s defeat against Chelsea was their fifth consecutive home league defeat, their longest such run in their history. This run would extend to six games with a defeat against Fulham. The Reds also became the first reigning top-flight champion to lose five straight home league games. During that miserable run, they went 132 shots (ex. pens) without scoring at Anfield in the Premier League, a record for any home side at a single ground in recorded history.

And then despite all that, Klopp’s side went 10 games unbeaten to end the season and finished third! It really was a strange year.

Manchester United (second) and Chelsea (fourth) made up the rest of the top four. Somehow, Leicester, despite spending more days in the top four than any other Premier League side this season (242), finished fifth and missed out on Champions League qualification.

We can go from one Leicester-based weird fact to another: one of the quirks of a COVID-hit schedule meant that games were played almost constantly during the campaign. This allowed Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho to become the first player in Premier League history to score a goal on all seven weekdays within a single season.

Manchester United lost six games at Old Trafford but remained unbeaten on the road. United became just the fourth side in English top-flight history to remain unbeaten away from home across an entire league campaign, after Preston in 1888-89, Arsenal in 2001-02 and Arsenal again in 2003-04. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side were resilient during the campaign, picking up 31 points from losing positions. Only Newcastle in 2001-02 gained more when behind:

PL Points Won From Losing

For Tottenham Hotspur, the season was all about three men: Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and José Mourinho. The first two, for all the right reasons. Kane finished the season as both the top goalscorer and top assister in the Premier League – only the second time a player has finished with both the outright most goals and assists in the competition after Andy Cole in 1993-94. The England striker formed a deadly partnership with fellow forward Son. In a 4-1 win against Crystal Palace, the duo combined for a goal for the 14th time in the Premier League in 2020-21, breaking Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton’s competition record of 13 set in 1994-95 for Blackburn.

For Mourinho, it was an unhappy season. Defeat to Liverpool in January was his sixth home league loss in charge of Tottenham, more than at any of his previous clubs, while a month later he suffered back-to-back league defeats on home soil for the very first time in his managerial career, following Spurs’ 1-0 defeat to Chelsea. In April, Spurs lost to Mourinho’s former side, Manchester United, signalling his 10th league defeat of the season. It was the first time he had ever lost 10 league games in a single season in his managerial career and he was unsurprisingly shown the door not long after.

In suspiciously convenient timing, Spurs announced Mourinho’s departure not long after the bombshell announcement of the European Super League. It seemed like a very good day to bury bad news.

After Mourinho’s sacking, it was Ryan Mason who took over as manager until the end of the season. In his first game in charge, Mason became the youngest manager in Premier League history.

Youngest premier league managers

Fulham and West Brom joined Sheffield United in relegation. This marked the first time in the Premier League era that all three teams were relegated with more than two games to spare. Fulham’s woes at home were evident: The Cottagers became the first team in English top-flight history to fail to score at least 10 home goals in a single campaign, netting just nine league goals at Craven Cottage.

The 2020-21 season saw the Premier League bid farewell to one of its greats: Sergio Agüero. But not before Aguero had left a parting gift. Thanks to a brace against Everton on the final day, the Argentine overtook Wayne Rooney’s record for most goals for a single team in Premier League history, netting his 183rd and 184th goals for Manchester City.

Most goals for a single premier league team

With the absence of crowds for the majority of the season, there was debate around the extent that ‘home field advantage’ would be eroded. The lack of home support certainly played its part in that, with the 2020-21 Premier League campaign the first season in any division in the top four tiers of English football league history to see more away wins (153) than home wins (144).