Given that Chelsea have won the Premier League title five times and finished second or third another 10 times, it’s fair to say the 2022/23 season has been a complete disaster for the club. At the time of writing (with just a few games of the season remaining), the Blues are languishing in 12th position in the table having lost six games on the spin. Caretaker manager, Frank Lampard, might be a club legend, but he appears to have no solutions to the numerous problems facing the club at present.
If things continue as they have been, they could be on for their worst league finish in the Premier League era. Many wags on social media have even been quick to point out that the Blues could even face relegation, though in reality, the chances of that are remote. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the club are in line for one of their worst campaigns in many a year. And, all that despite spending around £600m on players!
With all that in mind, we decided to take a look back at all Chelsea’s EPL seasons and put them in order from the best to the worst. We’ll then delve into the five that stood out as being particularly bad. Note that we are focusing solely on their Premier League performances and we are not taking into account other domestic or European cups and competitions.
Chelsea’s Premier League Seasons Ranked Best to Worst
We’re ranking the seasons initially based on Chelsea’s finishing position at the end of that campaign. To separate seasons in which they finished in the same positions, we’ve then gone to the points total (or the average number of points per game when comparing 38-game seasons with 42-game seasons), then the number of wins, and finally the number of goals scored (used to differentiate between the 2002/03 and 2020/21 seasons).
|Rank||Season||No of Games||Position||W||D||L||GF||GA||Pts|
Chelsea’s 5 Worst Premier League Seasons
As you can see from the data above, there have been five seasons when Chelsea have really failed to deliver. In other words, when they have failed to finish in the top six positions in the Premier League table. So, let’s take a look at these seasons in more details and try to figure out what went wrong.
Worst Ever: 1993/94 – 14th Place, 51 Points from 42 Games
With a total of just 51 points from 42 games (at an average of 1.21 points per game) and their lowest-ever finishing position in the Premier League table, the 1993/94 season was, frankly, appalling for Chelsea. Glen Hoddle was the man in charge at the time having been appointed as player-manager in the June before the start of the campaign. He’d shown great managerial promise when guiding Swindon Town to an unlikely promotion to the top flight, playing some great football too. However, he didn’t exactly fulfil that promise in his first season as Chelsea boss.
Things didn’t start too badly in the league. Despite a few defeats and draws, wins against both Manchester United and Liverpool gave the fans hope. But then a string of defeats to the likes of Norwich, West Ham, Leeds United and even Oldham Athletic sent the Blues into a tailspin. By mid-December they were languishing in 19th position in the table and if Abramovich had already been in charge it is almost certain that Hoddle would have been given the boot.
The rather more patient Chelsea board of the day stuck with him, and though the second half of the season was a bit better, they still only managed 13 victories from their 42 games and ended the campaign in a very disappointing 14th position. Though, to be fair, they did finish above Spurs, Man City, Everton and Hoddle’s previous club Swindon.
Interestingly, at the time of writing, Chelsea have an even worse points-per-game ratio (1.18 point per game, with 39 points from 33 games), so they could yet end up having their worst Premier League season ever in 2022/23! They could certainly drop lower than 14th too, which is even worse considering there are now only 20 teams in the top flight.
Second Worst: 1994/95 – 11th Place, 54 Points from 42 Games
It was perhaps surprising that Glenn Hoddle was still Chelsea manager at the start of the 1994/95 campaign and it certainly shows how much more patience club owners had back then! With three wins in their first three league matches, the decision to keep Hoddle on seemed justified. But then five defeats from the next seven games meant the Blues were travelling in the wrong direction. Then a 10-game winless streak from December to February dashed any faint hopes of contending for the title and – after a six-game winless run in March and April – suddenly Chelsea were fearing relegation.
The Blues were able to steady the ship and three wins and three draws meant they finished in the top half of the table… just! They ended the campaign on 54 points from 42 games, three points ahead of London rivals Arsenal. Another year, another disappointing league position, and yet the board continued to keep the faith in Hoddle.
Third Worst: 1995/96 – 11th Place, 50 Points from 38 Games
It was basically more of the same the following season, with Hoddle unable to sufficiently inspire his Chelsea squad, that now included former Man United star, Mark Hughe,s and Dutch legend, Ruud Gullit. The team performed inconsistently throughout the league campaign and despite some decent wins along the way (including those against Arsenal, Leeds and Man City), there were far too many defeats. They lost to teams they should have beaten – on paper at least. And, if you are going down against sides like Coventry, Wimbledon, Bolton and Middlesbrough, success is not going to materialise.
With just a single win from their final 10 games of the Premier League season, Chelsea finished in the bottom half for what is still (at the time of writing at least!) only the second time in the Premier League era. And Hoddle finally moved on… to become the manager of the England team!
Fourth Worst: 1992/93 – 11th Place, 56 Points from 42 Games
Okay, it was the first Premier League season and Chelsea had only been promoted from the second tier at the end of the 1988/89 campaign. But really, there were no excuses for what was a rather dismal inaugural Premier League season for the Blues. Managed by Ian Porterfield, things were looking rather positive in early December. Chelsea had put a strong run of results together, winning six games in seven, and were sitting pretty in fourth place in the table with one eye on a title challenge. But then things unravelled badly.
They drew four games on the spin and lost five and drew two of their next seven, a string of results that cost Porterfield his job. His replacement, David Webb, did a little better, guiding his side to five wins and four draws from their last 12 games. As such, they just crept into the top half of the table, ahead of Wimbledon, Everton and Sheffield United.
Fifth Worst: 2015/16 – 10th Place, 50 Points from 38 Games
The worst Chelsea finish in the Premier League this century (at least prior to the conclusion of the 2022/23 season), 2015/16 was a season to forget in the league. It’s notable that the four seasons in which Chelsea finished lower than this in the table were all in the first few years of the Premier League era (i.e. before Roman Abramovich purchased the club and splashed a load of his cash).
It could actually be argued that finishing 10th of 20 teams is as bad as finishing 11th of 22 teams (as happened in 1992/93 and 1994/95), but we’ll stick with our ranking system for simplicity. Either way though, the 2015/16 was certainly something of an anomaly – not least because Chelsea had won the Premier League the season before under Jose Mourinho and then again in 2016/17 under Antonio Conte. So, what happened in 2015/16?
With Mourinho still at the helm after masterminding Chelsea’s title-winning campaign the season before, hopes were high for more success. But the Blues managed just one win from their first five league matches and lost to Manchester City, Everton and Crystal Palace to leave them in 17th position in the table. It was early days, of course, but they lost six of their next 11 games and, with the club in 16th place, Jose was given his marching orders.
Dutch ace, Guus Hiddink, came in as the interim manager and things improved a little for the Blues in that they became a lot harder to beat. But they drew too many games to have a chance of making it into Europe and stumbled to a 10th-place finish after mustering just a single win from their final seven games of the season. Are the current crop of players on target for the worst finish this century? Time will tell…