The English Premier League is considered to be one of the best leagues in world football. The main reason for this is the excitement and entertainment that is provided by the matches that are played in it, but when you look back at the history of the competition you can see that specific teams have dominated for long periods. In that sense, is it really all that much different from the likes of the Bundesliga in Germany or Spain’s Serie A?
In truth, the main difference seems to come in the form of the number of different teams that have won the Premier League since its inception in the early 1990s. To date, seven different clubs have won the division, whilst five have won the German and Spanish leagues during the same period, for example. Given the excitement of the Premier League, how many points to teams tend to need to win it?
How Many Points Does It Take to Win the Premier League?
In the 29 Premier League seasons between 1993-94 and 2020-21, the average number of points earned by the league winners is 87.4 points. The highest winning points tally was Manchester City in 2017-18 with 100, the lowest was the 75 points of Manchester United in 1996-97.
The average points total required to win the league in this period is 80.4 points. Winning margins range from Manchester City’s 19 point gap to second place in 2017-18 to the same team’s title win on goal difference in 2011-12. Manchester United were the runner-up of both occasions.
The Winners Points
Let’s start by taking a look at every club that has won the Premier League since its creation in 1992. Manchester United remain the dominant force at the time of writing, winning it consistently throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Since big money clubs such as Chelsea and then Manchester City have come along, the Red Devils have found it much more difficult to maintain their supremacy.
Here’s a look at the number of points achieved by each of the Premier League champions, along with the points margin for the season in question, in order of total points.
Premier League Points Totals – 1992-93 to 2020-21
|Team||Season||Total Points||Winning Margin|
|Manchester City||2011-2012||89||0 (Goal Diff)|
You can see, then, that the spread of title-winning points total is pretty wide-ranging, from the 75 points that Manchester United racked up when winning the title in the 1996-1997 season through to the 100 points that their neighbours managed in 2017-2018.
How Many Points Are Needed To Win The Premier League?
The important thing to remember when reading the above section is that these are the totals reached by each title-winning club, not the number of points needed to actually win the league. Clubs often win the title with a number of games to spare, as evidence by the fact that it has really only gone to the wire eight or so times in the history of the competition.
In 2018-2019, for example, Liverpool were actually declared champions with seven games to go, having a 25 point gap over second-place Manchester City at the time. They did what is common for clubs once they’ve won the title and took their foot off the gas once it was secured, allowing City to bring the final points gap to a slightly more respectable 18 points by the end of the campaign.
That naturally leads onto the question, how many points are needed to win the Premier League, on average? It’s impossible to give an exact tally, such is the difference between what the various teams manage to achieve during a season. Manchester United’s 75 points was enough to win them the title in 1996-1997, but would have seen them finish third in the 2019-2020 season, 24 points off the eventual champions.
The main thing to remember is that there is a difference between the points totals that football clubs reach at the end of the season and the number of points that they need to actually win the Premier League title. As an example, Liverpool won just two points fewer than the 99 point total that they racked up in 2019-2020 a season earlier, but missed out on the title by a single point as Manchester City managed to get 98 on the board.
Between the 1992-1993 campaign and the 2019-2020 season, the average number of points eventually achieved by the champions was 87.4. This is not the same as the number of points that were won by the team when they actually had the title sewn up, however. When it comes to the points that were actually needed, this is essentially the number of points eventually achieved by the second-place side if they had a superior goal difference, or plus one point if they did not.
With that in mind, here’s how that looks for the past 29 seasons, with the points needed either being the same as the second-place side eventually managed if the winners had a superior goal difference or else one point more if they did not.
Obviously that is an imperfect system, given that we don’t know whether goal difference would have been enough to hand the eventual winners the title given that we’re going of the goal difference that they racked up at the end of the season rather than what it was when they hit the necessary points total, amongst other things. What it does give us, though, is a better sense of how many points are typically needed to win the league.
Regardless, what it shows is that the average number of points needed for a club to actually win the league, as opposed to how many points they eventually won, is 80.4. There are loads of mitigating circumstances to consider, but if a club were to rack up 80 points+ in a season then they would at least have a chance of winning the title more often than not, so that should be the target for clubs with title aspirations.
Closest Title Races
There have been numerous close-run title races over the years, though one of them unquestionably takes the biscuit in terms of drama and tension. Here are the closest that there have been over the years:
Closest Premier League Title Races – 1992-93 to 2020-21
|Season||1st Place (GD)||2nd Place (GD)||Winning Margin|
|2011-2012||89 Points (+64)||89 Points (+56)||0 Points (+8 Goals)|
|1997-1998||78 Points (+35)||77 Points (+47)||1 Point (-12 Goals)|
|1994-1995||89 Points (+41)||88 Points (+49)||1 Point (-8 Goals)|
|1998-1999||79 Points (+43)||78 Points (+42)||1 Point (+1 Goal)|
|2018-2019||98 Points (+72)||97 Points (+67)||1 Point (+5 Goals)|
|2009-2010||86 Points (+71)||85 Points (+58)||1 Point (+13 Goals)|
If you want a season to end in the most dramatic way possible then you want to watch the final game week of the 2011-2012 campaign. Manchester United and their neighbours Manchester City had been going hammer and tongs all season long, with the title going down to the final game of the season. City had a better goal difference than United, so all they needed to do was to win their match and they’d be crowned champions.
Wayne Rooney put United 1-0 up in their game against Sunderland, handing them the advantage, only for Pablo Zabaletta to score for City in their match against Queens Park Rangers. United beat Sunderland, with QPR 2-1 up against City as the final minutes ticket by. Edin Džeko scored an equaliser in the 92nd minute, meaning that the Cityzens needed just one goal to win their first title since 1968. Up popped Sergio Agüero in the 94th minute, handing City the title on goal difference.
If Manchester United’s win over Arsenal by a single point in the 1998-1999 season had an extra bite to it, it might well be because that’s the scoreline that the gunners beat United by the season before. Arsene Wenger became just the third manager to secure the title for his team, following in the footsteps of two Scots in Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish. It was a relatively low points total that won it for them, but no less exciting a campaign because of that.
It must have been extremely difficult for Manchester United supporters to cheer on Liverpool on the final day of the 1994-1995 season, but the only way that the Red Devils would be able to win the title was if they defeated West Ham at the same time as Liverpool beat Blackburn Rovers. For their part, Liverpool did indeed defeat Blackburn and the Reds’ former manager in Kenny Dalglish, but United could only draw 1-1 with the Hammers.
Liverpool supporters were more than happy to celebrate Blackburn’s title win, saluting ‘the King’ of the club in Dalglish, who had only left the Anfield hot-seat a few years before. Things might have been different for Manchester United, had Eric Cantona not been given an eight-month ban in the January of 1995 for drop-kicking a Crystal Palace supporter. Regardless, Dalglish got one over on his old foe Alex Ferguson.
Despite the fact that the 1998-1999 season went to the wire, with Manchester United winning the title over Arsenal by just a single point, it’s actually not really known for that. Instead, it is the campaign in which the Red Devils won a unique treble, adding the Champions League and the FA Cup to the Premier League title. It was their fifth title in seven years, demonstrating their dominance of the division.
There wasn’t as much tension heading into the final day of the 2018-2019 season as there maybe should have been, given that Liverpool and Manchester City could both have won the title after winning all of their games since January. A unlikely goal from Vincent Kompany the week before meant that the chance to win their first title for 30 years was out of Liverpool’s hands and they needed Brighton & Hove Albion to do them a favour.
There was a brief ripple of excitement around Anfield when Brighton took a one goal lead, but City scored four in reply and secured their 14th win in succession, ensuring that the title went back to The Etihad. Liverpool did their job of beating Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield, but it wasn’t enough to win the club the Premier League title it so craved. They did go on to win the Champions League, however, which acted as a consolation.
Chelsea and Manchester United were both vying for the title in the 2009-2010 season, with Alex Ferguson once again trying to get his side back to the top of the table in a battle against new-money Chelsea. Both sides could have won the trophy on the final day, but Carlo Ancelotti’s London-based club beat Wigan Athletic 8-0, meaning there was no real tension. United still did their job, though, beating Stoke City 4-0.
Just as there have been some close calls over the years, the Premier League has also witnessed it’s fair share of white-washes. When a club gets up a head of steam in England’s top-flight, they can genuinely take some stopping. There have also been occasions when the eventual points total hasn’t actually been that impressive, but the title winners have just been that much better than everyone else.
Here’s a table of the top points differences over the years, as well as a brief description of how the seasons panned out.
Widest Premier League Winning Margins – 1992-93 to 2020-21
|Season||Winning Team (Points)||Runner-Up (Points)||Margin|
|2017-2018||Manchester City (100)||Manchester United (81)||19 Points|
|1999-2000||Manchester United (91)||Arsenal (73)||18 Points|
|2019-2020||Liverpool (99)||Manchester City (81)||18 Points|
|2020-2021||Manchester City (86)||Manchester United (74)||12 Points|
|2004-2005||Chelsea (95)||Arsenal (83)||12 Points|
|2012-2013||Manchester United (89)||Manchester City (78)||11 Points|
|2003-2004||Arsenal (90)||Chelsea (79)||11 Points|
Having made their way into the upper echelons of English football thanks to the backing of a nation, Manchester City then appointed Pep Guardiola as their manager. The Spaniard had achieved great things with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but many wondered if he could do it in the Premier League. Having replaced Manuel Pellegrini, Guardiola saw his side finish third in his first season in charge at The Etihad.
The gap between City and Chelsea at the top of the league at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 Premier League season was 15 points, so the fact that City notched up 100 points and won the title at a canter in 2017-2018 is a truly impressive achievement. They became the first club to break the 100 point barrier, finishing 19 points clear of city rivals Manchester United and ending up with a goal difference of +79. Centurions!
Having dominated the Premier League during the 1990s, winning five of a possible seven titles since the competition’s creation, Alex Ferguson’s side started the new millennium as they meant to go on. They only lost three times all season, which was six fewer than their nearest competitor in Arsenal, drawing the same number of games as the Gunners in seven.
Having won the previous campaign by just a single point, the 18 point margin that the finished the 1999-2000 campaign by was hugely impressive. Unlike the previous season, however, they failed to win the Champions League or the FA Cup. The latter competition wasn’t even on the radar of the Red Devils, having withdrawn from it in order to take part in the FIFA World Club Championship that year.
At the end of the 2018-2019 season, many football pundits thought that Liverpool would fall away. The Reds had finished second in the Premier League numerous times, but rather than go one step further the year after had always ended up falling apart. That they lost out on the title by a single point to Manchester City no doubt also hurt Jürgen Klopp’s entertaining side.
Yet the German’s team was made of stronger stuff than those that had gone before, as proven by their comeback against Barcelona in the Champions League in 2018-2019. Having lost 3-0 in the first-leg of their semi-final, the Merseyside club won the second-leg 4-0 and went on to win the competition. So it was that they were incredibly impressive in the Premier League in 2019-2020, eventually winning the title with an 18-point margin.
Liverpool may have been the defending champions but it was Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City who began the 2020-21 campaign as the favourites. The Citizens had a stuttering start however finding themselves in 13th position after eight games having drawn on three occasions and been defeated twice including a 5-2 home thrashing by Leicester City.
It took City until matchweek 20 before they reached pole position at the expense of rivals Manchester United and from that point on there was no looking back, eventually winning with a 12 point margin, scoring 83 goals and conceding just 32 times along the way. Pep’s men also picked up a fourth straight EFL Cup during this campaign but suffered disappointment Champions League Final after a 1-0 loss to Chelsea.
Despite having hundreds of millions of pounds pumped into the club by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Chelsea had failed to make a decent mark on the Premier League prior to the 2004-2005 season. Enter José Mourinho, the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ who had won the Champions League with Porto the season before. More money spent and a talented manager at the helm meant only one thing for the rest of the division.
When the final points totals were added together, Chelsea finished top of the Premier League by a gap of 12 points ahead of their London rivals Arsenal. They also won the League Cup that season and might well have added the Champions League trophy to their cabinet, had Liverpool not knocked them out of that competition at the semi-final stage before going on to win it in dramatic fashion in Istanbul.
Just as London clubs Chelsea and Arsenal went head-to-head in 2003-2004 after one of them had spent huge amounts of money, so too did the two Manchester-based clubs in City and United compete over the title after one of them had been splashing the cash around in 2012-2013. Considering City had won the title in such dramatic fashion the year before, thanks to a last-minute Sergio Aguero winner, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were in the ascendancy.
Of all of Alex Ferguson’s gifts as a manager, however, the main one was always the ability to get his team to respond well to adversity. They did just that in 2012-2013, having the title sewn up by April for the first time in nearly a decade. It meant that the Scot had led the Red Devils to 13 titles in 21 seasons, allowing him to retire as one of the best managers of all time thanks to an 11-point lead in his final campaign, with David Moyes coming in to replace him.
The arrival of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea changed the face of English football for good, with the London club spending heavily in an attempt to win the Premier League title with manager Claudio Ranieri. They spent as much as £100 million on new players, which contrasted greatly with the signing of just Jens Lehmann by Arsenal. Arsene Wenger knew what it take to win a Premier Leaguer title, however, and did just that.
Not only did the Frenchman win the title but he did it in impressive style, using the talent of Thierry Henry to great effect as the Gunners notched up 90 points, finishing 11 clear of Chelsea. Not only did they win the title, but they did so without losing a single game, becoming just the second team to be ‘Invincible’ during a top-flight campaign after Preston North End had managed it 115 years earlier when there were only 22 games in a season.