Who Are the Most Successful EPL Teams of All Time?
So you want to know exactly who are the most successful EPL teams of all time? You’ve come to the perfect spot!
The English Premier League is by far the biggest thing in club soccer – but it’s been around only a little over 30 years. That’s a drop in the bucket for a sport that was played in London as far back as the early 1300s. Even if you stick with what’s known officially as “association football,” that began well over 150 years ago, with the formation of Sheffield FC in 1857.
Soccer has obviously changed a lot since then. What began as amateur sport is now big business; in 1992, the teams in the top flight of the English Football League decided to carve out the largest slice possible for themselves. Out went the First Division, and in came the FA Premier League, which begins its 2023-24 campaign this Friday (3 PM ET) when the defending champions from Manchester City face Burnley at Turf Moor.
There’s no question that Manchester City are the most dominant team in the Premier League today, thanks to all that Sheikh Mansour money – and the failure to hold them accountable for their spending violations. However, as impressive as City’s seven EPL titles since the 2008 takeover may be, they had only two reigns as First Division champions, in 1936-37 and again in 1967-68.
As much as soccer’s new overlords would like us to forget about the English Football League in general, this sport is far too steeped in history and tradition for us to put Manchester City at the top of the most successful EPL teams of all time list here at Bodog Sportsbook. Instead, we’re ranking the top teams by combined First Division/EPL titles, starting with a team that won’t even be playing in the Premier League this year.
7. Sunderland (six titles)
Best Season: 1935-36 (25 wins, six draws, 11 losses for 56 points)
Best Manager: Tom Watson (1888-1896)
Best Player: Charlie Hurley (centre half, 1957-1969)
Unfortunately for Sunderland, they haven’t been in the Premier League since they finished last in 2016-17, which makes it all the more surprising to see them feature in our list of the most successful EPL teams of all time. But at least they’re back in the Championship after a four-year spell in League One, although returning to the EPL anytime soon is unlikely now that they no longer receive “parachute payments” from the top flight – that money ran out in 2020.
There was a time when the Black Cats were the toast of the town. That was shortly after their formation in 1879-80, when Sunderland was still the “Team of All Talents” led by the league’s top scorer, John Campbell. Campbell steered the Cats to back-to-back titles in 1891-92 and 1892-93, and a third in 1894-95.
Sunderland would eventually win again in 1901-02, 1912-13 and 1935-36, scoring a franchise-record 109 goals during what proved to be their last championship season in the top flight. Their only notable success since then is their two FA Cup wins in 1937 and 1973.
7. Chelsea (six)
Best Season: 2004-05 (29-8-1 for 95 points)
Best Manager: Jose Mourinho (2004-2007, 2013-2015)
Best Player: Frank Lampard (midfielder, 2001-2014)
Before Sheikh Mansour and Man City came along, it was Roman Abramovich using his Russian oligarch money to turn Chelsea into a soccer powerhouse. The Blues were founded in 1905, but didn’t win a First Division title until 1954-55, after Ted Drake was hired as manager and the club started taking their sport a bit more seriously.
There have been some highlight moments since then, including several FA Cup victories and a pair of Cup Winners’ Cups (1970-71, 1997-98), but it wasn’t until Abramovich bought the team in 2003 that they joined soccer’s elite. The turnaround was almost immediate: back-to-back EPL titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06, with “The Special One” Jose Mourinho at the controls.
Three more titles (2009-10, 2014-15, 2016-17) would follow, with Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge for his third championship with Chelsea. He’s an easy choice for best Blues manager of all time. For best player, we went with Lampard over teammates John Terry and Didier Drogba, but any of the three would suffice. Will Todd Boehly and the new ownership group be as willing to spend for this level of talent as Abramovich was before his disqualification from the league in 2022?
6. Aston Villa (seven)
Best Season: 1980-81 (26-8-8 for 60 points)
Best Manager: George Ramsay (1886-1926)
Best Player: Gordon Cowans (midfielder; 1976-1985, 1988-1991, 1993-94)
Aston Villa is a textbook example of a well-entrenched soccer powerhouse that failed to keep up once the money got huge – ironic, since it was their former centre forward George Ramsay who was hired in 1886 as the first officially paid professional manager in soccer history.
Ramsay may have been the greatest manager of all time. Using the ground-breaking quick passes that he learned and developed as a player, Villa won five First Division titles in seven seasons during the 1890s, then a sixth in 1909-10. It would take another seven decades for them to win their seventh.
What a team that was, though. As with Chelsea, we could have chosen any of several players as the best in club history, with Gordon Cowans, Peter Withe and Charlie Aitken among those from the 1980-81 squad deserving recognition. Maybe we’re in for another Villa renaissance after they finished seventh on last year’s table.
5. Manchester City (nine)
Best Season: 2017-18 (32-4-2 for 100 points)
Best Manager: Pep Guardiola (2016-present)
Best Player: David Silva (midfielder, 2010-2020)
To be fair, Manchester City do have a rich history of their own, even if they had limited success before the United Arab Emirates came along. This used to be the team of choice for blue-collar Mancunians; beating Manchester United for the 1967-68 title on the last day of the season was like the Brooklyn Dodgers beating the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series.
That was then, this is now, and there is no way we could leave them out from our list of most successful EPL teams of all time. City have become division-killers since their 2008 takeover, even more so since Pep Guardiola took the managerial reins in 2016. And they just keep getting better. We have the exquisite David Silva as our top player for the Sky Blues, but only because Erling Haaland – who scored an EPL-record 36 goals last year – has been with them for only one season so far.
5. Everton (nine)
Best Season: 1984-85 (28-6-8 for 90 points)
Best Manager: Howard Kendall (1981-1987, 1990-1993, 1997-98)
Best Player: Dixie Dean (centre forward, 1925-1937)
The Toffees are poster boys for consistency in English soccer. They’ve been in the top flight in all but four seasons since helping to found the Football League in 1888, enjoying multiple title runs across the decades. And nobody has scored more goals in the First Division/EPL than Everton’s 7,195 heading into the 2023-24 campaign.
Nobody outscored Dixie Dean, either. Haaland may own the EPL record, but Dean scored 60 goals (!) for Everton in 1927-28. That remains the record today across all levels of English soccer. Dean led the Toffees to the title that year, then another in 1931-32, and ended his Everton career with 349 goals in 399 matches.
Everton’s most recent spell of success was in the 1980s under manager Howard Kendall, including titles in 1984-85 and 1986-87. Will that prove to be their peak? The Toffees have yet to be relegated from the Premier League, but they’re hanging by a thread after finishing 16th two years ago and 17th last season.
3. Arsenal (13)
Best Season: 2003-04 (26-12-0 for 90 points)
Best Manager: Arsene Wenger (1996-2018)
Best Player: Thierry Henry (forward; 1999-2007, 2012)
Now we’re getting into soccer royalty. Arsenal have only been relegated once since reaching the First Division in 1904, and that was way back in 1913. This will be their 105th consecutive season in the top flight.
The Gunners haven’t won the title since their 2003-04 “Invincibles” season, part of a 49-match undefeated streak that set the record for English soccer. But they did continue to finish in the top four repeatedly under manager Arsene Wenger; between that and his two previous titles in 1997-98 and 2001-02, Wenger gets our nod as top Arsenal manager ahead of Herbert Chapman, the architect of their amazing run through the early 1930s.
Thierry Henry is an easier choice over Invincibles teammate Dennis Bergkamp, but these two striking partners were the Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the English Premiership. Henry would later insist that Bergkamp was his best-ever teammate – not Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
2. Liverpool (19)
Best Season: 2019-20 (32-3-3 for 99 points)
Best Manager: Bill Shankly (1959-1974)
Best Player: Kenny Dalglish (forward, 1977-1990)
They may be No. 2 on this list, but the Reds are No. 1 in the hearts of millions of soccer fans around the world. They’re also first overall when it comes to victories (2,035), points (7,166) and goal differential (+2,040), as well as their 14 international trophies.
Liverpool are also the only side other than Manchester City to win the EPL title since 2017. But as incredible as that 2019-20 team was, manager Jurgen Klopp still has some work to do before he catches up to Bill Shankly. The Reds were in the Second Division when Shankly was hired in 1959; by the time he left 15 years later, they’d won three titles, two FA Cups and the 1972-73 UEFA Cup.
Mohamed Salah might be a bit closer to overtaking Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool’s top player of all time. Dalglish already had great success with Celtic before arriving in 1977 and racking up six league titles – then he had a successful third chapter as Liverpool’s manager from 1985-1991, adding three more titles to the Reds’ trophy case.
1. Manchester United (20)
Best Season: 1993-94 (27-11-4 for 92 points)
Best Manager: Alex Ferguson (1986-2013)
Best Player: Bobby Charlton (midfielder/forward, 1956-1973)
As much animosity as there is between the two sides of the Manchester Derby, it’s nothing compared to the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United. For the most part, the Reds (representing those same blue-collar fans as City) had the better of the Northwest Derby until Matt Busby took over as United’s manager in 1945. “Busby’s Babes” would go on to dominate the 1950s, winning three titles before the Munich Air Disaster of 1958.
Bobby Charlton survived that crash and went on to greater fame as the captain of England’s national team, which won their first and only World Cup in 1966. But his body of work with the Red Devils was absolutely stellar, enough to make him our top United player by a nose over Ryan Giggs and George Best. Charlton finished his United career with three First Division titles, plus the 1962-63 FA Cup and the 1967-68 European Cup.
If Jurgen Klopp wants to surpass Bill Shankly as Liverpool’s all-time best manager, he might have to do what Alex Ferguson did at Manchester United. Only someone with Ferguson’s bona fides could eclipse Busby as United’s top boss:
- 13 Premier League titles
- five FA Cups
- six international titles
- multiple Greatest Manager of All Time awards
Ferguson had a lot of great players to work with, of course. The list is almost endless: Giggs, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham are just the tip of the United iceberg. But Ferguson took these players and did what no English team had done before, winning the continental treble (Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League) in 1998-99.
Following in Ferguson’s footsteps proved impossible for David Moyes – and Louis Van Gaal, and even Jose Mourinho. However, much like post-Wenger Arsenal, United have remained near the top of the table since Ferguson’s departure, and they have a real shot at upending Manchester City now that Erik ten Hag is in charge.
It won’t be easy. As we go to press, City are the –140 favourites in Bodog’s EPL betting futures, followed by Arsenal (+500), Liverpool (+700) and United (+1100). Make your picks right now as we get ready for what could be the craziest Premier League season yet.
The most successful EPL teams of all time can’t really be debated, but just who is your favourite team? Let us know on Twitter!