As a second installment in the "best of the decade" series, here are the decade's best defensive teams in the English Premier League as measured by goals conceded per match. By far and away, Chelsea's 04/05 squad conceded the fewest goals per match, at a rate of less than .4. In contrast, most of the decade's best defensive teams conceded around .6 goals per match and about half of what the average team concedes - still not bad, and good enough to land on the Top 20 list.
Noticeably, the list is entirely composed of squads fielded by Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United, and Liverpool. But something else pops out: given that we are looking at 20 teams from 10 seasons, does the list include each season's champions? As a handy way to assess this, I color coded the above chart to indicate the champions in solid orange, the runners-up in light orange, and teams that finished elsewhere in the table in blue. Turns out, the answer is not exactly, but close. 7 of the 10 championship teams during the decade also had the league's best defensive performance (as measured here). And 6 other teams in the Top 20 were runners-up.
The reason we have some teams in the Top 20 that were neither champions or runners-up has to do with the fact that there are some seasons when the top teams were particularly stingy when it came to goals conceded. So, for example and very unusually, all four clubs made the Top 20 list for the 07/08 season. And interestingly, the 06/07 Chelsea team had a better defensive record than eventual champions Manchester United
Settle any arguments yet? Probably not, so stay tuned for further explorations of the decade's Top 20.