HOW hard can it be to retain the Premier League title?

It has only happened 24 times since Preston won the first Football League Championship in 1889.

Chelsea are showing how difficult it is to beat that second season syndrome as they linger near the bottom of the league.

Jose Mourinho paid the price with his job last week after suffering the now customary routine of bringing glory to his club one season and struggling to do it the next.

But was he a failure or is it just simply so much harder to win back-to-back titles these days?

Chelsea are not the only club to have suffered in search of retaining the Premier League title.

Over the last six years no club has managed to do it.

In four of those years the reigning champions have finished second. That’s like doing enough to make a decent fist of it without going the extra mile it takes to be champions again.

Chelsea, while they may have won their first post-Mourinho match, are doing a lot worse than most reigning champions. They even have little chance of emulating those four second-placers and are more likely to follow in the footsteps of David Moyes’ Manchester United whose attempt to back up Alex Ferguson’s title resulted in the limpest of effort which also cost him his job.

Moyes’ United and this season’s Chelsea aren’t the only ones who have struggled more than most the season after the celebration.

Back in 1995-96 Blackburn Rovers made a feeble title defence and three years earlier, in the first season of the Premier League, Leeds United followed up winning the last-ever Football League Division One by finishing 17th in the first Premier League.

That’s nothing compared to Manchester City’s efforts to retain the first ever title they won in 1937. They weren’t so bad in front of the opposition goal the following season, scoring more than any other team in the league, but they still managed to go down and are still the only team to have won England’s top division one year and been relegated the next.

So why do teams find it so hard to defend their title?

The accepted principle goes it’s hard to win the title and twice as hard to retain it.

But that doesn’t seem to be consistent in other sports.

Steven Redgrave won gold medals in five consecutive Olympic Games - he even said after the fourth that people could shoot him if he ever went near a boat again.

The point of that was that he had felt the intensity of winning the ultimate prize, but then he went and lived through it and won it a fifth time four years later.

Mo Farah, too, has beaten the Kenyans and Ethiopians at 5,000m and 10,000m at the last Olympics and two World Championships – which in football is like beating Man City, United, Arsenal and Chelsea put together.

The list is endless in other sports – Australia and New Zealand’s great cricket and rugby union teams, respectively, not to mention the many boxers who follow one super human title victory with another.

It might not just be English football clubs which struggle to follow up glory with more glory these days, but it certainly feels like it.

Which, if the general pattern of the last six years continues, City will follow up last season’s second place with the title this time round and this year’s second placers – who will be Arsenal for my money – should finally lift the title next season… but they won’t because it’s Arsenal.