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Revealed: Exactly what sort of team wins the EPL!

 

By Sammy The Snake

When I listen to my heart, I am fully confident that Arsenal will go on to win lift this season’s EPL title in May, even if it’s just by a single point as it stands today.

But when I read or listen to “experts” on the subject, I get convinced that we are simply outsiders who have no place in the top 3, and that we will soon be exposed for what we truly are: Struggling for 4th. Arsenal are absolutely and categorically doomed!

This got me to think, what wins the EPL? What quality, performance and results would a team need to have in order to be crowned champions?  Apart from a few helping whistles from the refs here and there, which has been elaborated sufficiently on Untold, what characteristics have previous champions possessed? I dug up the historical charts and found out.

The simplest answer is that the team with the most points wins the league. But how many points is enough? Does a team with free scoring offence wins it by default? Or does the best defence make a championship side? Let me share with you the raw historical data.

Season Winner Pts Best Offense Best Defense Best GD
1992/3 ManU 84 BlackB: 68 ManU: 31 ManU: 36
1993/4 ManU 92 Newcas: 82 Arsenal: 28 ManU: 42
1994/5 Black B 89 BlackB: 80 ManU: 28 ManU: 49
1995/6 ManU 82 ManU: 73 Arsenal: 32 ManU: 38
1996/7 ManU 75 ManU: 76 Arsenal: 32 Newcst: 33
1997/8 Arsenal 78 ManU: 73 ManU: 26 ManU: 47
1998/9 ManU 79 ManU: 80 Arsenal: 17 ManU: 43
1999/0 ManU 91 ManU: 97 Liverpool: 30 ManU: 52
2000/1 ManU 80 ManU: 79 ManU: 31 ManU: 48
2001/2 Arsenal 87 ManU: 87 Liverpool: 30 Arsenal: 43
2002/3 ManU 83 Arsenal: 85 ManU: 34 Arsenal: 43
2003/4 Arsenal 90 Arsenal: 73 Arsenal: 26 Arsenal: 47
2004/5 Chelsea 95 Arsenal: 87 Chelsea: 15 Chelsea: 57
2005/6 Chelsea 91 Chel/MU: 72 Chelsea: 22 Chelsea: 50
2006/7 ManU 89 ManU: 83 Chelsea: 24 ManU: 56
2007/8 ManU 87 ManU: 80 ManU: 22 ManU: 58
2008/9 ManU 90 Liverpl: 77 ManU: 24 Liverpl: 50
2009/0 Chelsea 86 Chelsea: 103 ManU: 28 Chelsea: 71
2010/1 ManU 80 ManU: 78 Chel/MnC: 33 ManU: 41
2011/2 ManC 89 ManC: 93 ManC: 29 ManC:64
2012/3 ManU 89 ManU: 86 ManC: 34 ManU: 43
2000/4 ? ManC: 63 Arsenl/Evet:19 ManC:38

I look at the past 21 seasons of EPL as two distinct parts. The “formative years” (first 11 seasons) were followed by what I call the “modern era” (the past 10 seasons since 2003/04). It is in the modern era that the vast amount of money started to pump into certain clubs. This is the period when untraceable money (i.e. Russian who became oligarch overnight) flowed into mid table teams and changed competition forever. Let’s not forget, the current darlings of the media were tier 2 teams not so long ago (Chelsea in late 80’s, ManCity in late 90’s as far I recollect).

In the modern era, Arsenal have been busy building and paying for their majestic stadium while money has been flowing endlessly to some clubs translating in part to some tangible success (trophies) and countless losses.

Points

In the 21 years of EPL, the average points required to be crowned champions is 86. This jumps to nearly 89 points in the modern era, which is rather surprising. I would have thought more competition would result in fewer points at the end of the season, but it’s not so.

While Arsenal won EPL with just 78 points in 97/98, ManU have the record lowest total points with 75 points in 96/97.

In the modern era, however, 70% of seasons have been won by 89 points or more! That means it takes a lot more points these days…

In fact, in both last two years, the champion had amassed 89 points.

So it’s safe to assume one of the requirements for winning the title is to reach 89 points. Arsenal have so far 51 points from 22 games, which would translate to 88 points in total. Is that enough? Only time will tell.

If you take ManC or Chelsea points so far, and extrapolate them for 38 games, you’ll get 86 and 84.6 points respectively. But then the argument becomes “But ManC are scoring goals for fun, and they just hit 100 for the season….”.

Best offence

It must be needless to say that having a potent strike force is important for a team that wants to win the EPL, but is it essential?

I have highlighted the seasons in which the best offence was crowned champions. On 15 occasions, the champions have indeed had the best offence in the league. But not for the other 6 seasons!

In the modern era, 8 of 10 seasons were won by the best offence. On 2 occasions, the champion did not have the best goal scoring record.

I think that simply proves that while scoring a lot of goals will help, it is not the deciding factor. You can score a lot, but also concede lots too. A team might score a lot in some games, but then go out and lose the next game, which would make it pointless. Our win against Fulham could have been 6-0, but they would only allocate 3 points and no more.

So, yes, it is nice for ManC to score lots of goals, but that will not translate directly into points. The best case would be 2004/05 when Arsenal outscored everyone (87 total) but Chelsea won the league by a record (till this date) of 95 points.

Best Defence

Defence is the other school of thought about winning by defending.

In the early seasons of EPL, only 3 of 11 champions had the best defence in the league! In the modern era, the champions had the best defence 70% of the time. I can only conclude that defensive qualities are becoming more important as competition increases. This is something against the claims of the pundits who say “defensive qualities are going lower”.

The classic example of this is, of course, Chelsea and their 2004/05 season when they scored less than Arsenal but conceded only 15 throughout the season.

Arsenal’s 19 goals conceded is surely higher than Chelsea’s 04/05 record, but it is still the joint-best in the league along with Everton (who are not a title contender in my book).

So keeping a healthy defence helps a team win the title, but again, it’s not all of it.  Man C, having conceded 25 already, are not helping their cause by conceding the odd goal here and there.

Best GD

So if both offence and defence are partially deciding factors, then the “Goal Difference” column must be the one major quality associated with champions. Right?

As we all know, only one team won the title by GD alone, the lucky class of 2011/12… Man City!

Throughout the years, the champions have had the best GD in 15 of the 21 seasons. The bad news is, this ratio becomes 90% in the modern era. Yes, on 9 of the past 10 seasons, the champions had the best goal difference.

But there is that one season, in 2008/09, when Liverpool had the best GD, but yet Man U lifted the trophy.

Our current GD is 24, Chelsea has 23, whereas ManC stands at 38. Can we catch up? Probably not! We’re probably better concentrating on racking up the points instead of trying to win our games by 5 goals.

Best Offence, Defence & GD

On only 6 occasions, the title winners had a perfect record of most points, the best offence, the best defence and the best GD. That’s Man U (2000/01, 2007/08, 2012/13), Arsenal (2003/04 invincibles), Chelsea (2005/06, although joint best offence with ManU) and ManCity (2011/12). This is pretty hard to do, and we can assume that it won’t be the case this season.

How about the flip side?

Can a team win the EPL without achieving any of best offence, defence or GD? The answer is no. No team in the 21 years of EPL has been able to win without any of these accolades.

The closest you can come to this is ManU in 2002/03 when they had the best defence but Arsenal had the best offence and GD. This can be a good model for the current season, but the occurrence is too few to make us feel too hopeful.

Does that mean Arsenal’s job is difficult? Yes. Is it impossible? No.

I heard someone say the league is like a marathon, you must conserve your energy for the entire length of the campaign. I sometimes wonder if ManC, fighting on 4 fronts, can continue to look like a storm for the entire season, or if they will lose their power as the season ages.

Has Man C peaked too early? Mourinho’s Chelsea are the masters in playing badly but getting good results. Can they do it despite being 3rd, without the best defence, offence or GD? Or are Arsenal conserving their energy in order to last the whole season? Only time will tell, and for now, we have nothing better to do than discuss it among us.

Win, lose or draw, Gooner till I die!

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32 comments to Revealed: Exactly what sort of team wins the EPL!

  • Sammy thanks so much for this. Apologies that your excellent chart looks squashed – Word Press is a bugger of a program for charts and it was the best I could do.

    But more important, I have often railed against journalists and clubs that argue that they are now improving and going for the top four.

    what they have to take into account, and what you so clearly show, is that the top four are constantly improving.

    A performance that could have achieved top four five years back would not do it now.

    Great piece. Thanks for publishing it with Untold.

  • Millz

    I think you should have explored the current argument pundits are issuing, which is “to win the league you need to win against the big teams”. Look through the last 20 years and work out how many points the champions took off teams ranked 8th and above. It will prove once and for all whether the pundits argument for Arsenal not being capable of winning the league has any validity.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Quite a few surprises there ,Sammy . Slow and steady with us matching ( or bettering )the others’ weekly results should take us over the line .
    Up the Gunners !

  • Stuart

    Millz,
    That was explored in a previous article by Walter, although I can’t remember the name of it but if you go back through the archives it will be there. Maybe someone even has a link to it – I think it actually covered the top 6.

  • Shubham

    I feel, like few previous years, the points tally needed to win the title will be around 87-90. No team will get more points than that because of strong competition this year (unless ManC smashes all teams in the remaining fixtures). To get to this total, Arsenal will have to pick up points against lower placed teams and avoid losing to other challengers. It is a tough ask but doable. Defensive solidity has provided the team with an excellent platform to nick points when things are not going well. That is the key difference from earlier seasons which needs to be cultivated further. The team will have to take one game at a time and execute the plan. There is still a long way to go. So, may the most consistent team win (Hope that is Arsenal)!

  • Pete

    It is not surprising that the winning points requirement has trended up (would be interesting to know how many points the runners up got): in the “formative years” the game wasn’t distorted by external money being pumped in so that no one was that far in front of the others. Now, the extra expenditure by Man C and Chelsea is taking them further and further away from the rest. It would have been inconceivable 10 years ago that two, erstwhile mid-table teams, could consistently outspend Man Utd.

  • Armin

    Just made quick TOP5 tabele:
    1) Citeh – 9 points
    2) KGB – 8 points
    3) Arsenal – 7 points
    4) Liverpo – 3 points
    5) TT – 1 point

    So noting really. We are still one point clear on top.

  • James(Nairobi)

    In all honesty,for us to win the league,we’ll need 39 points out of the possible 48.

    That means that we either win at LEAST 13/16 remaining games OR we win 12 games,draw 3 and lose only ONE.

    This means that we have to avoid defeat at The Bridge(0-0){I know Chelsea will not win at the Etihad},beat City at The Emirates and beat both Liverpool and United.

    My greater worry is to drop points in games we’re expected to win,especially at Stoke and the relegation-fighting opponents.

  • Obidude

    The question should be has a team won the league with no world class striker but weak striker like Giroud?

  • Sammy The Snake

    Just a little update:
    Our 19 goals conceded in now the best defence in the league, since Everton drew 1-1 last night! COYG.

  • Mick

    @Obidude
    Given that we have played 22 games so far with a ‘weak striker’, as you insultingly and disparagingly call Giroud and yet are still currently top then the answer to your question would logically be yes, we can be crowned champions in May. Liverpool have a world class striker and look where they are, 8 points behind.

  • Armin

    @Mick
    No, Obidude is right, we really need world class striker, I don’t know, maybe at least Torres or Caroll if we couldn’t afford Soldado.

  • Mick

    @Armin
    Where did I say say we do not need another quality striker.
    I was objecting to Obidude insultingly describing Giroud as ‘weak’ and making the point that we are still top despite the striker shortage. Giroud is not weak, he may not score as many goals as other strikers but he has many other admirable strengths which have contributed immensely to our current position.

  • Armin

    @Mick
    Please read my post by end and you ll see I am at your side 🙂

  • Mick

    @Armin
    Sorry mate, I am slow on the uptake today.

  • John

    When did Carroll become world class?

  • Armin

    @John
    Same day when Giroud became weak. But comparing prices … Scousers paid him 30 millions or so? So that mean in Obidude world Carroll is 3 times classier than Olivier. 🙂

  • Stuart

    James(Nairobi),

    I did some numbers for past seasons and came up with the following:-

    Season 12/13
    Last 16 games we got 33 points
    The champions ended on 89 points

    Season 11/12
    Last 16 games we got 33 points
    The champions ended on 89 points

    Season 10/11
    Last 16 games we got 25 points
    The champions ended on 80 points

    Season 09/10
    Last 16 games we got 27 points
    The champions ended on 86 points

    Personally I am none the wiser after checking this out as historically we have done better in the second half of the season (remember the great escape?) and yet if have the same kind of performances for the remainder of this season, we wont have as many points as the winners in previous seasons – at most we are looking at 84 points.

    It’s all ifs buts and maybes of course though as no one knows what is going to happen but still interesting to consider.

  • Stuart

    Good question John. Not seen it myself.

  • @Armin that’s cool, @ Obidue can u just read the post nd comment nd leave out ur house hold friends discussion out the comment page.
    @Sammy big up to you, really enjoy ur Article

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Where are the Tarot card readers , Ouija boarders ,
    Chinese fortune cookies aficionados ,tea leaves gazers and the chicken bones scatterers with their research findings ?
    The Mayans ? Nah – they always get it wrong !

  • Gord

    Nice work Sammy.

    Most of the papers I’ve read about predicting football have suggested that goal difference is better at indicating which team is better. The other general conclusion, is that not enough goals are scored in football.

    Which has nothing directly to do with who wins the league.

    Wenger seems to be a fan of efficiency. For him, to win a game by 1 goal is probably better than to win by 4 goals. I think part of this may be that to score goals, often places the player at risk of injury. Better to win and not get injured, than to win and get injured.

    Just thinking out loud below.

    —–

    I like the 3 points for a win, as it broke the fact that a win and a loss was the same as two ties. But, I think they could have done a little better, and that would be to add that in order to get any points, one must score. And that only effects a 0-0 tie.

    If people would like to get more goals in football, there needs to be a reward. Points. Does a person have just a single reward? To score 5 is unusual, so perhaps a bonus point at 5 goals is in order? Want more goals? A second bonus at 9 goals?

    I think the 0-0 rule change is useful in that it makes parking the bus more expensive. Bonus points for high scoring would greatly complicate how managers plan a season.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Gord,
    I would completely agree with no points for a 0-0.

    It would force managers to come out completely and would make parking the bus meaningless or ..pointless 😉

  • OMGArsenal

    Armin…..what planet do you live on where Torres, Caroll or Soldado are considered world class strikers? Soldado is a semi-flop at the Tiny Totts, Carroll and Torres are total flops at their respective EPL Clubs. Try learning about Football before embarrassing yourself on UA.

  • Pete

    OMG – I can only assume Armin was being sarcastic. But sarcasm is hard to make work in written form…

  • Sammy The Snake

    OMG, I think Armin was suggesting those expensive but failed players sarcastically. At least I hope so… 🙂

  • TJ

    Good piece, although if you had gone back another couple of years with the research you would have seen that we won the title in 89 on goals scored when we finished level on points and GD, but Liverpool had a better defensive record.

    What I do not agree with in the article is the suggestion that City have peaked, as I think when you look at their improved results under the new manager and the depth of their squad there is more to come. I also think Chelski will get stronger, again based on their recent improvement and depth of their squad. Just look at the squad of players both these teams have- that is the reason the ‘experts’ are predicting Arsenal will finish behind them. I mean if you HAD to put your house and life- savings on who would finish 1, 2 and 3 in that order, or you would lose everything, who would you select?

    I think the suggestion that Arsenal could be consciously conserving their energy in order to last the whole season is preposterous and any sports psychologist will back that up. One thing for sure, if we win the title this season it will be Arsenals and Wengers greatest league victory ever, and the sweetest one of my lifetime…until the next!

  • ” more competition would result in fewer points ” , EPL was never a competitive league. Its just marketing ploy to immerse the purists, It has always been the most entertaining though and it will remain so. the smaller teams pull off one surprise for every year and tv jounos will be screaming how competitive the league is and forget the same when a small team gets hammered. Its been the same format each yr. I watch it for its entertainment value not its competitiveness. Competition comes up only when there is a level playing field which we know is not the case in EPL for various reasons money, people in powerful positions making “mistakes” etc.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I am for a 1000% sure that Armin his comment was sarcastic. It gave me a chuckle right away 😉

  • Armin

    Walter I was serious, very very serious, we are trapped in negative spiral of results because of lack of world class attacker.
    We desperately need one so we can at least be level on point with Man United. Relaying only on Giroud and what we have, we can hardly make it to Europa league and has to satisfy only fighting for Premier League top and Champions League. Sorry OMG if you don’t see truth in my words…eh if we only bought Soldado and Lamela. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • menace

    The article had the truth in it. The team with the most points wins unless there is a tie then Goal difference is considered. The 2nd half of a season is not really a consistent measure. Injuries or match concentration van make a difference.

    Our team is excellent but we need insurance as our protection is non-existent. The officials turn a blind eye to nasty tackles and need an occasional kick to realise what pain is (perhaps an elbow on the nose). Wenger is fully aware of the short comings of the balance in the team but cannot imagine the horrors of blind officiating (even after seeing 3 blatant broken leg tackles).

    In my view it is time for Arsenal to involve police and the courts when officials & the FA are ineffective against GBH on the football pitch. I am sure Walter as a referee has a more considered view on this aspect.

    Win one game at a time and we win everything – score does not matter.

  • Mandy Dodd

    An interesting read, some stuff I for one had not realised.
    My main worry is that injuries…and of course officials could cause us a few problems.

    Anyone else wish we had not made more of this guy below…who is now tearing it up in Italy? There may come a time this season when we could do with such a player. Thanks AAA
    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/football/coppa-italia/2013-2014/as-roma-juventus-644300.html