By Tony Attwood
A while back a correspondent on Untold mentioned that he thought it was fair to expect that Arsenal should either win the league or be challenging to win the league each season. I produced some statistics to show how rarely this happened, not just with Arsenal, but with all clubs across all recent seasons.
In fact the lack of the same one or two teams at the top of the league all the time is what marks the Premier League out from the German league or the Spanish league where one (in Germany) or two (in Spain) teams most of the time divide the league up between them.
During the past 16 seasons the Premier League has only been retained three times. Given that this won’t happen this season, we can make that three out of 17. Chelsea has done it once, Man U twice (when in fact they won the league three times running). The last time it happened was nine years ago.
But I thought it would be interesting to see how many times we have had a team end up in top two (irrespective of whether they won the league or came second) in consecutive seasons in the Premier League. The answer is…
- Man U 7
- Chelsea 5
- Arsenal 4
- Man C 3
I started to wonder why this was not happening more, and in doing so also started to wonder what happens to the second placed and third placed teams.
Looking at this I pondered how often a team moved from second one season to winning the next. That turned out to be fairly common:
- From 2nd to 1st: Arsenal (twice) Chelsea (once) Man U (three times) Man C (once).
In other words a team that comes second one year has a 50% chance of winning the league the next year. But that’s all. It is just 50/50.
So what about the third placed team – can they be seen to have a good chance of going from third up to top of the league the following season?
- From 3rd to 1st: Man U, Chelsea twice, Man C once:
This shows the third place team one season, based on the figures from this century, havs a 24% chance of winning the league the following century.
Which means that teams from outside the top 3 one season have a 26% chance of winning the league in the following season.
Interestingly however having the top scorer doesn’t always help
|2001–02||Arsenal||Liverpool||Man U||Thierry Henry (Arsenal)|
|2002–03||Man U||Arsenal||Newcastle||Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man U)|
|2003–04||Arsenal||Chelsea||Man U||Thierry Henry (Arsenal)|
|2004–05||Chelsea||Arsenal||Man U||Thierry Henry (Arsenal)|
|2005–06||Chelsea||Man U||Liverpool||Thierry Henry (Arsenal)|
|2006–07||Man U||Chelsea||Liverpool||Didier Drogba (Chelsea)|
|2007–08||Man U||Chelsea||Arsenal||Cristiano Ronaldo (Man U)|
|2008–09||Man U||Liverpool||Chelsea||Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea)|
|2009–10||Chelsea||Man U||Arsenal||Didier Drogba (Chelsea)|
|2010–11||Man U||Chelsea||Man City|| Dimitar Berbatov (Man U)
Carlos Tevez (Man City)
|2011–12||Man C||Man U||Arsenal||Robin van Persie (Arsenal)|
|2012–13||Man U||Man C||Chelsea||Robin van Persie (Man U)|
|2013–14||Man C||Liverpool||Chelsea||Luis Suárez (Liverpool)|
|2014-15||Chelsea||Man City||Arsenal||Sergio Agüero (Man City)|
|2015–16||Leicester C||Arsenal||Tottenham||Harry Kane (Tottenham)|
Only in six of the 16 seasons has the top scorer been a member of the team winning the league. Now some argue that having the top scorer can only help, but even here it can be deceptive, because having the top scorer makes a club very vulnerable. If the players gets an injury the whole profile of the squad goes with one nasty foul.
But then I thought, what about interlopers? The teams from outside of the main contenders who suddenly pop up.
In terms of the number of times teams have appeared in the top three during the years shown above the results are
- Manchester United: 6 champions, 3 runners up, 3 third place: total 12 top three finishes,
- Manchester City: 2 champions, 2 runners up, 1 third place: total 5 top three finishes
- Chelsea: 4 champions, 4 runners up, 3 third place: total 11 top three finishes
- Arsenal: 2 champions, 3 runners up, 4 third place: total 9 top three finishes.
Other clubs: across 15 years, places in the top three have been achieved by teams outside of these four on just eight occasions.
So the dominance of these four clubs across this period remains. Only eight of the 45 places noted above have been gained by clubs other than the four noted just now (Man U, Man C, Chelsea, Arsenal). Of those eight, five of the places have gone to Liverpool, and one each to Tottenham, Leicester and Newcastle.
What this shows is a remarkable consistency in the Premier League across recent years. Arsenal might well drop out of the top four this year, but in so doing they are just following what has happened to Chelsea and Man U. Chelsea bounced back, Man U have not yet.
And yet there are a couple of other pointers here:
First, although four teams have carved up the top three places between them, Liverpool have popped up from time to time and Tottenham seem most likely to get a top three place this year for a second time.
Second, although Man U have the biggest income that can be spent on players this has not guaranteed them success in recent years – they have now had three years outside the top three, and most likely this season will make that four years. Only Man C has a longer run outside the top three, not appearing there in the first nine years of the chart.
Of course it is possible that we are seeing a seismic shift in the top three scenario at this moment, and maybe Man U and Arsenal are dropping out of contention for a prolonged period, but I suspect not, for two reasons.
First, Tottenham have the stadium issue, and to stay in the top three for a prolonged period they will have to become the first club to have a major stadium change without it having an adverse effect on their playing performance. Second, Arsenal’s achievement in reaching the Champions League for a sequence that is beyond any club other than Real Madrid, might now be vanishing for a long spell, but it seems more likely to me that it is just a run, like all runs, coming to an end.
Third, although Man U have dropped off the chart for three years, they have the money, and although I hardly expect an interesting style of football (or come to that an honourable approach to people management) they can be expected to grind out results.
For what it is worth I would expect a return to the competition between four clubs for the top three spots in the very near future.