End of season portents
- The refereeing crisis is here: but not as the media portray it
- Why did Liverpool player Robertson feel entitled to harangue the assistant referee?
By Tony Attwood
No team in the Premier League has remained undefeated in the last eight games. Arsenal and Manchester City have both lost one game during that spell. Both teams are neck and neck in terms of points and goal difference during that spell.
Manchester City are still in the Champions League – they are away to Bayern Munich in their next match, and have Sheffield United in their next game in the FA Cup. So it would seem that even though the Champions League game is done and dusted after the first leg and Sheffield United are undoubtedly more focussed on promotion to the Premier League rather than the FA Cup (there’s a lot more money to be earned in the Premier League) there are still nevertheless, two extra performances to get through for Manchester City, just to make sure of progress in those cup competitions.
In the League Arsenal however, seem to have the tougher fixtures as their run-in includes Manchester City and Newcastle away – and away games for all clubs have once seemed to be harder to win this season than home games (unlike during the pandemic). Indeed of the last 200 Premier League games played only 72 have resulted in away wins – that is just 36%.
In fact, if we dig a little deeper only four teams (ie 20%) out of the whole of the Premier League have won more than half of their last 10 away games. Two of those will be easy to guess even if you have not looked at a league table of late: Arsenal and Manchester City. The other two are harder to guess. They are Aston Villa and Newcastle United.
In fact Aston Villa are on quite a run at the moment having won six and drawn one of their last seven games. And indeed that is not the only somewhat unexpected thing that has been going on in the Premier League of late.
If we just look at the last nine games played by Premier League clubs, Arsenal and Manchester City are out at the top, with seven wins each, plus one draw and one defeat. Both have a goal difference of +15.
But third in the table, again based on nine games, is Aston Villa with six wins, one draw and one defeat. Beyond them in the table are Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester United.
What is also quite remarkable in terms of current form as measured over nine games, is that Chelsea are 15th and Fulham (who have been so talked up for much of this season) are 17th. Right at the bottom are Leicester and Nottingham Forest.
So are Aston Villa becoming a force to be reckoned with? One would have to be cautious in making such a suggestion since at the start of 2023 the club was 13th in the league, and hobnobbing with the relegation candidates.
But we shall have a clearer view of how much of an influence Villa are having shortly since among their forthcoming half dozen games they are playing Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at home and Manchester United away.
Which brings up as a final point the question of away games. In the last six away games for clubs throughout the league the away win rate has sunk down to 28%, with over half the clubs in the league winning either none or just one of their last six away games. Which does suggest, as was suggested last season, the gap between the top and the bottom is getting larger, season by season. For the fact is that the top few clubs go around winning away games regularly, while the rest of the league pick up the odd away win here and there.
The other interesting point at the moment is the gap between 1st and 5th. In 2019/20 it was 37 points at the end of the season. In 2020/21 it was 20 points. Last season it was 24 points. At the moment it is once more 20 points.
Now what is odd is that the 2019/20 season saw Liverpool win the league by 18th points, but that was it as far as they were concerned. They won the league for the first time since 1990, and the tables suggest they stayed up as challengers coming third and then second in the last two seasons. But at the moment they are eighth, and as we know, only the home form bolstered by home fans and the resultant reaction of referees (hence only one home defeat) is keeping them there.
- Arsenal anniversaries: 12 April – the only day in history Arsenal were relegated