Can we tell the winner of the Premier League after 30 games?



Who will win the league?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

According to the mainstream media when faced with the question “Can we be sure who will win the league this season?” the answer is “We most certainly can.”   Or at least, “this season we can.” 

And they have no doubt that the answer is Manchester City.   The logic behind this is not quite so clear as their bold statements, but various outlets stress the same point as the Telegraph with its headline: “Arsenal’s two points lost [against Liverpool was] as good as a defeat against the Man City juggernaut.”

It is an interesting proposition given that only three times in the last ten seasons has a club at the top of the league after 30 games had more points than Arsenal have now.    Liverpool in 2020 with 83, Manchester City in 2018 with 81 and Manchester City again in 2019 with 74.

But there is a second historical point because only once in the past ten seasons has the club that was top after 30 games not gone on and won the league.  That strange moment came when Chelsea were top but on just 66 points (four fewer than Arsenal now); the second lowest points total for a top team in the last 10 years.

Here’s the table showing for recent years the top team after 30 games, and in the final column where that team ended up at the end of the season.   And indeed in looking at this table we might notice that only twice in the past ten years has a club scored more goals than Arsenal at this point in the season: Manchester City in 2019 and before that in 2018.


Year Team W D L F A GD Pts End
2023 Arsenal 23 4 3 72 29 43 73
2022 Manchester City 23 4 3 70 18 52 73 1
2021 Manchester City 22 5 3 64 21 43 71 1
2020 Liverpool 27 2 1 66 21 45 83 1
2019 Manchester City 24 2 4 79 21 58 74 1
2018 Manchester City 26 3 1 85 20 65 81 1
2017 Chelsea 23 3 4 62 24 38 72 1
2016 Leicester City 18 9 3 53 31 22 63 1
2015 Chelsea 21 7 2 63 26 37 70 1
2014 Chelsea 20 6 4 56 23 33 66 3


And yet despite these indisputable historical facts virtually every media outlet says that Arsenal won’t win the league.

So what happened to Chelsea in 2014 such that on being top after 30 games they could not go on and win the league?

The answer is very simple to find.  Chelsea made it through to the semi-final of the Champions League and these extra games interfered with their league form.

For example, before playing Galatasaray in March 2014, Chelsea unexpectedly lost 1-0 to Aston Villa.  Then having recovered (including beating Arsenal 6-0 on 22 March), Chelsea lost to Crystal Palace 1-0 before playing PSG on 2 April.

Then for the third time, Chelsea lost – this on 19 April to Sunderland at home, before going to Spain to draw with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final three days later.   Curiously they did win the league game before the second leg, but then lost to Atletico Madrid, following this with a goalless draw with Norwich .

It meant that by 4 May 2014 the league table read


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 36 25 5 6 96 37 59 80
2 Liverpool 36 25 5 6 96 46 50 80
3 Chelsea 37 24 7 6 69 26 43 79


Chelsea won away to Cardiff in their final game but Liverpool won one and drew one of their last two games, as Manchester City won both.  Having gone out of the Champions League in the round of 16, following an FA Cup defeat to the mighty Wigan the weekend before, Manchester City had no other distractions.

Liverpool on the other hand had no excuses in terms of cup competitions – they had gone out of the league cup back in September, lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup in February, and then ran out of steam at the end winning one, drawing one and losing one match in the final three league games.

So while the media continue to write of the Manchester City juggernaut, cup matches can give occasional hiccups.  True, the club is unbeaten since a defeat by Tottenham in February, and true they have just won nine games in a row in the League, Champions League and FA Cup.  But these wins include victories over Nottingham Forest, Red Bull Leipzig (twice), Bournemouth, Bristol City, Crystal Palace and Burnley. 

Again we must note that they have also beaten Bayern Munich (who this season have not been the team that they have been for the last ten years), Newcastle and Aston Villa.  But they beat Villa when that club was 11th in the league, and Newcastle when they were fifth, 22 points behind the leaders… Arsenal.

Of course none of this proves who will win the league, but it does show that the media now going hell-for-leather in favour of Manchester City are once more reacting in their traditional “who cares about data, write about emotions” approach to football predicting.

I am not saying Arsenal will definitely win the league, but I am saying the advantage is still with Arsenal.

One Reply to “Can we tell the winner of the Premier League after 30 games?”

  1. Tony, I agree fully with you that the advantage is with Arsenal. Every point they get is another that City still need to get to be able to compete on an level field. It would suit Arsenal if City progress to the quarters of the champions league as that will add more games for them to play. People forget that City has to go to Brighton still, which could be a difficult game for them to win as Brighton has a very good home record. Not many sides go there to win but Arsenal did, so anything is possible. Should City win the league I’m sure they will deserve it, but 6 points behind makes me wonder how much that is playing on their minds. I was quite surprised to hear 1 of these pundits say that the draw at Pool was a very good point for Arsenal as City still has to get these points… COYG

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