Beware those people in football who tell you what to think. They are trying to kid you.



By Tony Attwood

“If nothing else, please make us a promise. Do not look at the Premier League table when looking to draw any conclusions at this stage.”   That comes from the Athletic  suggesting that we can’t take much away from the current league positions in terms of where clubs will end up.

But let’s check with last season’s league table after four games, and how it compared with the league table after 38 games.

After four games last season it is quite true that none of the teams in the league were in a position which was the exact same position that they ended up in at the end of the season.  Some changes were enormous – for example Leeds United were fifth but ended up 19th.

However it turns out that this was the exception, for although no clubs were in the place after four games where they ended up, in fact 11 clubs – that is over half the league – ended up within one or two places of where they were in fourth.

In short, in terms of knowing to within two places up or down where the majority of the clubs in the league will finish, the league table is a fairly good guide.  Arsenal, Manchester City, Brighton, Brentford, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Everton, Nottingham Forest, West Ham, Bournemouth, Leicester City… all of these clubs were within two places of their final league position, after four games.

So what is the Athletic talking about, in requesting that one should not “look at the Premier League table when looking to draw any conclusions at this stage?”

Now to try and explain themselves the Athletic says that “no team has faced more difficult opponents than Newcastle in their opening four games this season.”  So fair enough, Newcastle has had a tough ride.   And the piece then continues to examine how easy or tough a ride clubs have had in those opening fixtures.

And they add, “However you look at it, fixture schedules can often dictate the momentum felt within a club — particularly in this early part of the season.”

Yes, that might well be true, and momentum is worth taking into consideration.  But it is only one point.

In effect it is particularly worth having a look at how the article concludes

“Fixture schedules can dictate narratives in the short term. They can influence momentum within the club and among the fanbase. They can even cost managers their jobs in some cases.  With that in mind, it is important to zoom out from the small sample of performances and ensure any conclusions made about a team’s form are grounded in a wider context.  In the meantime, until everyone has played each other twice, the league table can be a misleading source to draw from.”

Now notice the word “narratives”.  In other words, the spin put on situations by journalists, who are the only people who have a chance to create a “narrative” in football because they are the only people whose words reach a large number of readers, listeners and viewers.

But the truth is actually the reverse.  “While fixture schedules can dictate narratives in the short term in a minority of cases, for the majority, how the season starts is a good guide to how it will end.”

So how come the Athletic, with all its mega resources (not forgetting its ability to cancel my subscription while it still had a few weeks to run), didn’t get this right?

I can only guess of course but my guess would be  that either they didn’t check before publishing the piece, or they decided that what they were saying was an attractive story and most of their readerships were too trusting to bother to check their assertions

So just in case you are interested here is last season’s table after four games then showing where the club finished at the end of the season, and finally the difference between the two.

League table 2022/23 after four games…


Pos Team P Pts End Difference
1 Arsenal 4 12 2 1
2 Manchester City 4 10 1 1
3 Tottenham Hotspur 4 10 8 5
4 Brighton and Hove Albion 4 10 6 2
5 Leeds United 4 7 19 14
6 Chelsea 4 7 12 6
7 Newcastle United 4 6 4 3
8 Manchester United 4 6 3 5
9 Liverpool 4 5 5 4
10 Brentford 4 5 9 1
11 Fulham 4 5 10 1
12 Crystal Palace 4 4 11 1
13 Southampton 4 4 20 7
14 Nottingham Forest 4 4 16 2
15 Aston Villa 4 3 7 8
16 West Ham United 4 3 14 2
17 AFC Bournemouth 4 3 15 2
18 Everton 4 2 17 1
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 4 2 13 6
20 Leicester City 4 1 18 2


So is there any way of knowing how well a club is actually doing?   Well, actually yes, and we have used it ourselves – it is the form guide.  Indeed you may remember that the season before last – the one in which Arsenal lost their three opening league games – we had the idea of running the league table from the fourth game onward, and from that we predicted that last season would go rather far better than the first three games indicated – which it did.

But there was something else we came up with in May last year.   We ran the headline: The worst time wasters are Newcastle   Now as far as I know nobody picked up on that then or later, but given the change that has been made this season to the way referees handle matches, it is very pertinent.    Previously Newcastle’s time wasting hardly mattered, but in the new approach in which referees add on something closer to the amount of time lost because of time wasting, Newcastle are really struggling.

So, sometimes things are not quite as simple as the journos like to make us think.  It is, after all, a funny ol’ game, this football journalism.

One Reply to “Beware those people in football who tell you what to think. They are trying to kid you.”

  1. Ornstein and Athletic are just full of themselves and clever at posting claims to be an exclusive or ‘insider’ knowledge that if look can be seen elsewhere
    Refuse to pay them for such rubbish

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