- Arsenal lose, editor injured, Untold upside down
- Clubs are showing signs of fighting back at journalists
By Tony Attwood
Predicting how things (or indeed people) will turn out is something that has been part of human existence for as long as we have been in societies. Of course, if we really could know the future the whole of society would change since by and large there would be no point in putting any effort into anything. After all if we know who would win this season, there wouldn’t be much point in competing, or watching. I mean, for the last game of the unbeaten season, we were all pretty sure Arsenal would beat already relegated Leicester, but we still wanted to be there to see it happen. And at half time we thought it might not.
If we all felt that we knew what would happen, then I suspect a lot of the crowd numbers in the Premier League would decline. Yes, we might enjoy watching TV dramas in which we know what will happen (because it’s a series and the format always repeats), but we still want to see HOW the whole thing works out.
But just how predictable is the Premier League? Here is the the league table at the start of 2023 showing the number of points, and then again at the end of the season. Because different clubs have always played different numbers of games we’ve translated this into points per game, so that in the final column we can see which clubs had a better 58% or so after the world cup and which ones had a worse 58% of games in that period.
And there was something of a surprise. Because the top five teams one year ago all had a worse performance after the world cup compared with before. Their points per game worsened by anything from 0.03 to 0.35 (in the case of Arsenal). PPG = points per game.
Now at this stage we have not undertaken an analysis of all the clubs in the league, and quite evidently if the top five all declined, some of the teams below them must have improved.
But a quick look back at the end of last season shows us something interesting. The top four clubs around this stage of the season were all in the top four at the end of the season. The club dropping out of the top five was Tottenham who were replaced in fifth position by Liverpool. Tottenham in fact sank right down to eighth.
Of course not too much is made of findings like these because they reduce somewhat the excitement of the league – if the position at this stage in the table is going to be pretty much the position at the end of the season but with the top clubs all performing a little worse.
I mean if you were running a newspaper column which was there to generate excitement rather than explore what is actually happening, would you run the story that in the latter stages of the season most f the clubs performed worse than before? Probably not. That is not the sort of story the media wants.
But this does suggest something rather interesting. That is that the clubs that finished near the top of the league had a format and approach, which they stayed with. What could upset that approach, as we have seen before is the sudden change in terms of injuries or an attempt by one of the clubs to throw everything into making that one extra push to move up the table.
That “one extra push” can sound like a good idea, but in fact, it normally ends up as being a change to a less successful system. The best results generally come from clubs which are staying as they are. This explains why so often as we have discussed earlier. what happens is not a general slip backwards (such as winning t io and drawing two in four games, rather than winning 3 and drawing one in four games) but a sudden crash – as we saw with Arsenal last season.
And what is so interesting is that the media constantly tell us that the league table does not truly “take shape” until 10 games of the season have been played. But this season after ten games Tottenham H were top of the league and the media were full of that being their best start of a season since the Premier League was invented – conveniently forgetting that measures of the future are unreliable after just ten games.
Indeed as the Athletic pointed out recently a study looked at match data from 1995 to 2017 “found that the team who topped the Premier League after matchweek 10 had a 77.3 per cent chance of finishing in the top three by the end of the season.”
- Is the Premier League getting more exciting or simply ever more predictable?
- How far down might these points deducations take clubs?
- Big clubs that foul less lose fewer players of their own to injury
- What takes clubs up and down the league: attack or defence?
- Referee Extremism: the situation in Spain and in England