By Tony Attwood
OK, of course I don’t know who is going to win the league this year. But I just wondered what recent history might tell me. So I took a look at the last eight years, to see if that would give me some insights.
Retention: In the past eight seasons no team has retained the Premier League title.
Champions League: In the past two seasons the Premier League has been won by a team not competing in the Champions League.
Cup Winners: In the past eight seasons the Cup Winners of the season before has won the league three times.
Top scorer: In only three of the past eight seasons has the league been won by the team with the top league scorer.
Last year’s runners’ up: In three of the past eight seasons the league has been won by the club that came second the season before. Once the runner up lost the title on goal difference, once on one point. The other occasion the club was Man U winning the league in Alex Ferguson’s final season assisted by some rather short term transfer decisions.
Last year’s third place team: Three times in the past eight years the club coming third the season before won the league.
Winner’s dropping down: Three times in the past eight years the club winning the league has dropped out of the top four the next season.
All change: There has not been a single occasion in the past eight years when the top three of one year have become the top three (irrespective of order) in the next year.
Mind the gap: The gap between the top team and the second team has been different on every occasion ranging from 11 points down to goal difference.
What this collection of facts tells us is that the Premier League has become more varied. Yes we have the standard clubs that aim to get to the top, or failing that near the top, but the final result is not set in stone. Nothing comes anywhere near guaranteeing success, and the old days of one team dominating in the style of Bayern Munich in Germany has long gone.
As the figures show, although getting yourself the league’s top scorer can help, there’s no guarantee of success.
Measuring transfer expenditure doesn’t help much either. Here are the figures from the last five seasons from Transferleague.co.uk – obviously excluding this summer.
|Club||Purchases||Sales||Nett||Av per season|
|Brighton & HA||£29,105,000||£12,000,000||£17,105,000||£3,421,000|
So what does make a difference?
Across various articles we have shown that these factors can make a difference…
1: Changing Stadium
This we’ve shown in previous articles is the big negative. It isn’t just the financial implication of paying for the stadium (although this doesn’t help) it is the move away from the comfort zone and the feeling of knowing what’s what. In a sense a stadium change emboldens the away team to think they have a chance, and if the rot does set in the visitors become more emboldened, the home team more nervous.
What doesn’t help is that the fans’ expectation is that with all these new facilities etc the club will grow and go on to win the league. Usually the opposite happens, and we’ve presented this evidence a number of times.
The team moving this season is of course Tottenham.
2: Changing tactics
We saw two obvious examples of this last season: Chelsea were hammered by Arsenal and then changed to a five man defence. Arsenal went on a terrible run, and changed to the same approach, and then won nine out of ten, including beating Manchester City and Chelsea.
The problem is that there is a limit to how many changes of tactics that one can have. Do it too often and instead of working it becomes a problem.
3: Reducing the hiccup
Not everyone gets a hiccup during the season, but it happens. Chelsea lost three out of four last September. Tottenham didn’t win a single game in seven in October / November. The trick is, if you are going to have a run like this, either make some of the games in competitions you don’t care about, or end it quickly.
4: Keeping injuries low
This refers back to our last article – the range in the number of injuries in any PL season is huge, as that article showed. And of course if you are going to have injuries, ensure that the injury is to a player for whom you have an adequate back up. But best of all don’t get injuries.
5: Having the crowd and the referee onside
Difficult to manage until you are doing well. Obviously the crowd get behind the team when the team is doing well. But there appears to be some evidence that the referees do much the same to clubs that are on fine runs.
Let me say at once that I don’t have evidence for this that I can publish, but if this effect is real there are two possible reasons.
a) The club does well because the referees are on side in terms of the club, so they get more decisions going their way.
b) The club that is doing well is so full of confidence that even when there are dodgy decisions from referees they don’t feel put upon, but instead focus totally on winning.
The crowd is more difficult – I have no doubt that although the start of Arsenal’s bad run was in part their own fault, there was also some very dubious refereeing, and then a minority within the crowd which had been getting at the club all season, finally started getting at individual players because they were representatives of the manager.
So, what can we judge from this from Arsenal’s point of view:
1: There is no stadium move. TOTALLY POSITIVE
2: Change of tactics – this is certain to happen because of the new signings, and the five man defence will still be new to most teams we play. POSITIVE
3: Reducing the hiccup. This is up to the management of course, but the array of new backroom talent is very encouraging, and I am hopeful that if anything goes wrong, the new backroom team will be offering new insights which might allow a rapid move when a dip occurs. Also the new signings look promising, and if we can hold on to the players we want to keep, we should have a very flexible line up, allowing us to drop players out of form. FAIRLY POSITIVE
4: Keeping the injuries low. We certainly have new people who have come in of late – and besides the position on injuries as shown in the last article was middle of the road. Because Shawcrossisms can end a players career in a trice, it is never possible to say, but we’re doing all we can from a good base. NEUTRAL or FAIRLY POSITIVE.
5: Having the crowd and the referee onside. Things were clearly better in the last part of the season but the Commentariat are simply negative no matter what. And as for the PGMO… we have the danger that although the new players will have been warned that English refereeing is like nothing else on earth, they rarely believe it until they get a yellow card for going down with an elbow in the face. The minority of the crowd who argue that protesting is a good thing are so beyond any logic I can bring to the situation that one can only assume that they will just keep on keeping on. NEGATIVE unless we are top of the league.
Three positives, one neutral or positive, one negative. Not perfect, but I have seen a worse start to the season.
- Which PL clubs were most affected by injuries last season: you might be surprised.
- Unlike the rest of last year’s top seven, Tottenham have signed no one. Why’s that?
- Which clubs have been the most active in bringing players in so far this transfer window
- All change with PGMO and the refs.. But what change?
- The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.
- Injuries Time to sack Tierney according to one part of the media
- Next season starting lineup and the new Financial Fair Play rules
- The huge bias of referees is proven. PGMO and media fight back.