How far are we behind our rival clubs?

by Andrew Crawshaw

I have come across a couple of interesting pieces of analysis recently from the Swiss CIES Observatory.  This is an organisation which publishes weekly articles covering one or another aspect of the European (predominantly) football scene.

Their report 227 has their take on the top 100 players in the top 5 European leagues (players have to have done more than 1800 minutes, 1440 for Germany). 

The Premier League has 30 players in the list, Bayern Munich have the highest number with 11.  Marc-André Stegen is the highest ranked goalkeeper, Nicolás Otamendi is the highest ranking Defender, David Silva, Midfielder and Lionel Messi the highest ranked player overall and the highest forward.

How have our players rated compared with out EPL competitors?  Here is a table showing the players from each of the top 6 clubs with their ranking position and performance value:-

Arsenal Man City Man United Tottenham Liverpool Chelsea
rank score rank score rank score rank score rank score rank score
Granit Xhaka David Silva Paul Pogba Harry Kane Mohammed Salah Eden Hazard
63 85.27 2 91.69 72 85.02 12 89.02 6= 90.45 40 86.84
Mesut Özil Sergio Agüero Eric Dier Jordan Henderson N’Golo Kanté
64 85.23 4 90.48 58 85.47 50 85.95 78 84.83
Skhodran Mustafi Nicolás Otamendi Mousa Dembélé Dejan Lovren César Azpilicueta
81 84.63 5 90.47 66 85.21 54= 85.62 88= 84.35
Nacho Monreal Luiz Ferdandinho Christian Eriksen Joël Matip
99 84.06 6= 90.45 67 85.20 60 85.43
Kevin de Brune Jan Vertonghen Emre Can
8 90.14 88= 84.35 76 84.83
Raheem Stirling Davinson Sánchez Sadio Mané
9 89.76 95 84.13 87 84.38
Kyle Walker Heung-Min Son Roberto Firminho
27 87.60 97 84.08 94 84.17
Leroy Sane
30 87.39


So Manchester City have eight of the top 100 players (all in the top 30 and 6 in the top 10), Spurs and Liverpool have 7 each we have four, Chelsea three and United one.  None of the other Premier League clubs have any players in this list.

Our highest rated players come in at 63 and 64, behind all of City’s players and four of Liverpool’s. 

It is also sanguine to point out that our top three players are all ones who the club are continually being demanded to sell.  Xhaka, Özil, and Mustafi all regularly feature as players who should be cast aside.  Whilst none are perfect it would seem stupid to sell and try to replace them.  It must be easier to coach them into marginal improvements that should see them featuring higher up the equivalent top 100 table at the end of next season.

The table does show that we have some way to go over Man City, Liverpool and Spurs, all of whom have more players in this list and ones nearer the top.  As United and Chelsea fare even worse than us in this metric and will almost certainly have larger transfer budgets we will have to be smart in the next 12 months to improve significantly.

Moving on now to squad values 

The CIES weekly report 226 has some figures on this  – at least in terms of average squad values (and I can’t see quickly how they derived the figures but it certainly will have been done on a consistent basis).  They are bound to have featured, player age, performance and length of contract but are naturally keeping the details to themselves.

Here are the figures (€m per player) for the top clubs in each of the top 5 European leagues.  For brevity I have stopped when I got to values lower than €10m per player:-

Rank P.League Spain France Italy Germany
1 Man City – 62.9 Barca – 55.3 PSG – 39.1 Juve – 30.7 Bayern – 25.4
2 Spurs – 51.3 A Madrid – 41.8 Monaco – 22.5 Napoli – 29.3 Leipzig – 19.3
3 Liverpool 43.6 R Madrid – 35.2 Lyon – 17.6 Roma – 25.9 Leverkusen – 13.0
4 Chelsea – 40.7 Valencia – 17.0 Marseille – 11.4 Milan – 17.9 Dortmund – 11.6
5 Man U – 39.4 Seville – 13.2 Inter – 17.0
6 Arsenal – 24.8 Celta V – 10.8 Lazio – 14.2
7 Leicester – 15.6 Atalanta – 11.6
8 Everton – 14.6 Fiorentina – 11.3
9 Southampton – 11.2

I do not know  exactly how many players have been counted in each squad but, for the sake of calculations, if I work on 22 players for each of the squads, the values for the top 6 English squads are:-

  1. Manchester City – €1,383m
  2. Tottenham Hotspur – €1,128.6m
  3. Liverpool – €959.2m
  4. Chelsea – €895.4m
  5. Manchester United – €866.8m
  6. Arsenal €545.6m.

So City have a squad which is nearly three times as valuable as us (they have seven players rated at €100m plus) and also have the finance to increase that gap.  Spurs have, in effect, won the lottery with their squad with a number of €100m plus players having come up through their academy or been bought for very little. Liverpool are enjoying a vast leap in value from some of their players.  Chelsea and United have outspent us for some time and are both €300m more highly rated than us.

I don’t think that any of us expect to be able to buy the sorts of players to bridge the gap to those above us any time soon.  Any improvement in squad value will have to come from internal solutions:-

  • Better (or at least different) coaching to enable our players to maximise their potential
  • The value that can be expected from those of out U21 players promoted into the squad
  • Ensuring that our senior players have longer on their contracts (Wilshere at present will have zero value as is Ramsey  (also listed as contract expiry 30/6/18 although I am certain it is 2019).

Finally a reminder of the only table that actually means anything the PL points table

Team W D L +/- Pts
1 Manchester City 32 4 2 79 100
2 Manchester United 25 6 7 40 81
3 Tottenham Hotspur 23 8 7 38 77
4 Liverpool 21 12 5 46 75
5 Chelsea 21 7 10 24 70
6 Arsenal 19 6 13 23 63


  1. All of the Metrics I have referenced prove that we are a distance behind out major competitors in the Premier League and in danger of falling back still further.
  2. A clear measure of success for me will be shown at the end of next season if our player’s scores and values rise in the CIES Observatory reports and we have an improvement in our performances away from home (which should also see us nearer the league leaders)
  3. It will be unrealistic to expect anything better than a top four finish next year and, in all honesty, an improvement of a single place will be good going.

Elsewhere on Untold



12 Replies to “How far are we behind our rival clubs?”

  1. One of the few times I’ll be agreeing wholeheartedly with unfolds conclusion. I hope that now with the obligation to support Wenger no longer of primary consideration, untold can concentrate on being objective

  2. Blue I fear that you simply haven’t grasped the point of Untold, although it is set out in many articles on this site and in the permanent pages too.

    But I will go through it one more time for you. The name “Untold” was chosen to represent a core idea of this site: that a number of issues of importance are ignored by the media and blogs, and our aim is to explore them here. The banner headline “supporting the club, the manager and the team” has been at the top of each page for around 10 years.

    I did not set up an objective set, on the grounds that I don’t think any other site or newspaper or radio or TV station is objective. But if you think there is one, you should of course go and read that. If you think there isn’t one, then do what I did, and set one up yourself. If you appreciate and understand what Untold tries to do, or indeed if you disagree with our approach by all means keep on reading. But please don’t expect objectivity.

  3. To my surprise no comments yet. When taking into account league positions we have to take into account the fact that corruption is rampant in football and is the one subject that is not discussed by the media brain washers.

    Money Rules

    The correct quote is:

    ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’ and so it is piled on and on, the strongest feature of professional football and the least commented on.

    If there wasn’t corruption in football the figures that are banded about by the media (as here) would be true and not good for our great club.

    The figures can be ignored for we know we are better than the cheats.

  4. @blue,

    I assure you that whenever I write this kind of piece, I try to be objective. I select data sets that I believe to be derived in a consistent and independant manner – even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. Having done that I follow through that data before coming to a set of conclusions.. in this instance I’m glad we can agree as I’m sure we would with our basic support for the club. For everything else we quite probably wouldn’t.

  5. If Unai Emery, the new Gunners boss will coach the Gunners of: Cech, Ospina, Ozil, Xhaka, Mustafi, Bellerin, Chambers Holding, Maitland, Ramsey, ElNeny, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan, Kolasinac, Lacazette and even Aubameyang to improve on their quality of playing for Arsenal last season in next season’s campaign far far above their last level of performances for Arsenal during last season’s campaign more especially in the Premier League. And with 3 top quality signings this summer window, I think Arsenal will not only go places in domestic and external Cup competitions alone next season, but will win the PL Title as well.

    Therefore, these 16 core senior Gunners whose quality of performance in games for Arsenal is not yet saturated but can still be improved on considerably if they are ready to improve on it, should be obedient and genuinely show respect to their new manager to learn new things from him that will improve them who should improve them in their game playing performance quality for Arsenal next season by a different method of coaching that’s different to the past coaching sessions they are used to have before his arrival at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground.

  6. Andrew is well experienced at analyzing things.

    Tony’s story on “runs” got me looking at arXiv again. One article led me to another.

    Most of us know the word “sinister” as something “bad”. It actually derives from “left” I believe. In any event, a study out of Pennsylvania looked at whether fouls were perceived differently depending on whether they foul occurred left to right, or right to left from the point of view of a “referee”. The study also looked at the written language abilities of the “referee”: were they schooled in a left-to-right language (like English) or a right-to-left language (like Hebrew or Arabic)? There is probably more work on this language bias in work referenced from this article.

    The investigators have gone to a lot of effort to find unfamiliar players, resized images, removed identifying features in the pictures, and so on.

    The link does allow you to access a PDF if you desire. Published in 2010.

    The article does not investigate or theorize on other possible forms of bias by officials.

  7. Tony’s story on “runs” got me looking at arXiv again. The arXiv article was by some Brazilian researchers, looking at simulating the outcome of seasons. Some common assumptions led to “leagues” where nominally all teams have about the same probability of winning the league (which apparently happens in Brazil). When used on leagues where there is a consistent top group and a rest of the pack group, the model doesn’t work. So they have come up with something which seems to be able to handle this.

    A Simple Non-Markovian Computational Model of the Statistics of
    Soccer Leagues: Emergence and Scaling effects
    arXiv 1207.1848v1
    published in 2012

  8. The answer is that we’re a fair way below $iteh but so is everyone else.
    Whether they can keep that momentum next season will be interesting, as it’s a very rare occurrence, especially when the players are so so wealthy even when they don’t perform. So it just comes down to motivation which usually drops after a successful season.

    As for all the others above us, it’s a question of confidence.
    2 or 3 poor results (which is easy given the poor standard of the PGMO officials), even if the team deserved the points, can have a knock on effect like we had with our away results. A few refs decisions called correctly and we’d have been in the 70s points-wise, and the added confidence would have given us a few further points. This is true of any team but we’ve been on the wrong side of more decisions than all those above us.
    No doubt we’ll all get one or two new players but as we already know, new players rarely play particularly well in their first season at a new club. Maybe one or two of them will be excellent 1st season (Like Alexis was for us) but most of them will be more like Ozil who had an OK 1st season but found his real form in his 2nd season.
    So we can already see it’s all to play for.

  9. Very interesting article, yes it appears we have ground to make up.
    But I strongly suspect the majority of our players are far better than the last season would suggest.
    It has been a couple years of turmoil. The Wenger will he won’t he last season, then, this season, if I had an inkling Wenger was off, I am sure the players had the same times at least ten thousand. Those things hit performances.
    Emery will bring in his own brand of reportedly more hands on coaching, different backroom staff, more analysis of opposition , and apparently quite a hard task master. How different this will be from wengers approach, well, some have their opinions, but we don’t really know. If it is a very different approach, it all depends on how the players respond. I personally believe elite players like the more laissez faire , go out and express yourself approach, that it is reported is Wenger all over. I also believe developing , less confident, new, and maybe the young players of today might respond more to the hands on, perhaps what was once considered over coaching of many managers today- Klopp, Jose, Poch, Pep, Jardim, most of them really, of which reportedly our new manager is one.
    Exciting and interesting times ahead

  10. Another arXiv paper for you.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Goals:
    Valuing Player Actions in Soccer
    arXiv 1802.07127
    Published in February of this year.

    Based on domain knowledge and feedback from soccer experts, we introduce SPADL (Soccer Player Action Description Language). SPADL represents each action as a tuple of nine attributes:

    StartTime: the exact timestamp for when the action started;
    EndTime: the exact timestamp for when the action ended;
    StartLocation: the (x, y) location where the action started;
    EndLocation: the (x, y) location where the action ended;
    Player: the player who performed the action;
    Team: the team of the player;
    Type: the type of the action;
    BodyPart: the body part used by the player for the action;
    Result: the result of the action.

    HATTRICS (Honest Attribution of Credit in Soccer)

    HATTRICS-OTB (Honest Attribution of Credit in Soccer for On-the-Ball Actions)

    Some of the above acronyms are explained in terms of a particular Man$ vs Arsenal game.

    PEA, Alexis Sanchez, Fabregas are the players of Arsenal heritage mentioned in this article.

  11. As far as I recall , Untold Arsenal have always been objective .

    -We firmly object those clownish referees at PIBMOB .

    – We steadfastly object to that crooked media that distorts the news and sets its own disingenuous agenda.

    – We object those non Arsenal posters who come here to twist the facts.

    -We strenuously object to the antics of FIFA , UEFA , EPL and the FA. There is something seriously wrong with these bodies.

    If that is being not objective , then what is ?

    That is a rhetorical question , by the way !

  12. Very well composed article Andrew….and it references some interesting statistics about where we come in comparison to the top European teams. That said, it presents only a limited set of data, and a limited perspective on what it takes to win big. Gord seems to understand statistics well and would probably agree that they can only take one so far in assessing a Football team, one of the most complex groups in all sports. Here are a few more issues one would have to explore in order to really hone in on what causes may be behind AFC’s less than stellar season:

    a) Our away versus our home form. We beat teams with panache at home, yet when we returned the visit, we suffered. I have been unable to identify any clear difference in the team’s setup, performances and motivation except to say that our defensive structure seemed to err too often away from home. Why?

    b) How many points did we lose to poor officiating either home or away. The PIGMOB effect is always there, but it seems to me that it should have been the same at home and away matches, which doesn’t appear to be the case. WHY?

    c)The psychological and affective impact of the turmoil in the club with the prolonged and difficult departures of some players and the arrival of new faces in the winter transfer window. Players probably sensed that Wenger was uncertain about his future at the Club and also sensed that the Board was pressuring Arsene to make some changes, some alterations and some improvements on our away form, so this adds stress to an already stressful situation.

    d) The constant media denigration of the team, Wenger and certain players, combined with the endless speculation who was being let go and who was coming in over the transfer windows. This media inspired and created ¨aura¨ surrounding AFC is a permanent stain on ouir club’s excellent reputation and it is intentional. We know the why but what can the club do about it?

    e) Injuries and drops in form certainly hurt us this season, but perhaps a little less than in prior seasons. However, missing Cazorla for over 18 months and now losing him entirely, and with Kos down and out until Christmas of next season, it certainly had an effect on our defensive prowess. As well, we saw little of Për and now he is gone as well. But, that said, Lacazette, Aubeymang, Mikhitarian, and Mavropanos, have proven themselves and have really augmented our attacking depth and efficency so I guess it all equals out in the end?

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