by Tony Attwood
To discover how much information the current league table gives us as to how the season will work out ultimately, I’ve taken a look at how the table has looked after five games in the last few seasons, in each case going down as far as need be to incorporate all of the clubs that ended in the top six spots last season.
I have added the “Final” column next to the position after five games we can remind ourselves how matters worked out at the end of the season.
And just in case it helps, you might like to note that at present all the clubs from 3rd to 7th Tottenham, Man U, Leicester, Chelsea, Arsenal) are on exactly the same number of points, so the slightest variation by any club is likely to lead to a big change in position.
So looking back through recent years…
Last season the table after five games revealed that none of the top six clubs changed more than two positions by the end of the season. Chelsea slipped two from their position after five games, Liverpool stayed the same, Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man U all went up two. There was none of the bunching of five teams in the top seven, all on the same number of points.
In simple terms the movement was a reversal of the 123 at the top, and then the slippaged by the two non-top-six teams, Watford by seven places, Bournemouth by nine.
OK that gives us a basic grid so let’s go back a further year. After five games in 2017 it looked like this, with Liverpool and Arsenal being outside the top six at this point.
|10||20||West Bromwich Albion||5||2||2||1||4||4||0||8|
While last season the changes for the top six were by two places, this time it was different. Liverpool eventually climbed four places and Arsenal six. The interlopers into the top six (Newcastle and Huddersfield) fell by six and 10 places by the end of the campaign.
This time we did have the bunching – seven teams on eight points. And they very much went their different ways by the end of the season.
Moving back to September 2016, the top seven places were occupied by the final top seven clubs, but the order changed in every case. Chelsea advanced five places and Everton, the interloper, dropped seven. Everyone else moved by one or two. There was only a minimal amount of bunching.
Going back just once more, to 2015, this is an interesting one, because this was the season Leicester won the league for the first and only time. After five games, four of the final top six had top four places, but Palace who ended up 15th were sixth after five games, and Norwich were 9th. They had a 10 place drop coming. Going the other way Tottenham rose nine and Chelsea seven places. Once more there was no bunching like we have today.
|5||7||West Ham United||5||3||0||2||11||6||5||9|
|14||14||West Bromwich Albion||5||1||2||2||3||6||-3||5|
And here’s what I find interesting: in three of the four tables above, after five games we have a club which has won all five games. Indeed last season there were two teams who had won all five games. That makes four teams (Manchester City twice, plus Chelsea and Liverpool) that have a perfect run of five games at this stage of the season.
And not one of them won the league that season.
Of course this year it could be different, but anyone starting to say that Liverpool are just going to walk away with the title have very little regard for what is, after all, very recent history.
As for Arsenal, in three of these tables Arsenal has improved its position by the end of the season, rising two places twice, and once by six places.
And one final point: in each of these seasons, either one, two or three of the top six have been outside of the top six after five games – mostly reflecting the level of change in the club the previous summer.
So does the current table reflect how things will turn out? Only up to a point. If Liverpool win it will be unusual because the club top of the league at this point doesn’t normally win, and the club with a perfect start after five games doesn’t normally win.
With eight points from five games this is not Arsenal’s worst start in recent years. In September 2017 we had seven. What is unusual, but not unique, is having this many teams bunched together on the same number of points.
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