by Tony Attwood
Does where a team stands after eight games actually tell us anything much about how the season will turn out in the end?
It may feel like it doesn, but in fact if we judge by last season after eight games, and consider that as a predictor of where the clubs would end up at the end of the season, then yes, the league table after eight games tells us a lot about what the end of the season will look like.
If we look at the top ten teams so far this season and compare where they were after eight games, and where they ended up at the end of the season, we see that six of the ten teams finished the season no more than one place above or one place below the position in which they ended the season.
So the league table after eight games indicated where 60% of the teams would end up, to within one place.
For the rest, one team was two places different, one was three different, one was five places different and one was eight places different from its position after eight games.
We can also see that the four teams that were in the top ten after eight games that then changed positions the most (Bournemouth, West Ham, Burnley and Crystal Palace) were all teams who were not considered to be challengers for honours at the start of the sesason.
So based on last season, judging the clubs that are traditionally the most likely to come near the top, their position after eight games gives reasonable answers as to what the end of the season will look like.
The one member of the “big six” clubs that moved by more than one place was Mancheseter United who were eighth after eight games and ended up sixth.
This table shows the whole set of movements.
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|2018/19 position after 8 games||Team||2018/19 position at end||Difference|
|15||West Ham United||10||+5|
But this season does have one real oddity in it.
Of the clubs in the current top ten Liverpool have four more points than at the this stage one year ago. Leicester City has two more points. But no other club currently in the top ten is doing better this season than it was last season at this stage.
Arsenal have three points fewer, Manchester City and Manchester United four points fewer, Chelsea six points fewer, Tottenham seven points fewer.
In short of the clubs at the top end of the table only Leicester and Liverpool are performing better than at this stage one year ago. Arsenal, Manchester City, Mancheseter United, Chelsea and Tottenham are all less well off than they were at this time last year.
So who is doing better than they were a year ago? As you will guess from the above, it is the teams from the lower half of the table who are doing better – in short they are catching up.
This table shows the points situation after eight games.
|Pos 2018/9 after 8 games||Team||Pts 2018||Pts 2019||Pts Change|
|13||Brighton and Hove Albion||8||9||+1|
|15||West Ham United||7||12||+5|
Because of this curious set of changing events Arsenal can be one place higher up the table than they were at this stage last year but at the same time they are three points worse off.
It is very rare to find such a concerted change – with almost all the top clubs getting worse and the bottom clubs getting better.
But the question can be asked, does the position after eight games tell us anything about the final league position?
Here is the current league table for the top of the league but showing where these teams stood after eight games, and then at the end of the league season…
|18/19 after 8 games||Team||18/19 End Pos||18/19 Change||Now|
|15||West Ham United||10||-5||8|
Although West Ham and Bournemouth did slip considerably, if we look at the current top ten teams we can see that eight out of the ten only moved by one position. The outliers were West Ham who went down five places and Bournemouth who went do eight places.
On this basis we can predict that most of the top ten will end up pretty much where they are now.
What traditionally scuppers the samller teams is their smaller squads, and so a run of injuries can undo the good work from earlier in the season.
Which suggests that despite having fewer points than at this point last season, Arsenal are still on course for a top four finish. And maybe third.
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