The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.

By Tony Attwood

Across the last five years, the average number of points gained by the fourth-placed club is 70.  Which of course doesn’t mean that 70 points guarantees fourth place, but it is a good number to aim for at the start of the season.

And it is a reminder of how far Arsenal have slipped in the past five years when we note that only once in these past five seasons have Arsenal got 70 points.   The Arsenal average in fact across the last five seasons has been 63.8 points.

But of course, 70 points is just the average, and there is no saying that next season will be an average season.

So although the club needs to be looking for third, for which the average points total is, rather interestingly, only a little above that for fourth place, at 71.6 points across the last five seasons, that does not mean 72 points is definitely going to be enough.

It is perhaps a measure of how far Manchester City and Liverpool have been allowed to creep above the rest of the league that while the average points total for third and fourth place across the last five years is indeed around the 70 to 72 points mark, the average total of points across the last five seasons for the top two clubs of these years was 91.6 for Manchester City and 86.4 for Liverpool.

In short, all the mucking about with managers and booing one’s own team, while ceaselessly getting at Xhaka, has left Arsenal a long way behind as the table below shows.   The numbers in each column show the number of points while the last column (“Pos”) is each club’s average position across the last five seasons.

Pos 2021/2 Team 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 Average Pos
1 Manchester City 100 98 81 86 93 91.6 1
2 Liverpool 75 97 99 69 92 86.4 2
3 Chelsea 70 72 66 67 74 69.8 3
4 Tottenham Hotspur 77 71 59 62 71 68.0 5
5 Arsenal 63 70 56 61 69 63.8 6
6 Manchester United 81 66 66 74 58 69.0 4
7 West Ham United 42 52 39 65 56 50.8 8
8 Leicester City 47 52 62 66 52 55.8 7


Two things really leap out here.  One is that Arsenal have been allowed to sink a long way across these five seasons, not just with being sixth in the average points league but having an average number of points 27.2 fewer than Manchester City.  That is one hell of a gap to make up.  The other is that over the last two seasons we have improved.

We may take some pleasure in noting that the gap to Manchester United who have the fourth-highest average number of points in the past five years, is just 5.2 points.  And the fact that we finished 11 points above them last season.  But that column showing the average number of points over the past five years does bring home just how disastrous this period had been – if we hadn’t realised already.

However, we might also note that big leaps in the number of points have been achieved by clubs in recent years on one or two occasions.   Liverpool for example in 2018 got 75 points, and in 2019 got 97 – a leap of 22 points.

And although we might be thinking of Manchester City as eternally sitting in the top spot, in 2019 having got 98 points they sank down 17 points to finish with 81 the following season.

Chelsea however have been less varied ranging from 66 to 74, a mere 8 points difference between their best and worst achievements in the last five years.

Tottenham Hotspur are more varied going down to 59 in 2020 from 71 the year before, and indeed getting 71 again two years later.

Manchester United however have the biggest variation across the five years going through a drop of 23 points in 2018 down to 58 in 2022.  

But what these figures show most of all is that both sudden drops and sudden rises in the number of points a club gains from one season to the next, are not that unusual…

  • Manchester City dropped 17 points from 2019 to 2020.
  • Liverpool dropped 30 points from 2020 to 2021.
  • Arsenal dropped 14 points from 2019 to 2020.
  • Manchester United dropped 16 points over the last two seasons

And then we might look down to the club with the next highest average points total – the media’s darlings (in terms of breaking into the top six) Leicester City.   Leicester’s average points total has been eight points lower than Arsenal during this period, which might not seem much but this has been headlined as the period in which Leicester will be breaking into the top six.

As the average column shows, they, like West Ham who have also been touted by the media for greater things, are still a very long way behind when we start looking at consistency.

And above all that is the message.  The top six really is the top six and although a club from outside the group might slip in occasionally, getting into the top six and staying there is going to be nigh on impossible.

5 Replies to “The last five years proves one big thing: nothing is guaranteed.”

  1. Your hypothesis assumes the next 5 years will be the same as the last 5, but it won’t. Newcastle now have Saudi oil money, Chelsea have lost their Russian banker. That will almost inevitably see Newcastle rising and probably Chelsea falling (unless their American owners turn out to be really generous). On a much smaller scale the revenue from the new stadium will see Spurs having a relatively small but consistent increased income stream compared to Arsenal. Money talks in football and the best financed clubs tend to rise to the top.

  2. @Jod,

    Not so sure about the revenue stream going upwards…. as far as I am concerned I keep reading news about interest rates climbing and climbing…and Sp*rs do have one thing that is huge : debt. I would expect this fact to hurt their finances like hell !
    Maybe someone will publish a story with some numbers.

  3. Jod what you say is true, of course, but then if you are looking ahead in that way you’d have to worry about Tottenham, who have mega debt on their stadium, which has already been refinanced once, while Arsenal have a stadium that is paid for. Much for Tottenham will depend on how that refinancing of the stadium was achieved, and what impact the dramatic rise in interest rates might have in the next few years.
    And although I don’t agree that spending money on players is always the way forward, many do think that is the case, and Arsenal were the biggest spenders last summer, and could well be so again this summer.
    So yes, Newcastle might rise, Chelsea might fall, FFP might finally work (that’s a long shot I know) … as the title of the piece says, “Nothing is guaranteed”

  4. I believe that we have to turn losses into draws if possible , and hopefully draws into wins . We lost too many games last season , and there were too many mini crisises along the way. These happened in vital phases of the season.
    But what irks me is that we are now lumped with the Spuds as the also rans , or for the fight for a top 4th place . No trophies given , of course !

    Ah, but we hope , and hope that St. Totteringham’s Day will again be our !
    Up the Gunners !

  5. Jod what you say is true, of course, but then if you are looking ahead in that way you’d have to worry about Tottenham, who have mega debt on their stadium, which has already been refinanced once, while Arsenal have a stadium that is paid for.

    There is irony in this comment in that Spurs did indeed re finance their massive debt but at very low interest rates but here’s the irony Arsenal within the last couple of years have refinanced the stadium debt ( no it hasn’t been paid off ) that note is now held by the owners and whilst the sum payable in respect of interest isn’t clear the refinancing alone cost £30+ million which loaded more debt on the club.

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