By Tony Attwood and a calculator
“Just 19 points separate the team at the top (Arsenal) and bottom of the league (Nottingham Forest), the smallest gap at this stage of a season since the 2008-09 campaign.”
So says the Athletic and from this observation, the Athletic reach the conclusion that “The Premier League this season is the most chaotic in years.”
And knowing how the Athletic likes to go for an occasional meander through reality and its near-relations, I thought I would check the figures and see if they revealed anything interesting. Really was it chaotic? And is that points difference really the smallest gap?
Well, yes, they are right the difference of 19 is lower than anything in the last 11 years. But that’s actually not quite the point, for it seems to suggest everything is crunched up. But actually, there is a simple explanation.
True Forest who are 20th have a lot more points than is normal for a 20th placed club, but that’s about it. At this stage the bottom club normally has four or five points. This season it is nine.
Anyway, we did the research, and found this… the final column (“Difference”) is the gap between top and bottom, and yes it is larger than any other in the last ten years, but mostly only by two or three points.
In short, this season is different because we don’t have one club languishing in 20th place with four or five points. That’s it. Indeed only twice has the 18th club had more than Leeds who hold that position this season.
|2022/23||Arsenal||28||Leeds||9||Nottm F||9||19 pts|
|2020/21||Tottenham||24||Burnley||6||Sheffield U||1||23 pts|
|2018/19||Man City||29||Huddersfield||6||Fulham||5||24 pts|
|2017/18||Man City||31||West Ham||9||Crystal P||4||27 pts|
|2015/16||Man City||25||Newcastle||7||Aston V||4||21 pts|
|2013/14||Arsenal||25||Fulham||10||Crystal P||4||21 pts|
|2012/13||Man U||27||Reading||6||QPR||4||23 pts|
Certainly, at the top of the league nothing much is changing. In the previous ten years, six times the top club has had FEWER points than Arsenal at this stage. So Arsenal is doing above average for the top club after 11 games.
So it is not particularly a chaotic situation, and certainly, there is nothing in the figures to suggest that this is the “most chaotic season in years” as the Athletic claim. All that has happened is that the bottom three clubs are doing better slightly than normal.
In fact only twice in the last 10 years have clubs had more than Leeds’ current total of nine points and yet been in 18th place. And at no time in the last 10 years has a club with nine points been bottom of the league. That’s all there is to it.
In reality far from chaos increasing, it is reducing. Clubs are getting closer to each other (a reduction in chaos) rather than having a greater distance between them (ie more chaos).
But having established that the Athletic is barking up the wrong whatnot, we can now actually compare Arsenal this season with other teams after 11 games. Arsenal are doing slightly better than the average top-of-the-table team at this time in the campaign with 29% of the season gone.
|Season||Top||Points||Compare to AFC 22/23||Season winner||Top club pos at end|
|2018/19||Man City||29||+1||Man City||1|
|2017/18||Man City||31||+3||Man City||1|
|2012/13||Manchester U||27||-1||Man U||1|
What we can now see is that in five of the past ten seasons the club that was top after 11 games was also top of the league by the end of the season. So no chaos in those figures.
But where did the others end up? One came third, three came fourth, and one came seventh. That was Tottenham in 2020/21, and interestingly they had the lowest number of points of any of the clubs that were top after 11 games.
No other club has had 28 points at this stage and been top of the league in the past ten years, but the clubs with one point more or one point less have gone on to win the league.
The worst performance by a club that was top of the league after 11 games, in the chart above, is that of Tottenham Hotspur who had 24 points in 2020/21. So what happened? This is how that table looked after 11 games…
|5||West Ham United||12||6||2||4||20||15||5||20|
And what we can see at once is that only half of the big six were in the top six.
Tottenham’s demise came in December. On 1 December 2020 after ten games they were top. By the last day of the same month they were seventh. They recovered a little but then in January / February they lost five games out of six in the league and ultimately finished the season in sixth.
No chaos. Tottenham went down, and the members of the big six began to find their form. In the end it is all rather simple, and rather encouraging for Arsenal.
We might do a Tottenham and slip down the league, but most of the time they team that is top at this point of the season stays in the top four. And half the time it actually ends up winning the league.
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