How to win the league. An everyday guide.

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By Walter Broeckx

Is losing games the worst thing that can happen to you  when you want to win the title? At first sight you might answer this question with : yes.

But let us try to analyse this a bit deeper and take a look at the last 10 years in the league and look at what caused losing titles most: winning, losing or drawing a game?

In 2000-2001 we had as a final table

  1. Man united       38           24           8             6             80 points
  2. Arsenal              38           20           10           8             70 points

In 2001-2002 we had as final table

  1. Arsenal                38           26           9             2             87 points
  2. Liverpool            38           24           8             6             80 points

In 2002-2003 we had as a final table

  1. Man united       38           25           8             5             83 points
  2. Arsenal              38           23           9             6             78 points

In 2003-2004 we had as a final table

  1. Arsenal              38           26           12           0             90 points
  2. Chelsea              38           24           7             7             79 points

In 2004-2005 we had as a final table

  1. Chelsea              38           29           8             1             95 points
  2. Arsenal              38           25           8             5             83 points

In 2005-2006 we had as a final table

  1. Chelsea              38           29           4             5             91 points
  2. Man United      38           25           8             5             83 points

In 2006 – 2007 we had as a final table

  1. Man United      38           28           5             5             89 points
  2. Chelsea              38           24           11           3             83 points

In 2007-2008 we had as a final table (a rather close finish)

  1. Man United      38           27           6             5             87 points
  2. Chelsea              38           25           10           3             85 points
  3. Arsenal              38           24           11           3             83 points

In 2008-2009 we had as a final table

  1. Man United       38           28           6             4             90 points
  2. Liverpool           38           25           11           2             86 points

In 2009-2010 we had as a final table ( a very close finish)

  1. Chelsea               38           27           5             6             86 points
  2. Man United       38           27           4             7             85 points

So in those 10 years we always had the team that won the most of its games ending up as champions.  But I think this is something even a 6 year old could have figured out. Also notice that most of the times the champion has a big advantage in points at the end of the season. Only 2 seasons  we had a close finish and the title was decided on the last day of the season.

But I think the most interesting things is to see at how many games the champions have lost in the past 10 years compared to the runners up. The question: is it better to draw or lose? Or otherwise put: is it better to go for the winner or settle for the draw?  When it is 0-0 with 5 minutes to go: do you attack with the risk of being hit on the break or do you lean back and keep the point you have? So let us try to find out what was the best way in those 10 years.

In the first 5 years of my comparison it is also rather clear that the best thing to do is to lean back and hold on to the point you have.

But since then things have changed a bit. Since the 2006-2007 season it was the team that lost most games of the top two that won the title. So one could say that in those years the teams went out to win more at the end and avoid a draw and even maybe lost by going for the 3 points came at the end of the season out on top. But this is not always the case and it also could be that a draw changed in to a victory in the last minute. I can remember Man United scoring a lot of goals in extra time in the last season to just win 1-0. And also Arsenal had a habit of scoring late in the last seasons at times.

But in the last season with a very close margin it was again the more normal way that decided the title. The one draw that Chelsea got more than United won them the title.

But the main conclusion is : the team that wins most of their games has the best chance to win the title and then the next thing to decide the title is : try to lose not too many games. And then avoid to draw too many games.

And let us take a look at the league table and the top 4 at this moment with all teams after their first 20 games.

Pos Team P W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Manchester United 19 11 8 0 41 18 23 41
2 Manchester City 21 12 5 4 33 16 17 41
3 Arsenal 20 12 3 4 42 22 20 39
4 Tottenham 20 10 6 4 30 23 7 36

So if we just look at games won  we are the best team so far together with Manchester City. But they have played one more game than we have so far. But keep in mind that Manchester United also can get to 12 wins out of 20 games if they win their next game. And also keep in mind that the game United have played less is an away game against Chelsea. Chelsea who are now 5th with 10 wins out of 20 games.

And as I pointed out this is the most important criteria when it comes to winning titles. And based on this criteria we are doing as well as United so far.  On the second criteria one could say that United has the best chance. But how will they react to their first defeat? Will they crumble? Will they bounce back? We still have to find out. And that is a question we cannot answer right now. Time will tell.

So are we in with a chance? If just over half way through the season you can keep up the pace in the winning games department I sure believe it can be done.  We just have to keep winning as many games as possible and it doesn’t matter who we play. After all a win against Birmingham is as important as a win against Chelsea. It only is one win and it only is 3 points in the league table.

And I think we are in a five horse race with the 5 teams who are current in the top 5. The other teams don’t seem able to win as many games so far this season. And even the current number is a low one compared to last season. Last season Chelsea and Man United had already 14 wins behind their name after 20 games. A number that is out of reach for any team this season.

And in the last 10 seasons the lowest number of wins needed  to win the league was 24 and I think this could be lower this season.  This is of course if the league follows the same route as it has done so far this season.

So let us just go out there and try to win  our games and let’s just see what happens at the end of each 90 minutes. But you do have to try to win the games to come out on top, that is for sure.  And this is the philosophy we at Arsenal have had during the reign of Arsène Wenger: just go on the pitch and try to win, no matter who you play.  And we can win games or we can be hit on the break sometimes, but we can never say that we didn’t try to win.

And for me as a fan that is all I really want at the end of the day. I want them to win but if it doesn’t work I must have the feeling that we have tried to do our best.  So let’s just keep on trying to win as much games as possible. We will see come May where we will finish.

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23 Replies to “How to win the league. An everyday guide.”

  1. it’s elementary maths after all!!
    let’s say a team plays 6 matches per season where the scores are tied going into the last ten minutes.
    if you go for the win, you have a 50% chance of winning – a probability of 9 points from those 6 matches.
    go for the draw however, and you only get 6 points.

  2. Great article Walter. Just one thing: are wins against Birmingham exactly the same as against Chelsea? No they aren’t, simply because in the latter case, while you pick up the 3 points, at the same time you have made your title rival DROP those points. In theory, if everyone from the top 5 beats the rest of the league home and away, then only the top-5 clashes will decide the title. In reality it doesn’t work that way some seasons but once in a while it does.

  3. Hi, Can anyone help with the statistics of goals conceded by each goal-keeper in the EPL.

  4. Good points Walter!
    It’s interesting how remaining undefeated with numerous draws is highly damaging! The points scoring system is beautifully constructed just for that reason! 2 seasons ago when Liverpool only lost 2 matches they still finished 2nd! Remaining undefeated only really matters in a psychological sense as long as you believe too that you can win matches! Believing you can’t lose just isn’t enough!

  5. damn talking about stats cant believe fabianski is 1.9m tall. and wilshere is taller then tevez

  6. And it is important that, not to dropping points against MAN U , City & Tottenham.
    and the number of arsenal defeat so far this season is 5.

  7. Great piece, and this is something I always mention when I hear yet another pundit/commentator trot out the old “they’ve lost too many games to win the title”, “they can’t afford to lose any more matches”, etc.

    Winning games is what matters – Man Utd won three titles in a row by losing more matches than the runners up.

  8. Dear Tony,
    This is an Indian Chelsea fan who loves to read your blog. I like it because yours is the only blog that gives a lot of statistical analysis. However I’d like to give you some advice.

    Articles that seem like they have a lot of numbers look boring. If most people are like me then they almost never read the numbers on the top of the page – They straightaway go to the analysis you give.

    This is what I advise :-
    Use averages a lot. You could have cut down on the first set of numbers above by telling us the average numbers of wins by winning team each season versus those by the team that was the second best – In a particular 3 or 4 year period , say 2000 o 2004 , 2005 to 2008 and so on.
    This is sufficient to make your point. Although you seem to be bent upon nailing it by giving us every number that is available. Remember not every every bullet is meant to be shot.

  9. CORRECTION: The game less that Man United have played is away at Blackpool to be played on January 25th, The postponed game against Chelsea, which will be played on March 1st, coincided with many Premier League games being postponed. No disrespect to Blackpool … who, I should add, have been a revelation this year … but most would expect United to win which would put Arsenal at 5 point disadvantage based on the current standings.

  10. Here are a few interesting stats I think will be relevant and highlight Arsenal’s poor Title challenges in recent seasons (including 03/04 to highlight that points are dropped in number of games – 24pts or less guarantees the title).

    HOME 15W 4D 0L AWAY 11W 8D 0L 26 goals conceded. 12 games pts dropped.

    HOME 15W 4D 1L AWAY 12W 3D 4L 36 goals conceded. 13 games pts dropped.

    HOME 14W 3D 2L AWAY 6W 4D 9L 31 goals conceded. 18 games pts dropped.

    HOME 12W 6D 1L AWAY 7W 5D 7L 35 goals conceded. 19 games pts dropped.

    HOME 14W 5D 0L AWAY 11W 6D 3L 31 goals conceded. 14 games pts dropped.

    HOME 11W 5D 3L AWAY 9W 7D 3L 37 goals conceded. 18 games pts dropped.

    HOME 15W 2D 2L AWAY 8W 4D 7L 41 goals conceded. 15 games pts dropped.

    Bottom line is Arsenal can make 93pts with 18 more league wins, likelyhood is that mid-80s could be enough for the title but no reason why not! In 07/08, they were looking at the 90pts mark, the Eduardo incident happened and they dropped points in games they should have won.

    And a point on clean sheets for last season & this season so far (since the GKs involved all still here (for now))

    Premier League 14 of 38, Champs League 4 of 12, FA Cup 0 of 2, Carling Cup 1 of 3

    Premier League 5 of 20, Champs League 1 of 6, FA Cup 0 of 0, Carling Cup 2 of 3

    Given that 22 goals already conceded in the Premier League and really mid 30s could be likely working on normal avg of .75 goal conceded per game. Clean sheets are vital and they are as much responsibility of the Goal Keeper as the CBs given the number of set-piece goals Arsenal concede.

    FACT lol

  11. we lost 5 game so far,we would be first in table if it should have
    been 5 draw and it could happened to other competitor. so simply the one who turn more lose to draw can win the title.

  12. Hi Tony this is for you. I know its off topic, but what did you make of the back page of the daily mail saturday. Man Utd Texting fans asking them to bring friends to the stoke game that no club is immune to the effects of the economy 🙂

  13. The team are in a good run of form, a win on Wednesday, coupled with a run of victories after that game will set us up nicely for the rest of the season.

    Who knows? We might even win something.

  14. Harman, it’s not Tony but I would like to thank you for your contribution.
    The ever existing problem between trying to give too much information or not enough information. I will keep it in mind. After all we don’t want to lose readers (not even when they are Chelsea fans) 😉 on this site.

    Personaly speaking I think it is great to have a fan from another team around that brings something in to the discussion and not just starts speaking in abusive terms. So I do would like to thank you for this.

  15. Great Article Walter, same with Sammy the snake. Two very good entry’s. Loving the numbers 🙂 Oh facts how they are interesting!

    Keep it up!

  16. I think we’re just tryin to put statistics in our favour in this article. If we look at different statistics, then it would prove that Arsenal hav very less chance of winning the title. Either way, what matters is the points. It would be silly to say that having a lot of losses is better than having lots of draws. What we need is 3 points every game. And the point system is such that either we drop 2 points for a draw or either we drop 3 points for a loss. Both are equally bad for the title challenge. We can only aim for a win in every match from now bcoz a 5 point lead is a reasonably comfortable lead for United.

  17. @dark prince,
    Do have a look at the fixture, Arsenal have already played ALL their difficult away games and Chelsea twice.

    City will have to depend on the ego of their ‘star team’…

    Chelsea old man team are still chasing from far

    UTD agoraphobia team have to play a huge chuck of difficult away games that Arsenal have already beaten. The April fixture with UTD will be key~~ The league is Arsenal’s to lose..

  18. Swifty87, so we just have to win all our remaining games to be champion. That’s all it takes. 😉
    But that was my point: just go out there and try to win every single game.

  19. @ Dark Prince: You seem to be missing the point that i think Walter is trying to make, On T.V for a few days pundits have been going on and on about how Arsenal cannot win the league only because we have lost 5 times.That is a very silly argument and what Walter is saying through this piece is that inspite of losing 5 games, we have drawn fewer than many others.Look at the league leaders united, considering they win the game in hand they ve a 5point lead against us as opposed to 15.They ve lost ‘0’ and we have lost ‘5’. And 5 point a comfortable lead?LOL they still have to play Chelsea twice and come home to Ems!

  20. +hey walter gr8 analysis it seems we have a little margin for error atm. draws are costly liverpool only lost two games a few seasons agoo but drew too many. we need to put a run together.

    I know utd may win the title but for me I dont think they are good enough i wouldnt take any of their players for arsenal maybe some of their defense might be able to get into our first 11 but we have better players and a better squad and the only thing that can stop us is ourselves we need to keep the confidence and belief up

  21. ok gunners we have win our first game of the year and lets just do what walter commend… “the team that wins most of their games has the best chance to win the title and then the next thing to decide the title is : try to lose not too many games. And then avoid to draw too many games.”

    So, let win as much as possible and try not to lose even though we had ref who are trying to steal at least two if not all of our deserved three points each game..

    For the last 3 games I some how had the feeling that our gunners has come to that level where their potential cannot be unbridled anymore and their spirit is roaring… or was it just me.. 😀

  22. @only1 – u r accusing all the teams for some or dthe other problems. Why dont we jus look within our own team? City hav ego problems, united r havin bad away record, chelsea in a free fall, and us? We just need to get hit by another set of injuries and that wud be enough to wreck our title challenge. Also why dont u really look into mug fixtures? All of our big games r at home and we have a not so good home record!! That makes me more nervous

  23. @Swikrath- maybe you’re missing what the pundits always have said about Arsenal – They say we dont last the distance. And it has mostly happened in last 4-5 yrs that Arsenal do not last the distance. They are trully title challengers till feb/march. After that they collapse. So its does not matter where we stand now bcoz frankly speakin we have been in better position than this at new years, it only matters where we stand at the end of the season.

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