By Tony Attwood
There has been in the media, over the last year or three, a number of suggestions in the media that say that the Premier League is getting more and more fractured, in the sense that the top clubs (the top four or the top six perhaps) are pulling away further and further from the rest, leaving the others behind.
As part of this we read that such and such a club is having its best / worst ever start / finish to a season.
But whenever people say “this is Tottenham’s best start to a PL season ever” or indeed any other team, or indeed (again) a specific club’s worst start to a season, I get to ponder the meaningfulness of such claims.
Of course, one season has to be the worst and one has to be the best, otherwise we couldn’t have a list. But if you imagine a set of ten seasons in which the top club gets between 85 and 90 points each season, and then one club gets 91, then yes that is the highest number of points ever. Quite true. But it is the highest by one in a small range, and not really that significant, not least because that highest-ever number is restricted by the fact that no club will ever get above 114 points, at least not under the current rules because there are only 38 games and there are only 3 points a game.
So we might suddenly see that Tottenham is having its best start ever to a season – but well, that has to come sometime, for every club. And if I were a Tottenham supporter I’d still be worried about the results against the rest of the big seven. Here’s that table which we ran up in the last article in case you missed it. PPG = points per game, which is needed because Manchester United have played twice as many as Manchester City.
So, I started to wonder just how much variation there was between one season and the next and hence I have just wasted 10 minutes doing what none of the articles that I have seen about the “best ever” and “worst ever” and the like, have bothered to do.
I created a list showing the number of points the fourth team (ie the club grabbing the final place in the Champions League), and 18th place (ie the team that is relegated but only by one place) in recent years.
Here’s the list in case you are interested…
|Year||4th placed team points||18th placed team points||Difference|
And what we see is that these numbers are pretty close. In terms of fourth position, the range is 66 points to 76 points. In terms of 18th place, the range is 28 points to 37 points: nine points difference. So nine and ten points difference between the best and the worst in each case.
Plus the difference between Europe and relegation is ranges between 32 and 42 points. Around 12 wins instead of 12 defeats means Europe instead of going down. It’s not that much.
And much more to the point the range and the actual numbers are not escalating. The number of points gained by the fourth and 18th placed team is hardly moving. In fact it’s not news at all.
What is news, and what gets much much less coverage is the fact that Tottenham and Chelsea are having a very difficult time against other members of the Big 7. Nine games between them, and not a single win. But no one is talking about that! Why is that? Ah – perhaps because no one at the Topple Bollard public house has remained sober enough to do the calculation.
In fact although there is a difference in these runs, fortune is fickle. A quick coup in a Middle East country and ooops, suddenly a club finds it’s money stops. An aggrieved nephew pushes his mega rich uncle over a cliff, and suddenly the family decides it doesn’t want to invest in a loss-making football club anymore and ditto.
Indeed the range between success and failure is not that huge but is variable, which is what makes football so fascinating, and also encourages people with insane amounts of money (or indeed the ownership of a country to fund their little hobbies) to throw some of it at a game. Which might seem an odd thing to do, but is probably better than starting a war.
In 1998 Arsenal won the league with 78 points. In 2019 Arsenal got 79 points and came fourth, and and the “fourth is not a trophy” campaign was in full swing.- which is part of what makes talk about the best and worst seasons pretty meaningless.
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- Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying
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