What normally happens to the club that is top after 15 games of a season?



By Tony Attwood

In eight of the last ten years the team that was first in the Premier League after 15 games won the league.  On the two occasions in which this didn’t happen the team that was top of the league after 15 games had 35 points or fewer.

So to put this another way: every time in the past 10 years that the club that is top after 15 games and has 36 points or more, that club has won the league.  Arsenal are top after 15 games and currently have 40 points.

The lowest number of goals scored by a team that was top of the league after 15 games, in the last ten years, was 30 from Arsenal – and Arsenal went on to come fourth.  This season Arsenal has 36 – and clubs have won the league with anything from 32 goals upward by this stage of the season.

The worst defence by a team after 15 games which then went on to win the league in the last ten years, conceded 21 goals after 15 games.  That happened twice, once with Leicester City and once with Manchester United.  The lowest number of goals conceded by a title-winning team in the last 10 years, after 15 games, is seven by Manchester City.  Arsenal have conceded 12.

So in other words, in terms of both attack and defence, Arsenal is performing along the lines of a club that is about to win the league.  That doesn’t mean the club will win the league, but rather that it is in the right ball-park.

The lowest goal difference by any club after 15 games which went on to win the title is 15 by Leicester.  The highest was 38 by Manchester City.   Arsenal are currently on +24 which is the third best goal difference at this stage in the last ten years by a title-winning team.  So yet again, Arsenal is performing along the lines of other teams that have gone on to win the title.

Here is what the Premier League looked like after 15 games each season, in terms of the club at the top of the league after 15 games.  No team has hit 40 points by this stage of the season and NOT gone on to win the league.  Here is a table of the top team after 15 games across the last ten years.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts Final
2022/23 Arsenal 15 13 1 1 36 12 24 40
2021/22 Manchester City 15 11 2 2 32 9 23 35 1st
2020/21 Liverpool 15 9 5 1 37 20 17 32 3rd
2019/20 Liverpool 15 14 1 0 37 14 23 43 1st
2018/19 Manchester City 15 13 2 0 45 7 38 41 1st
2017/18 Manchester City 15 14 1 0 46 10 36 43 1st
2016/17 Chelsea 15 12 1 2 33 11 22 37 1st
2015/16 Leicester City 15 9 5 1 32 21 11 32 1st
2014/15 Chelsea 15 11 3 1 34 13 21 36 1st
2013/14 Arsenal 15 11 2 2 30 11 19 35 4th
2012/13 Manchester United 15 12 0 3 37 21 16 36 1st

But are there special factors with regard to this season?  Obviously the interruption of football by the world cup is one such.   So how have Arsenal been affected in terms of the amount of minutes their players have played in the WC games?  Here’s a comparison table…

  • Manchester City: World Cup minutes: 4,624
  • Manchester United: World Cup minutes: 3,873
  • Tottenham Hotspur: World Cup minutes: 3,687
  • Chelsea: World Cup minutes: 3326
  • Liverpool: World Cup minutes: 1,788
  • Arsenal: World Cup minutes: 1,699
  • Brighton and Hove Albion: World Cup minutes: 1544
  • Newcastle United: World Cup minutes: 458

Obviously we can see the huge benefit that Newcastle United now have.

Moving on, here’s another thought…

Has a Premier League team ever jumped from finishing fifth one season to winning the league the next?   

The answer is no.  If we look at the Premier League winners from 1992/93, in that first season Manchester  United won the league, having come second in the final League Division One the previous season.   Since then on nine occasions the winner of the league retained the title, having won it the season before.

On 13 occasions the league was won by the club that had come second the season previous.

On six occasions the league has been won by the club that came 3rd the previous time around.

Only twice since the start of the league has a team moved from a finish the previous season below third up to winning the league title.  In 2016 Leicester won the title having been 14th the season before and in 2017 Chelsea won the title having come 10th in the season before.

And if Arsenal keep going as they are now will any other records fall?   Counting only the 38 games seasons we can look at the record and estimate Arsenal’s outcome, if all things stay the same.  The estimate is based totally on extrapolation – which is in effect multiplying the current total by 2.53.

PL Record for Champions Arsenal estimate 2022/3
Most wins 32 33
Most defeats 6 3
Most draws 13 2
Most goals scored 106 91
Least goals conceded 15 30
Best goal difference 79 61
Most points gained 100 101


So if everything stays as is, Arsenal would be a record-breaking team in terms of most wins, least defeats and most points.  But of course these are merely estimates.

2 Replies to “What normally happens to the club that is top after 15 games of a season?”

  1. Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!!!!!

    However, very good reading for a committed Gooner.

    The outcome might top my experience of being in Cardiff for the FA Cup on Saturday and OT on the Wednesday to complete the Double.

    I am however a firm believer.

    Thanks for the article and Happy New Year

  2. The team are playing exciting football, currently top of the League and in the conversation for finishing first. That makes for a Happy New Year for all gooners!!!

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