By Tony Attwood
This season, after 23 games played, the top two teams are just two points apart – something that has not been the case since 2013/14, when the gap after 23 games was just one point.
And in fact, this is a major change from the last five seasons where after 23 games the gap from first to second in the Premier League has been between 11 and 22 points. Stories have then circulated in the press that “bookies have already started paying out”
Although paying out is probably a safe bet in terms of getting free publicity, because only once in the past ten seasons has the club that has been top after 23 games, not gone on to win the league!
But even with that near-certainty, it is worth noting that after having had five years of big gaps between the first and second club, we are back to the earlier era in which over the four seasons from 2012/13 on, the gap was between the top two was one and five points at this stage.
So, based on the last ten years, Arsenal being top after 23 games are indeed likely to win the league.
But how are Arsenal compared to other clubs that have gone on to win the league? We’ve been looking at how the league table looked at this point over the last 10 seasons to see if we can discern a pattern.
First wins: Arsenal are midpoint with 17 wins after 23 games. Liverpool, in their title-winning season had 22 wins out of 23 games, but Manchester City and Leicester City both went on to win the league after fewer than 17 wins in the first 23 games – Leicester having just 13 wins by this stage.
On the other hand, no club has won the league having had more than 3 defeats by this stage – and in fact only one club had had three defeats at this point and that was Chelsea.
In terms of goal scoring Arsenal are on the lower reaches after 23 games – but not way off course. Leicester were the lowest-scoring team by this point that has won the league in the last ten years with 42 goals. Chelsea had only 52 by this point in 2014/15. Manchester City have been out of reach twice, getting 67 goals in 2017/18 by this point and 68 goals by this stage in 2013/14.
As for defence this confirms that the league has mutated back to a situation of earlier years – clubs of late have only conceded 13 to 17 goals by now, compared with Arsenal’s 23. But go back ten years and Arsenal’s current performance was normal for a top of the league club – Manchester United in 2012/13 had let in 30 by now, but went on to win the league.
As for points, four clubs have had fewer than Arsenal at this stage of the season and went on to win the league, although the difference between first and second club of just two points is, as you will expect, unusual. In 2013/14 the difference was just one point and in 2015/16 it was three points. But in recent years a lead at the top in double figures by the 23rd game has been the norm.
In other words the media ought to be delighted at Arsenal’s rise: it has stopped this being yet another season where the Premier League is over, half way through the season.
So as the table below shows, we really have mutated back to 2015/16 when the gap between first and second clubs was considerably smaller at this point than it has been in later years. But as I noted, only once in the last 10 seasons has a club been top at this stage of the season, and then not gone on to win the league.
The table shows the position of the top club after 23 games The “Diff” column shows the number of points between the top two in the league at this stage, and the “Final” column shows where this team ended up at the end of the season..
Thus across the last ten years the league has been won by anything from 1 point (which has happened twice) to 19 points.
Finally, we wondered if there was any pattern as to what happened to the club the year after winning the league.
That is the most varied thing of all. Twice the league winners (both times Manchester City) have retained their title. Twice the league winners have come second in the season after winning the league. But at the other end, on three occasions, having won the league, the club has dropped out of the top four, and twice has even dropped out of the top ten.
So winning the league is not a guarantee of long term success!
|Pos||Team||1st to 2nd||Next year|
|2021/22||Manchester City||1 point|
|2020/21||Manchester City||12 points||1st|
|2018/19||Manchester City||1 point||2nd|
|2017/18||Manchester City||19 points||1st|
|2015/16||Leicester City||10 points||12th|
|2013/14||Manchester City||2 points||2nd|
|2012/13||Manchester United||9 points||7th|
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