By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
This is karma. 12 months after QPR’s pluckiness and Manchester City’s complacency contrived to make for the most exciting end to a Premier League season in history, we’ve been handed a set of fixtures which make mowing the lawn on a mild afternoon seem moderately appealing.
Yes, Arsenal and Tottenham are trying to give each other one in the eye by consigning their north London neighbours to the disgrace of Europa League football, but with the trap door already closed and Lord Fergie smiling smugly into his 13th league title, we’ve got a lot of games with not much riding on them.
But that pessimistic outlook doesn’t mean there isn’t some money to be made. With players already thinking about the faraway shores in which they can commit their marital infidelities, teams can be notoriously unreliable, but is there some reliability to their unreliability? The Paddy Power Blog has looked over the history of Premier League final days and discovered that there probably is.
IN A NUTSHELL
- THERE’S NOT MUCH TO PLAY FOR THIS SUNDAY
- MANCHESTER UNITED ARE NORMALLY RELIABLE TO THE END
- IT’S WELL WORTH OPPOSING STOKE
First up, we need a definition of what is a dead rubber. For this exercise, it’s as simple as Sam Allardyce’s tactics – a dead rubber for a team is any game that doesn’t involve them winning the title, escaping relegation or qualifying for Europe qualifies as a final day dead rubber. In short, it wasn’t counted as a dead rubber if:
- A league title was up for grabs
- They were trying to avoid relegation
- They’re going for European qualification
- They’re going for a better type of European qualification
(i.e. improving from Europa League place to a Champions League place or Champions League Play-off round to Champions League proper)
What was counted as a dead rubber was any game in which a team moved up a couple of futile places in the league. For example, leap-frogging Fulham and Stoke of that much sought after ninth placed finish. Yes it may feel like oral sex from each of the Saturdays to an Aston Villa fan, but the rest of the world didn’t care. Also included is any game in which a team were guaranteed to finish in a certain place, regardless of their final day result. The type of game they’d ring in sick for if they weren’t contractually obliged to fulfill it.
Swansea are technically the kings of the final day dead rubber, but they’ve only had one, which they won. As you might expect, Manchester United are the more consistent kings of the final day dead rubber, winning an impressive 75 per cent of the 12 final day games in which they have nowt to play for. The stakes may be low, but the hairdryer remains plugged in until the last.
Chelsea have also done pretty well, especially considering a large portion of their final day dead rubber success came prior to Abramovich’s billions when they were poor and Graeme Le Saux counted as exotic because he came from Jersey. I’m going to ignore QPR’s lofty listing on the list on account of the fact all four of their final day dead rubbers came at the start of the Premier League era. Southampton’s eight dead rubbers also go back some time, but they have won half of their eight, which at least feels like some sort of achievement for a team of their size.
There are some surprises among the unreliables. Manchester City’s name stands out, but bear in mind a large chunk of that record is based on their pre-petrodollar days when writing Roll With It could have earned you enough money to buy the club.
Stoke’s name is less surprising. It’s to Tony Pulis’ credit that he’s had his team far enough the table to avoid final day relegation scrapping, but it’s less of a credit to him that his players don’t seem to give a crap at this stage of the season. In each of their Premier League seasons, they’ve had the luxury of a final day dead rubber, but they’ve yet to win one in four attempts. West Brom fall into a similar category, although they’ve been involved in plenty of final day drama too.
Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham also feature further down the list than you might expect, but as two of those teams still have plenty to play for, it’s irrelevant for this time around. The Merseyside clubs are already locked into sixth and seventh place so don’t be surprised if they phone it in a bit this Sunday, which could be good news for Rafa Benitez and Harry Redknapp if they’re looking for a cherry on top of the cake of absurdity that has been this Premier League campaign.
It’s nothing conclusive, but it’s worth taking on some of the teams which dodgy final day records. Manchester United (v West Brom), Swansea (v Fulham), Chelsea (v Everton) and Southampton (v Stoke) are all teams with good final day dead rubber records against teams who haven’t been as arsed over the years. The four-fold pays just under 9/1 and these dead rubbers could add some bounce to your bank account.