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STATS: What Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool need to change to become Premier League winners

by Aidan Elder | July 18, 2014

Wow – last season. That was something special, wasn’t it?

At times it felt like Martin Tyler was about to spontaneously combust with excitement, Gary Neville was on the point of reaching Nirvana and Jamie Redknapp was on the brink of using a word with three syllables.

While City’s tussle with Liverpool and, despite Jose’s protestations, Chelsea was thrilling, it may well pale into comparison to what we’ve got in store this time around. Five teams harbouring ambitions of a league title, four of them will feel more disappointed than an Irish person with a Garth Brooks ticket.

Despite not having a whip round to buy Yaya a birthday cake, Manchester City look to be in a strong position to defend their crown. Louis van Gaal takes on the sizeable job of taking Manchester United from seventh to title challengers. On the plus side, he doesn’t have a hard act to follow. Brendan Rodgers worked wonders last season, but now Liverpool need to take that final step without the goals and molars of Luis Suarez. Chelsea’s bankroll should ensure the Special One will be playing down his chances of a title until well into May.

And after years of treating the cheque-book like it was his precious virginity, Arsene Wenger has once again gone and splashed some cash and with three newly crowned World champions in his squad, a genuine title push needs to be the order of the day. It’s either that or a season of tedious trolling from Piers Morgan.

But what does it take to make the step up from hopeful to champion? What are the characteristics of a Premier League winning team? The Paddy Power Blog has looked back over the years to get some answers.


On the graph we have plotted Chelsea’s season in which they amassed a record 95 points as the most comprehensive Premier League win, United’s 1996/97 win as the least convincing and the average of the 22 Premier League winners we’ve had to date. It gives a reasonable idea of the key elements needed to become champions.

First up, to paraphrase the not very funny cliche, you don’t need a water-tight defence to work here, but it helps. Plenty of champions have been less than impenetrable at the back, but plenty veered towards the Kevin Keegan ‘we’ll score one more than you’ style of tactics.

Most of the time, you can even afford the luxury of conceding almost a goal a game and still be considered title contenders. Ideally it would be substantially less, but one goal a game seems to be the cut-off point however. Six teams have managed to win the league conceding average of between 0.9 and 0.99 goals a game, but just a tiny distance over the other side of the hill at more than one goal a game, only three teams have done it – all Manchester United (96/97, 99/00, 12/13). On average, the champions have conceded 0.84 goals per game.

Win with a shout

Win rates vary more than the standard of Steven Gerrard’s performances. Chelsea set the high water mark for win rates by winning 76.3% of their games in the course of their successful 2004/05 and 2006/06 seasons while despite being over 20% behind, United won the 96/97 title by winning slightly more than half of their games. To their credit, they didn’t lose a whole lot either and that was enough in a season so freaky that Joe Kinnear, Graeme Souness and Stuart Pearce all claimed Manager of the Month Awards in the course of the season. The average falls well between the two and if you’re looking to get your hands on trophy, on average, you need to be winning 67.5% of your games.

Six is the arbitrary figure thrown about for the amount of league games you can afford to lose before your title aspirations go completely up in smoke. There’s some truth to that. Only one team has lost more than that and won the Premier League. That was Blackburn in 1994/95 and to somewhat defend them, that was a 42 game season. Six Premier League have won the league with a six in the ‘L’ column, but in fact, the average for Premier League winning teams is a bit lower – 4.5 defeats. That doesn’t leave a huge amount of margin for error, so when you take into account the games against your close rivals, you can’t afford too many nights of not doing it on a rainy night in Stoke.

In summary, here’s what some of the leading contenders need to do to move towards the profile of the typical Premier League winner:

  • Liverpool would need to concede 13 goals less than they did last season to come in under the ‘one goal a game’ conceded average that appears to be so vital.
  • Arsenal would need to concede four less and ideally lose at least one less game.
  • Manchester United would probably need to win around seven more games than they did last year to hit the average win rate of Premier League champions.
  • Chelsea don’t need to improve too much on last seasons performance to match that of a typical Premier League winner. To borrow a line from the Jamie Redknapp School of Stating the Obvious, a couple more wins would help.

Of course, this is all based on the average of Premier Leagues past. Performing above the average may ultimately count for nothing if someone performs above average better than you. Whatever happens, this season looks poised to be more competitive season.


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