And then there were two.
With seven and bit months and 31 league games still to go, it’s seems premature to be writing off 18 of the Premier League’s teams. 15 written off – that’s fine, but 18? That’s a stretch, even by the hyperbolic standards of the Daily Mail Sport.
By the first day of November, the majority of the league will have 10 games under their belts and that’s when the table is generally accepted to have taken shape. There’s a whole lot of drama, referees getting a bollocking and pretending Mario Balotelli for £16 million was good business yet to come, but can we draw any firm conclusions from the first 10 games about the likely destination of the league title?
As ridiculous as that sounds, the Paddy Power Blog have whipped out the entire Premier League archive and decided ‘wipe that smug look off your face, because we probably can.’ And here’s why.
Within the data, there are big differences, but there are some trends that don’t bode well. You can almost certainly wave goodbye to your chances of spraying excess amounts of cheap champagne around on the final day of the season if after 10 games:
- You have less than 18 points to your name
Two teams (Man United 92/93 & 02/03) have won the league after with 18 points at the 10 game mark, but a platform below that has never been enough for a team to go on to win the league.
- You’re not in the Top 5
Man City were fifth after 10 games last and so were United in 1996/97 and both went on to win the title, but no league eventual winner has ever been lower than that at that point.
- You’ve lost more than three matches already
And in reality, that figure should probably be ‘more than two matches’. City lost three of their first 10 games last season and still won the league, but it hadn’t happened before. 23% of league winners lost none of their first 10 games, 55% lost one and 18% lost two. Margin for error is very thin.
Manchester City’s victorious 2011/12 campaign set the high water mark after 10 games of the league campaign. At that stage, they had won nine games, drawn one, amassed 28 points and naturally topped the table. Chelsea managed the same results in their 2005/06 title win, but had a marginally less good (‘worse’ isn’t the right word) goal difference.
The eventual league winners with the worst record over the first 10 games are United’s 1992/93 vintage, followed by the 2002/03 edition. On average, after 10 league games, the eventual league winners are at least in second place (or extremely close), have won 6.5 of their game and have a fraction over 22 points on the board. Immediately that means 18 won’t meet that criteria.
Even at this early stage, it’s looking very much like a two-horse race between the moneybags of Chelsea and the even bigger moneybags of City. But could any credible challengers emerge to spoil the moneyfight? Based on the previous 22 Premier League seasons, the chances look thinner than Peter Crouch on a paleo diet.
Already, there’s immense pressure on Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal if they want to force their way into contention for the title. No team with less than 18 points after the first 10 games has gone on to lift the Premier League trophy and they’re all on the brink of missing that mark.
With 10 points apiece, the Scousers and Les Gunners need nothing short of three wins from their next three games to reach that tally, while although United have an extra point to their name, they face Chelsea and Manchester City in the latter part of the upcoming three game stretch, making seven points out of a possible nine look a huge and wildly optimistic ask. Plus, United haven’t won away from home and the game at West Brom is not a gimme. Particularly when you can’t defend.
Of course, records are there to be broken and a stunning defying of the historical evidence is impossible to rule out entirely. But in the cases of three of the league’s giants, they really need to smash the historical evidence to smithereens. There may be a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean the final destination is likely to change much.