Arsène Wenger recently stated that the 2016/17 English Premier League (EPL) champions will win with 82 – 86 points;
"In every game you have to be absolutely at your best to win. For everyone else it is exactly the same, you have to be really focused on details, at a top, top level for every game. Every detail can make a difference to get you points."
As the most experienced manager currently in the EPL, as well as being the second longest serving manager at one club behind only Sir Alex Ferguson, Wenger’s estimation may not be far wrong. Therefore, here at TSZ we’ll assess all the stats from every year since the EPL began and determine how likely it is that Arsène’s prediction will come to fruition, as well as looking at the number of points required to make the top four and avoid relegation.
Since the introduction of the EPL in 1992/93, the number of teams in the league and thus games played was reduced for the 1995/96 season from 22 teams (42 games) to 20 teams (38 games) and has stayed as this format since. Therefore, it is to be expected with more points available that the average points total for the top four league places decreased from the 42 to 38 game formats. On average, the total number of points to win the EPL in its most current arrangement is 85 points, which would justify Wenger’s predication.
The highest number of points achieved in the EPL is 95 by Chelsea during the 2004/05 season, when José Mourinho and his men were at their peak with a total unlikely to be beaten in the near future when taking into account the ever-increasing competitiveness of the league. However, the lowest number of points achieved by the EPL Champion’s is 75 by Manchester United during the 1996/97 season. Significantly, this total is less than the highest number of points achieved for fourth place; nevertheless, no team has won with fewer than 80 points since the 1998/99 season when the trend and competitiveness of the league between 1995/96 and 1999/2000 season saw an average of 81 points triumph. However, from 2000 to 2010 the league was won with an average of 88 points but has since decreased to 85 points. With the capital investments in all teams and level of competitiveness increasing yearly, will the number of points required winning the championship fall closer to the pre-2000 era?
At the start of the season six separate teams (Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur) were touted as possible favourites to win the league, making it the most competitive ever. Leicester City’s achievement last season was the second lowest points total since Manchester United in 2000/01, with second place also being the joint second lowest since the EPL began. Since the change of the Champions League qualification during 2009/10, the top four has become an all important objective for the big teams and one of great pride for the smaller sides. Notably, since 2011/12, second, third and fourth place has been a closely fought contest for the clubs battling it out, which was not seen before this time period. The difference of quality amongst teams is decreasing yearly with finer margins between success and failure, further justifying Wenger’s forecast.
Manchester United lead the way with total number of EPL titles (13), averaging 85 points. Significantly, Arsenal lead the way in runner-up (6), third (5) and fourth (7) league position, demonstrating their level of consistency during Wenger’s time in charge. Although the criticism he so often gets from the media and fans is unfair, his 20 league positions within the top four have yielded just two titles. Nevertheless, with only six different teams having been champions, the odds of a new team winning for the second year running appear low, which doesn’t bode well for Liverpool Tottenham Hotspur. However, with third (10) and fourth (11) position having a much greater number of different teams, the guarantee of the six mentioned making up the top places is not assured as many would predict.
At the other end of the table, the fight to avoid relegation is perhaps as competitively fought by the teams at the bottom end as it is at the top, due to the financial gains and losses of staying or going. Over the years, many a manger, fan, chairman and player has touted the importance of reaching the safety net of 40 points for the season, nevertheless here at TSZ we look at whether this prediction is noteworthy or whether teams should be thinking differently in their approach.
On average, the bottom three teams relegated from the EPL have averaged just 32 points. Notably, during 1996/97 (38) and 2009/10 (37), the difference was just two and three respectively.
Significantly, on three occasions teams have achieved the desired 40 points or more and have still been relegated. Nonetheless, of the 21 seasons assessed during the 38 game format, 14 teams have achieved less than 40 points and still survived. Furthermore, of the previous 13 seasons, only once has 17th place required 40 points to stay-up. On average, 17th position has achieved 38 points with 18th position 36. Although 40 points traditionally has resulted in team survival, similar to the trend at the top of the league, the teams fighting at the bottom in recent years have a strong chance to survive achieving less.
Since the 1995/96 season, the difference between 17th and 18th position has been one point or less during nine of the 21 seasons. Furthermore, it has only been greater than three points during six seasons, displaying the difference between relegation and survival can often come down to luck rather than skill level.
Arsène Wenger’s prediction of 82 – 86 points winning the title during the 2016/17 appears a very educated and accurate assessment from the one individual who is most qualified to make such a statement. Nevertheless, a simple prediction following the trend of the season after the first 13 games identifies the winning total as 91 points, five above Wenger’s prediction. Down the bottom of the table would see 13th place and above achieve the 40 mark. Obviously this is a somewhat crude estimate as form varies throughout the season for every team and the prospect of the table finishing in this manner is improbable, however what we can see is see is that the trend of many teams being in the mix for the title, Champions and Europa League and to avoid relegation is more competitive than ever and likely to go down to the final games of the season.