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Friday, June 21, 2024

How the number of points required to win the Premier League title has gone up and up

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It may not roll off the tongue but Arsenal are on course to be the third-best second-placed team in the history of the Premier League.

If Mikel Arteta’s win their final game of the season against Everton, they will finish the 2023-24 season on 89 points with a goal difference of at least +62.

Position

  

Team

  

Games played

  

Goal difference

  

Points

  

1

Man City

37

60

88

2

Arsenal

37

61

86

Being one of the best-ever runners-up English football has ever seen will come as no consolation to those with a rooted interest in seeing Mikel Arteta’s team win the title, but it offers some context around how good they have been, even if they do fall short.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Manchester City will win the title on Sunday afternoon, but it does seem likely, with a fixture at home against West Ham the only thing standing in the way of the club’s quest to win a fourth successive crown. Arsenal can still win the title with a win, if City fail to beat West Ham.

Scenario

  

Title winner

  

Man City win, Arsenal win

Man City

Man City draw, Arsenal win

Arsenal

Man City draw, Arsenal draw

Man City

Man City lose, Arsenal draw

Man City

Man City lose, Arsenal win

Arsenal

Liverpool hold the record as the best team not to win the Premier League — accumulating 97 points in 2018-19 and 92 in 2021-22 but coming second in both campaigns. Manchester United managed 89 points in 2011-12, but their goal difference of +56 means Arsenal will pip them if they beat Everton at home in their final fixture, as the table below illustrates.

Year

  

Team

  

Goal difference

  

Points

  

Liverpool

97

67

2018/19

Liverpool

92

68

2021/22

Arsenal*

89*

62*

2023/24

Man United

89

56

2011/12

Tottenham

86

60

2016/17

2023-24 is the 29th time the Premier League has comprised 20 teams — the three seasons between the league’s inception in 1992-93 and 1994-95 involved 22 teams. During the previous 28 seasons with 20 teams, the average number of points needed to win the title was 87 points.

Aspiring to reach a certain points total, like 40 points to avoid relegation, or 90 to win the title, is relative. Leicester won the league in 2015-16 with just 81 points, while Liverpool recorded 97 in 2018-19 and still saw another team win the title.


Liverpool’s total of 97 points in 2018-19 was still not enough to win the title (Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The margin for error for both Manchester City and Arsenal this season is essentially one game. If Arsenal had won just one of the five games they’ve drawn, they’d be heading into the final day on top of the table.

PL teams in first place

89 points and a goal difference of at least +62 may not be enough to win the title this season, but it would have got the job done in 16 of the last 28 seasons. Here are the Premier League champions that this season’s Arsenal would have finished above.

Year

  

Team

  

Goal difference

  

Points

  

2022/23

Man City

61

89

2012/13

Man Utd

43

89

2006/07

Man Utd

56

89

2014/15

Chelsea

41

87

2007/08

Man Utd

58

87

2001/02

Arsenal

43

87

2020/21

Man City

51

86

2013/14

Man City

65

86

2009/10

Chelsea

71

86

1995/96

Man Utd

38

82

2015/16

Leicester

32

81

2010/11

Man Utd

41

80

2000/01

Man Utd

48

80

1998/99

Man Utd

43

79

1997/98

Arsenal

35

78

1996/97

Man Utd

32

75

Manchester City, meanwhile, could win the title with one of their ‘poorer’ seasons under Pep Guardiola, who nonetheless stands on the cusp of winning his sixth league title in England. Assuming both City and Arsenal win on the final day, this title win would only be Guardiola’s third or fourth-most dominant triumph at City from a points and goal-difference perspective.

Year

  

Goal difference

  

Points

  

2017/18

79

100

2018/19

72

98

2020/21

51

86

2021/22

73

93

2022/23

61

89

2023/24*

61*

89*

Arsenal’s 2023-24 season, assuming they beat Everton, will be the 14th-best performance in the Premier League’s 20-team era. Even if they draw against Everton, it will leave them with 87 points and a goal difference of +61, good for the 17th spot, while a defeat would be the 22nd-best individual campaign.

Below is a list of the most dominant individual seasons in the 20-team Premier League era, which for argument’s sake, assumes that both City and Arsenal win their final fixture 1-0 on Sunday.

Year

  

Team

  

Goal difference

  

Points

  

2017/18

Man City

79

100

2019/20

Liverpool

52

99

2018/19

Man City

72

98

2018/19

Liverpool

67

97

2004/05

Chelsea

57

95

2021/22

Man City

73

93

2016/17

Chelsea

52

93

2021/22

Liverpool

68

92

2023/24

Man City*

61*

91*

2005/06

Chelsea

50

91

1999/00

Man Utd

52

91

2008/09

Man Utd

44

90

2003/04

Arsenal

47

90

2011/12

Man City

64

89

2023/24

Arsenal*

62*

89*

When it comes to finishing second, the bar has consequentially been raised in recent years. Since Guardiola moved to the Premier League in 2016, the average number of points the team in second has accumulated in those eight seasons since is 85, higher than any other point in the Premier League era.

On average, from 1995-96 through to 2022-23, the team in second place completed the season with 81 points overall, but whoever finishes second this season will have a minimum of 86 points. As the graph below shows, it was the arrival of Jose Mourinho in 2004-05 that saw the required total for second place climb above 80 points for the first time, and it has fallen below that mark only five times since.

PL teams in second place

The average gap between the team in first and the team in second is usually seven points. This year, the maximum that gap can be is five points (if Manchester City win and Arsenal lose), and the minimum it can be is zero (if City draw and Arsenal win). Interestingly, this season has seen the smallest average gap — 1.51 points — between first and second throughout the season, the narrowest such margin in any Premier League campaign.

PL teams in first vs second

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are ticking all the boxes that need to be ticked. In a different era, they would have probably already had the title wrapped up heading into the final weekend of the season. But this is the era of extreme points inflation and — as Liverpool know all too well — seasonal club records can be set without any silverware to accompany it.

(Header photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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