When it comes to opinions on how Premier League clubs are performing, most are based on whether they have more or less points than at the same stage last season. For example, Liverpool currently have four fewer points than they did after 23 games last season, so it is generally believed that they are not performing as well.
But just comparing where clubs sit in the table at various points through the season doesn’t give a clear indication of how they are progressing. Although a club will have played every other club at least once at this stage, the variation in whether they played home or away means that a straight comparison with last season can be misleading.
A fairer way of assessing performance is to compare their current points totals with those achieved from the corresponding fixtures last season. By doing this for Liverpool, we can see that – far from doing worse – they have actually taken six more points from their 23 fixtures than last season.
The reason for such disparity between the two methods is that at this stage last season Liverpool had 38 points, while this season they have only 34. However, from this point on the club only won four and drew two of their remaining 15 games. If we look at Liverpool’s remaining fixtures this season, they won seven and drew three of those exact same fixtures last season, which – while far from guaranteed – suggests that they will perform better than last season for the remainder of the season.
For the promoted clubs, we can compare their current points totals with those of the equivalent relegated club last season: champions Reading with Bolton, Southampton with Blackburn and West Ham with Wolves. However, the promoted clubs are aiming to survive, not equal points tallies that led to relegation, so since in the last 10 seasons an average of 37 points has been needed to survive, an increasing handicap is added to each club to signify the additional points needed over the course of the season (West Ham need 12 more points than Wolves’ 25 last season, for example).
By comparing current points totals for all 20 clubs, we can identify which clubs have improved the most after 23 fixtures relative to their performance last season:
Having taken 13 more points from their fixtures than last season, Chelsea are the most improved of all the Premier League clubs. But with a net spend of £74m in the summer and their lowest points total in 10 years last season, it can be argued that significant improvement was to be expected.
Despite spending less than they brought in over the summer, Swansea are the second-most improved side in the Premier League. With this achievement in mind – coupled with their League Cup success – Michael Laudrup must surely be a current favourite for Manager of the Year.
Of all the clubs, Newcastle have performed the worst compared to last season. However, considering they finished an outstanding fifth place last season – and with European football and a long injury list to contend with – it is perhaps unsurprising that they have been unable to reach the same impressive heights this season.
As it stands
To show how clubs’ performances to date might impact on their final league position, if they were to repeat their results from last season in their remaining fixtures, the final Premier League table would look like this:
As it stands, Manchester United are set to reclaim the Premier League title by a single point. However, this is based on Manchester City repeating their win at Old Trafford on April 6, otherwise the Red Devils would likely win by the larger margin that the current table suggests.
Due to the deterioration of Arsenal and Newcastle, Chelsea and Tottenham have a considerable lead in the race for the Champions League places: if they take the same number of points from their remaining fixtures as last season (which would mean performing worse than they have so far), the teams below would have to take a significant amount of points more from their remaining fixtures than they managed last season to have a chance of catching them.
In the fight to avoid relegation, it currently appears to be a battle between six clubs, though it can be argued that West Ham are likely to continue to take more points from their fixtures than Wolves did last season. Reading and Southampton, however, have taken around the same number of points from their fixtures as Bolton and Blackburn did last season, so are very much embroiled in a relegation battle with Wigan, Aston Villa and QPR.
To see how each club has performed over the course of the season so far, go to the ’Season Comparison’ links at the top of the page and select a club from the drop-down menu.
I discovered earlier in the season that Simon Gleave of Infostrada Sports has also been collating data based on this method, so for further fixture performance analysis, follow him here.