Mind the gap – the difference between the top and bottom of the Premier League looks to be wider than ever.
In the race for the title, just four points separate Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea after all three sides maintained their unbeaten starts to the season this weekend – the first time three teams have avoided defeat after 12 games of a top-flight campaign.
At the bottom, Fulham lost again, meaning they have made the third-worst start by any team at this stage of a Premier League campaign.
Those results – Manchester City winning the Manchester derby, Liverpool beating Fulham and Chelsea drawing with Everton – leave City two points clear of Liverpool, with Chelsea just two points further back in third.
Pep Guardiola’s side actually have two points fewer than they did this time last season, but perhaps more significant is what’s going on immediately below them.
City were eight points clear of second-placed Manchester United this time 12 months ago. Chelsea were third but are three points better off this time around. After their record-breaking 100 points haul last season, it seems City’s title rivals have stepped up a level to try and compete.
But how does that compare with previous seasons?
To put it in perspective, Liverpool have equalled their best start to a Premier League season, matching the total they achieved in 2002-03. Their points tally of 30 would have been enough to top the table at this stage in 18 of the previous 26 Premier League seasons.
And the top three’s combined points total of 90 is the most collected by the clubs in those positions at this stage of a Premier League season.
Mind the gap indeed.
Chelsea may have failed to win this weekend but manager Maurizio Sarri was still able to create a little bit of history.
Sunday’s goalless draw at Stamford Bridge means the Italian has become the first manager to avoid defeat in his first 12 Premier League games, moving ahead of Frank Clark at Nottingham Forest in 1994-95.
It’s also just the second time in Chelsea’s history that the club have gone unbeaten in their first 12 games of a top-flight season. The first time they did so – in 2014-15 – they went on to win the league under Jose Mourinho.
Despite breaking the record, Sarri’s total of 28 points from 12 games is only the fifth best start by a Chelsea manager in their first 12 Premier League games. Top of the list is Guus Hiddink, who earned 31 points from his first 12 matches in 2009-10 (Carlo Ancelotti, Luis Felipe Scolari and Jose Mourinho were the other three).
Top five dominating bottom five
One of the reasons the top three have accrued so many points so far is their dominance over the teams at the bottom.
If you take the top five Premier League sides as a whole, they have won 19 out of the 20 meetings with the bottom five so far – with only Crystal Palace’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal last month the exception.
But is the gap between top and bottom in the Premier League widening? We asked Simon Gleave of data analysts Gracenote to dig deeper into the numbers.
He said: “With 40% of matches between the top and bottom five played, the big clubs are more dominant this season than ever before, winning all but one of these games. The top five’s win percentage over the bottom five is 95% and they have won 96.7% of the possible points.
“With 11 goals in 20 matches, the bottom five score 0.55 goals per match in these fixtures. This is the fourth lowest return in the 27 Premier League seasons. This season’s scoring rate of the bottom five against the top five is exactly half of what it was in the inaugural Premier League season (1992-93).
“There has been a remarkable difference in the scoring rate of the top five teams in these matches compared to previous Premier League seasons. The current top five clubs in the Premier League are scoring more than three goals per match against the bottom five, a figure which is unprecedented and nearly a goal per match higher than the average in these fixtures.”
Tough at the bottom?
All those points collected at the top is inevitably having a negative effect on those at the bottom. And while the bottom three may only have four wins between them so far this season, it is a manager of a team just outside the relegation zone who is under pressure going into the international break.
Southampton’s failure to beat Watford on Saturday created an unwanted club record. The 1-1 draw means the Saints have failed to win any of their first six home games in a season for the first time in the club’s history.
The result also means Southampton are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference, increasing the pressure on boss Mark Hughes.
Hughes fulfilled his remit in keeping the Saints up last season, but his record of five wins from 24 games in charge means he has the worst win ratio – 20.8% – of any recent Saints manager.
|How does Mark Hughes’ Southampton record compare?|
|Mauricio Pochettino (2013-14)||60||23||18||19||38.33%|
|Ronald Koeman (2014-16)||91||44||17||30||48.35%|
|Claude Puel (2016-17)||53||20||13||20||37.74%|
|Mauricio Pellegrino (2017-18)||34||8||13||13||23.53%|
|Mark Hughes (2018-present)||24||5||8||11||20.8%|
Not only that, it is also the worst win ratio of Hughes’ managerial career.
|Mark Hughes’ managerial record|
|Man City (2008-09)||77||36||16||25||46.8%|
The 55-year-old has won just three out of 20 Premier League games in charge, averaging 0.8 points per game. Of managers who have taken charge of 10 Premier League games or more since Hughes was appointed at St Mary’s, only Slavisa Jokanovic, David Wagner and Neil Warnock have a worse points-per-game ratio – the managers of the three teams currently below Saints in the table.
If Southampton maintain their current points-per-game ratio, they are on course to end the season on 30 points. No team has ever avoided relegation from the Premier League with such a tally, with West Brom’s total of 34 points the lowest in 2004-05.
And finally… Newcastle’s league of nations
Newcastle beat Bournemouth 2-1 on Saturday to make it back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since April and climb out of the relegation zone.
But what was also interesting about the Magpies’ win at St James’ Park was Rafael Benitez’s team selection.
The Spaniard used 14 players from 14 different nations during Saturday’s win, only the sixth time that has happened in the Premier League.
Curiously, the previous five occasions all occurred in 2011 and involved just two clubs – Arsenal and West Brom.
11 November 2018: Newcastle v Bournemouth: Martin Dubravka (Slovakia), Fabian Schar (Switzerland), Federico Fernandez (Argentina), Paul Dummett (Wales), DeAndre Yedlin (USA), Matt Ritchie (Scotland), Mohamed Diame (Senegal), Ki Sung-yueng (South Korea), Kenedy (Brazil), Ayoze Perez (Spain), Salomon Rondon (Venezuela), Isaac Hayden (England), Ciaran Clark (Republic of Ireland), Christian Atsu (Ghana).
27 December 2011: Arsenal v Wolves:Wojciech Szczesny (Poland), Per Mertesacker (Germany), Laurent Koscielny (France), Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium,) Johan Djourou (Switzerland), Alex Song (Cameroon), Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic), Yossi Benayoun (Israel), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Mikel Arteta (Spain), Andrey Arshavin (Russia), Gervinho (Ivory Coast), Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Marouane Chamakh (Morocco).
26 November 2011: Arsenal v Fulham: Wojciech Szczesny (Poland), Andre Santos (Brazil), Per Mertesacker (Germany), Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium), Abou Diaby (France), Johan Djourou (Switzerland), Alex Song (Cameroon), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Mikel Arteta (Spain), Andrey Arshavin (Russia), Theo Walcott (England), Gervinho (Ivory Coast), Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Marouane Chamakh (Morocco).
19 November 2011: Arsenal v Norwich:Wojciech Szczesny (Poland), Andre Santos (Brazil), Laurent Koscielny (France), Per Mertesacker (Germany), Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium), Johan Djourou (Switzerland), Yossi Benayoun (Israel), Alex Song (Cameroon), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Mikel Arteta (Spain), Andrey Arshavin (Russia), Theo Walcott (England), Gervinho (Ivory Coast), Robin van Persie (Netherlands).
23 October 2011: Arsenal v Stoke: Wojciech Szczesny (Poland), Andre Santos (Brazil), Laurent Koscielny (France), Per Mertesacker (Germany), Johan Djourou (Switzerland), Emmanuel Frimpong (Ghana), Alex Song (Cameroon), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Mikel Arteta (Spain), Andrey Arshavin (Russia), Theo Walcott (England), Gervinho (Ivory Coast), Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Marouane Chamakh (Morocco).
23 January 2011: West Brom v Blackburn: Boaz Myhill (Wales), Jonas Olsson (Sweden), Marek Cech (Slovakia), Gabriel Tamas (Romania), Gonzalo Jara (Chile), James Morrison (Scotland), Chris Brunt (Northern Ireland), Jerome Thomas (England), Youssouf Mulumbu (DR Congo), Paul Scharner (Austria), Peter Odemwingie (Nigeria), Somen Tchoyi (Cameroon), Roman Bednar (Czech Republic).