This year, the Premier League promises to be more competitive than ever. That is quite the statement, considering what happened in the 2015/16 season. Without a doubt, though, the top six will be closer than ever before in the 2016/17 Premier League season. Why are we looking at the top six, instead of the top four? This season, the “big six” will be, well, big. In this grouping could fall any of Manchester City and United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Liverpool, with outside arguments being made for West Ham, Leicester, and potentially Everton. Quite a packed top six, if not further down.
To get a comparison, we looked at the last ten seasons in the Premier League. What we found was a shocking distance historically between the teams that win the league and the teams that round out the top six.
15/16: 1st- Leicester City (81), 6th- Southampton (63) = 18
14/15: 1st- Chelsea (87), 6th- Liverpool (62) = 25
13/14: 1st- Manchester City (86), 6th- Tottenham (69) = 17
12/13: 1st- Manchester United (89), 6th- Everton (63) = 26
11/12: 1st- Manchester City (89), 6th- Chelsea (64) = 25
10/11: 1st- Manchester United (80), 6th- Liverpool (58) = 22
09/10: 1st- Chelsea (86), 6th- Aston Villa (64) = 22
08/09: 1st- Manchester United (90), 6th- Aston Villa (62) = 28
07/08: 1st- Manchester United (87), 6th- Aston Villa (60) = 27
06/07: 1st- Manchester United (89), 6th- Everton (58) = 31
What we’re seeing is the smallest distance was in the 2013/14 season, with a 17 point distance between Manchester City in 1st and Tottenham in 6th. Besides that and last season (with an 18 point difference), the difference hasn’t been below 22. The average distance is 24.1 points, or eight wins more. Not only are we proposing that this season will be closer than that, but also the distance this season will be 10 points or less.
[link_box id=”23195″ site_id=”158″ layout=”link-box-third” alignment=”alignright”]One of the biggest factors in this is that the league is better overall. It is not a coincidence that last season was the smallest distance between the top six clubs. Not only are the top six teams getting better, but so are the other fourteen. What this equates to is more draws and losses for teams that would have traditionally run away with the league. All of this adds up to a closer league overall, not just a closer top six. The only thing that would throw this metric off would be one team breaking away from the rest.
This doesn’t seem to be an issue, though, as there doesn’t appear to be one team that will break away from the rest. Instead, the top six is filled with teams that could equally be jockeying for the title and below. The argument could be made that Manchester City is the stand out team, but they have yet to be utterly convincing, even with their current perfect start to the season. There has been a period during each game where they have threatened to be utterly mediocre. The other five teams also all have their virtues, but also have significant issues that stop them from claiming to be the favorites. Chelsea have serious issues in defense and are relying on Diego Costa to pull them through games so far. Manchester United have yet to be convincing as a unit and have relied on individual goals from moments of brilliance or opponent errors. Arsenal are still lacking a certain x-factor and a top, top class striker. Tottenham has started very slowly and appear to haven’t recovered from the end of last season. Finally, Liverpool look like the most entertaining team in the league when in form, but their consistency issues still let them down.
It’s going to be a fascinating season. Each team can boast a world class manager with incredible talent. With the way things look at the outset, it may come down to the final two games of the season for one team to claim the league. Even then, it wouldn’t be shocking to be watching on the final day of the season with three or so teams able to win the title and Champions League spots up for grabs. This league has become packed to the brim with talent, and the top six just got even more competitive.