Sunday, January 17

Is this the Closest-Ever Premier League Season?

Before this season, after approximately 17 matches in 2001/2002, the closest Premier League was when Newcastle United was top of the league with 33 points.

Liverpool was second on goals, albeit with a game in hand, and Fulham was tenth with 23 points. Both Manchester United and Leeds United would top the table in the following month. But Arsenal would win the league by seven points by the end of the season. The next tightest season was in 1998/99 when, after 17 games, Aston Villa were top. Eventually, they’ll finish sixth.

Liverpool could be at the top of the Premier League at the moment. But if they lose to Manchester United and if other results go against them, then they may be as poor as sixth by the end of next weekend. Liverpool was 13 points ahead of second-place Leicester in the third round of the FA Cup last year when they defeated Everton. And 31 points clear of tenth place. And in hand, they had a game.

This year, the top ten are only divided by seven points. This season in the Premier League was a lot closer than usual. It has been, in fact, the tightest season so far since the Premier League was formed in 1992. Just four points currently separate the top six and seven points separate the top ten as most teams have played 17 games.

At the same stage of the season (usually mid-December before the congested Christmas period), the top six are separated by an average of 12 points, and the top ten are separated by almost 17 points.

When the Premier League is as near as it is this season, when assessing teams’ results, it is important to look beyond the league table. At present, Arsenal and Chelsea are just six and three points off the Champions League spots respectively. Yet there are demands for the heads of Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard.

Less than a month earlier, the genius of Jose Mourinho won the Tottenham Hotspur Premier League leaders’ status, then they struggled in eighth place. They will be only a point off the top of the table should they win in midweek. With the league so close, maybe it’s no surprise that so far this season there has only been one management change in the Premier League.

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