ONIn the midst of all the gloom that enveloped those at the wrong end of the Premier League table, where Fulham, Cardiff, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Southampton conceded 108 goals between them, lost 36 and won just one, there is a glimmer of hope , Based on the results so far only 22 points are needed to pass this season.
Although 11 games are not a large sample size for calculating a point-to-play ratio, the numbers do not lie and there is no way of knowing how bad the standard in the lower leagues of the Premier League is this season. The fact that this is the first time in 27 Premier League seasons that five clubs have seven or fewer points from their first 11 games says it all.
Newcastle, who won for the first time this season last Saturday, is still only six points out of eleven games from the relegation zone. The survival bar could hardly be set lower and it all feels so predictable. Throw the net a little further to include Burnley, who is in 15th place, and it could be a convincing case to say that the last six will now be the bottom six, with only their order fixed becomes.
A look to the other end of the table shows how the other half lives. Manchester City, the league leader, has as many points as Fulham, Cardiff, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Southampton – a quarter of the clubs – together. For comparison: The bottom five had ten points more than the leaders at the same time last season – and the team of Pep Guardiola, which was also top then, had two points ahead of the current result.
The numbers say a lot about how the Premier League has developed this season, with a number of results in particular highlighting the growing gap that mocks the idea that the English national football team should be celebrated for its competitiveness.
Fulham, Cardiff, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Southampton have met Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal (top five) a total of 19 times this season. The record of the last five clubs in these games is: P19 W0 T0 L19 F12 A60. To be clear, what is the purpose of these games? It is clear that the misery down below can not be seen in isolation from the joy of the upper end, where the big boys collect points like never before.
It is the first time in the Premier League that three clubs – Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool – are still unbeaten after eleven games. Never before had five clubs in the Premier League at that time 23 points or more.
Demolishing all facts and figures is one thing; trying to make sense of them is something completely different. The obvious conclusion that can be drawn in the beginning is that the top clubs are getting better and the last five in total are as bad as we've ever seen. However, that seems somewhat simplified and certainly not true.
One is Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal Really that awesome? The Champions League this season suggests something else. Lyon, fourth in Ligue 1, beat Manchester City. The red star Belgrade, which is hardly a European powerhouse, and Napoli, the third in Serie A, defeated Liverpool, while Spurs hopes to reach the knockout phase hanging on a thread.
All this puts the limelight back on the Premier League and especially on what happens outside the top-5, or the top six in this case, when Manchester United, a place behind high-flying Bournemouth, converges inland. In recent years there has been a move towards a two-tier league in which the midfield almost disappears. However, this is definitely not the case this season, with Brighton, Wolves, Leicester, Everton and Watford already comfortably clear (eight to 13 points) of the bottom four and realistic not seriously jeopardizing the monopoly of the big six.
The notable shift this season has been further down, where a group of clubs are in danger of being cut off even before the leaves have fallen from the trees. Their plight is so desperate that the League victories in November will be celebrated like a cup final in May. You play survival football with 27 remaining games.
In the case of Cardiff, who was superior to win the promotion, and Huddersfield, who maintained Premier League status last season, it's no surprise to see them among the top three. However, Fulham expected a better performance than topping the league after 100 million pounds in the summer, and Slavisa Jokanovic has little to say that the only victories Cardiff and Huddersfield have achieved this season have come at their expense.
As far as the others are concerned, writing has been on the wall in Southampton for some time, which has avoided tooth decay in the past season, and Newcastle's grief feels just as predictable a summer ago of dissatisfaction and underinvestment , Burnley and Crystal Palace are not much better and would have found themselves in eight years with eight points from eleven games in the last three years.
However, this is unlike any other season in the Premier League and there is not much to celebrate about it.