The Tough Competition for the Top Four Slots in the Premier League

In 2013/14, Manchester United and outliers in 2015/16 from Leicester City had the worst beginning in their time, particularly in their title-winning campaigns. They had 19 points in their ten-game mark, and those two seasons are notorious for the teams’ failure to take complete control. Manchester City and Liverpool ramped up recently. Manchester City scored 28 and 26 points in the ten-match mark in 2017/18 as well as 2018/19. As for Liverpool, the club had 28 points during their first ten games in 2019/20. There was a combined 37 points total for the first and final of those titles.

Unsurprisingly, the Champions League race has the same pattern despite the impact taking effect only a couple of years later. For the first time, the Premier League’s top four teams moved on to the Champions League in 2001/02. In 2009/10, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Bolton, and Portsmouth tied at the fourth slot in a season in the Premier League past the ten-game mark. These teams finished either on the sixth or lower.

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Birmingham dropped to the tenth slot in 2003/04. When the Top Four clubs became the Big Six, no team in the fourth position past the ten-game mark ever finished below the sixth place since 2010/11. Top teams, including Tottenham, Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United, made it to the list. Chelsea demonstrated how tough it was to even be in the race for the top four places past the ten-match target. The team proved that it was even harder to secure a slot late in the season. Even though some unforeseen moments at that time, three clubs made it to the top three slots past their ten-game mark.

From 2011/12 and the two consecutive football seasons, Newcastle, Southampton, and West Ham made the unexpected jump. A start faster than preceding times, a possible move for the richest teams, was a requirement in securing a slot for the top-four climax. Between 2001 and 2010, football clubs in the top-four finish has 18.1 as an average point tally past their mark of ten games. For the next ten years, the tally has experienced a rise to 19.1 points. It was only once in 2001 throughout 2010 that the fourth slot teams had 20 average points tally in their first ten matches. For the following decade, this has happened not once but four times.

In some cases, there were outliers such as in the case of Alex Ferguson’s side that finished in the third slot with thirteen points in ten matches from the 2019/20 football season, although there was an obvious trend. The same teams dominated the Premier League top slots and stirred up many anomalies on the other end. It became a less required trait for the clubs to be well-matched with a fast start to retain the pace. Survival was a viable option for the team despite its dreadful start in the season. From 1995, the Premier League has accommodated a division of 20 teams.

There are two from the three teams that scored three points in ten matches, Crystal Palace in 2013/14 and 2018/19, Newcastle retained their positions. The average position for teams finishing in the 20th slot in ten matches is 17. In the 25 teams present, eleven of them managed to steer clear of the relegation zone. Clubs taking the 18th relegation slot past ten matches maintained an above-average survival rate. In the 25 teams, the fifteen took this place since the Premier League in 1995 has secured their position with five of the teams having a managerial swap in the middle of the season.

It is a vulnerable spot above the relegation zone, especially for teams that find themselves there in the first weeks of the Premier League season. Although it could be that the teams fail to assume the same action to handle a somewhat unconvincing start. Before dropping even further on the board, those in the 18th relegation slot in the Premier League have 15.64 average points in ten matches. Since the 1995/96 Premier League season, sixteen out of the 25 clubs have landed in the 18th and away from the relegation zone after their ten games. Others in the top half, Charlton in 1998/99 and 2019/20 Bournemouth found themselves in the relegation zone.

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