The stats say Arsenal already have a hand on the Premier League trophy
The Hallowe’en/Bonfire Night stage of the season is always a significant week in the Premier League.
And not just because the papers are briefly full of players in zombie make up and crazy old man masks (hilarious, Lukas Podolski).
Or because it’s the season to experiment with the effects of fireworks on your bathroom.
Fancy dress and sparklers week tends to fall about a quarter of the way through the season, and is a reasonable indicator, at the top of the table at least, of how things might look at the end of the season.
Generally, if you are in the top four now, you stand a pretty good chance of being there when the music stops.
Looking at just the last ten years, the team leading the table has finished in the top four every season, which means that Arsene Wenger can start planning for next season’s assault on the Champions League already.
The team in second place at the end of October has finished in the top four nine out of ten times. The only team that failed to make it was Wigan, who were second in 2005/6. Which means that Chelsea can also safely assume that they will be appearing in the Champions League again next season.
The team in third at this stage has qualified for six of the last ten Champions League spots, and four in the last five years, which is encouraging news for Liverpool.
And the team finishing in fourth has made it in three of the last ten seasons, which implies that Tottenham’s odds of 6/4 to finish in the top four are way too short, but that Liverpool are value at 6/5.
Arsenal can consider themselves half way to winning the title, as five of the last ten teams to have been top at the end of October have also been top in May, and Arsenal’s odds of 9/2 represent tremendous value.
When the title hasn’t been won by the team at the top in August, it has been won 30% of the time by the team in second. Chelsea’s odds to win the title are currently 9/4.
So only twice in the last ten years has a team won the title from outside the top two at the end of October, and both of them were Manchester United. Much of this never-say-die attitude doubtless came from Sir Alex Ferguson, and which suggests Liverpool (8/1 for the title) and Tottenham (16/1) can safely stop dreaming about winning it this year.
As for Manchester United, only 11 teams in the last ten years have gatecrashed the top four places when outside them at the end of October, which suggests they have just a 27.5% chance of finishing in the top four, and that their 8/15 odds of a top four finish is putting a little too much faith in David Moyes.
Shortest price of all for a top four finish are Manchester City (1/7) – to finish in the top four after being outside it in October would be a Premier League first for them.