ANALYSE THIS: PL title race could change dramatically on Sunday

FOOTBALL - The Premier League this season has already developed into a two horse race for the title between the two Manchester clubs. Judging from the clubs’ current ISG coefficients which compare their performance this season with last, this weekend’s Manchester derby could make a big difference to the current race but not in the way suggested by the league table. 

Firstly, let’s look at why the Premier League now contains a ‘Big Two’ rather than a ‘Big Four’ as in the past. The Euro Club Index, the ranking of all European top flight clubs, allows us to do this in a relatively simple fashion.

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Looking at the above graph, it is clear that there really was a ‘Big Four’ at the end of the 2007/2008 season although, even then, two clubs were well ahead of the other two. Four and a half years ago, Manchester United and Chelsea were ahead of all other clubs in Europe but the quartet of those two plus Arsenal and Liverpool were all ranked highly enough to be rated amongst the top six of all  European clubs.

All four have declined – some more than others – since the summer of 2008 and Manchester City have risen to challenge Manchester United in place of their previous nearest competitors Chelsea. However, City’s current index isn’t nearly as good as Arsenal’s was in 2008. Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have all declined to, or below, the level of the next group headed by Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.

So, the Euro Club Index illustrates why we should have expected another two horse race in the Premier League. Quite simply, just as in Spain, the two best clubs in England are superior to the rest.

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Looking at the league table, it appears that Manchester United are currently in the ascendancy. However, this is not the case when comparing the results of the two clubs to their same fixtures last season. City are a point up on their results from 2011/2012 whilst United are two points down. If all remaining results played out the same as last term, City would win the title by three points.

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You can play with the chart by clicking here.

That could all change on Sunday though when the two main protagonists meet one another. Last season’s fixture at the Etihad Stadium went a long way to decide the title race. If United avoid defeat this time, it will change this season’s race, at least for the moment but perhaps not in the way that the current league table suggests. Even a draw for the red side of Manchester will bring the two teams back level with one another in terms of their ISG coefficient, both a single point down on their achievements from the same 16 fixtures in 2011-2012. Another race to the wire perhaps in the offing? 

Simon Gleave