#24 Premier League Points History

It’s finally nearing end of this current season, so I wanted to have a look at past league points totals to get some context for how this season is shaping up.

To do so, I’ve taken data from www.fbref.com for league tables for last 24 years of 38 game seasons in the Premier League. A jupyter notebook used to get the league tables and create the plots is in my GitHub here: https://github.com/ciaran-grant/premier_league_points

This post looks to investigate the following three questions:

  • How do points totals recently compare to early Premier League seasons?
  • What has happened to the gap between the champions and relegation survivors?
  • How many points do you tend to need to qualify for Europe recently?

History of Premier League Points

Looks like the top 6 have been getting more points recently at the expense of the bottom half. There are only a set number of points available across all teams, the more points the big boys get the less available for the lower teams.

Does this mean there is an increasing gap between the top teams and the rest? We’ve gone through several incarnations with a top 4, then top 6 and now arguably a top 2 with Liverpool and Manchester City.

Champions and Relegation Survival

Relegation survival has been calculated as one more point than the points achieved by 18th place for simplicity of not getting too picky about goal difference.

Only 4 times out of the 24 seasons has a team required 40 points to survive, whilst it seems around 35 will usually be enough to be safe. Of course you want to aim for more points, but this seems to bust the myth of 40 points required for survival, often less is sufficient.

The points required to become champions has increased, meaning the gap between champions and relegation survival has increased in recent years. 2016/17, 17/18, 18/19 have been 3 of the highest points totals ever, only Chelsea in 04/05 with 95 in between here.

Could just be recency bias, but Liverpool were on track for 100+ this year. They’re likely to actually get 95+ and it’s expected both Liverpool/City to get close to 90+ again next year. They’re making 90 points seem normal and is becoming the minimum to win now.

How about qualifying for Europe?

European Qualification

It’s not only the Champions that has seen a point inflation, and in line with the whole top 6 sweeping up more points looks like there’s more points required to qualify for both European competitions as well.

The last decade has seen a higher average points requirement for getting both Champions League and Europa League qualifications, with 70 points for Champions League and 60 points for Europa League.

Current Season Context

Champions Liverpool are on 93 points with 2 games left, and likely they will break 95. This will make the last 3 seasons the highest 3 totals ever by a Premier League Champion. They could still win the league this year with less points than last year (97) and be in the top 4 highest points scoring teams ever.

Champions League qualification looks like coming up short of the 70 points mark. Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester United all comfortably in Europe sitting above 60 points but all to play for with 2 games left. Will be a low bar for both European competitions this year.

As for relegation survival, Bournemouth and Aston Villa both sit on 31 points with 2 games left. If things stay as they are, 32 points required for survival is the lowest since 09/10 where 31 points were needed. That year 40 points would’ve been good enough to finish 14th, this year 40 points looks good for 15th.

Final Thoughts

This season seems to be getting stretched by how ridiculously good Liverpool have been for 90% of the season, subconsciously or otherwise taking their foot off the gas once the title was wrapped up. Apart from prime Messi/Ronaldo Barcelona and Real Madrid teams, I wouldn’t expect many teams even get above 90 points, let alone dream of nearing 100.

Are these points totals also consistent across other 38 game seasons in France, Italy and Spain? How does this change when you consider Germany’s 34 game season or the 46 game seasons in the Football League?


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