So for the second straight week I’m not writing a column to actually defend the person or organization that I’m talking about in the title. I want people to read my column: sue me. What I am doing, though, is writing about why the English League, the EPL, needs teams like Manchester City to be a more interesting, more competitive league: I’m not trying to defend the hiring and buying practices (which, again, I could do), but instead only suggesting that the EPL needs teams like Man City to keep from being a boring league.

What a controversial premise! The good news is that, thanks to my good friend and noted soccer researcher Joshua Zeitlin over at Princeton University, I have some pretty impressive statistics to back up my argument. What I’ll prove is that in the last 10 years, the EPL has been an extremely uncompetitive league, judging by various metrics: first, the points gap between the teams that ranked 1 and 4, 1 and 10 and 1 and 20, and secondly the overall number of separate teams that ranked in the top 4.

Average Point Gap 1-4 1-10 1-20
EPL POINT GAP 20.8 38.3 63.5
LA LIGA POINT GAP 14.5 28.3 48.2

What’s impressive about this chart is that over the last 10 years, the EPL has had massively larger point gaps than La Liga in every single category, which shows that there is much less competition in the league itself. This point difference could be credited to various different factors: a major skill gap between the top teams and the middle and bottom ones, the massively different amount of money spent in comparison, or other factors. The point is that this difference in skill and level makes the EPL less exciting because its teams are generally mismatched: other than ManU-Chelsea-Liverpool-Arsenal games, the league becomes boring when these teams play anyone else.

This is even more obvious when one takes into account the number of teams that have even been in the top 4 (the C means they’ve won the league in that time).

EPL (7): Manchester United (C), Liverpool, Chelsea (C), Arsenal (C), Everton, Newcastle United, Leeds United.
La Liga (13): Real Madrid (C), Barcelona (C), Sevilla, Atlético Madrid, Villarreal, Valencia (C), Osasuna, Real Betis, Deportivo La Coruña (C), Real Sociedad, Celta de Vigo, Mallorca, Real Zaragoza.

That’s 13-7 Spain, and 10-5 in the top flight.

So I guess this gets to the crux of my column for this week: the EPL needs teams like Manchester City who can come in and place in the top 4 so that the league itself can break out of the conventional “top 4” mode that its been in for the last 10 or 15 years. Say what you will about European competition (again, statistically, La Liga is at least as good if not better in Europe), but the truth is that domestically, the EPL is far from the dominant super-interesting powerhouse that many in this country (USA) make it out to be. It needs a team to really shake things up–and that team, I think, can be Man City.

About Gabe Lezra

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides with the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon those with great vengeance and with furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know that my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee. Ezekiel 25-17.
  • Footy McGee

    One point that you don’t explore is that most other top flight leagues, including La Liga, such as in Italy, France, Holland, and Germany are truly domestic leagues. That is not to say there are not foreign players that are paid huge sums to play for the “haves”, but I think that you would find that the EPL has far fewer domestic players in the traditional top four sides than most other perennial front runners in other European leagues. Check it out…maybe a follow-up article?

  • Gabe Lezra

    That’s actually a very good point, and it kind of contrasts with my last article about some of the racism in the English press–why, in a league full of foreigners, would they glorify the Englishmen and attack the foreigners?
    Anyways, I am planning on doing a short follow-up to this piece, probably including that, and including another neat statistical analysis that shows how if one calculates the results of just the matches between the “top 4” teams in England, it is a very good predictor of the final standings (with only a few notable exceptions).

  • teddy!

    screw man city. all they are useful for is humiliating the scum from the other side of manchester.

    je t’aime aussi, gabe. youll never walk alone :-p