Points per game (ppg) is a simple but effective way of measuring the progress of a team. By looking at the points per game that teams have registered in previous seasons, we can estimate where a team might finish.
The table below shows the ppg a team has required to secure the top four positions in the Premier League, since it became a 20 team division in 1995.
To be clear, the figures quoted will not correlate to the ppg the team in that position actually got at the end of the season; rather it is calculated on the team winning one point more than the team below them, as if they’d got that amount then they’d still finish in that position. Of course, you can have the same points as the team below you and beat them on goal difference, but I have ignored that rare occurrence to keep things simple.
It’s clear from the figures above that the standard has risen overall during this period, although last season did see a significant dip at the top of the league. I would expect this to be an exception rather than the norm though, in view of how much money the top teams have invested this summer.
Based on previous seasons, 2.29 ppg will guarantee the title. In 2008/09, Liverpool’s best league season during this period, the Reds averaged 2.26 ppg; the only time in these 16 seasons that this has not been enough to win the league. Quite an achievement by Señor Benitez.
Of course that is an unrealistic goal for Liverpool this season. Dalglish’s primary objective for this campaign will be a fourth place finish and a return to the Champions League (or it’s qualifiers at least). The highest ppg required to secure a top four placing in a 20 team Premier League season was 1.79 in 2009/10.
Obviously it’s too early this season to realistically judge Liverpool’s form in pursuit of this objective, though 2.00 points per game when your first two matches have included Arsenal away is still a decent start.
At this point in time, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish have both managed Liverpool for 20 league games in the Premier League era, so it seems as good a time as any for a comparison.
The current West Bromwich Albion manager’s tenure at Anfield was not a happy or successful one as we know, but the ppg method shows just how far from the top four his team was.
Hodgson’s 20 league games only yielded 25 points, or 1.25 ppg. Had this form continued for the whole of last season then the Reds would have earned 47.5 points. I’ll be charitable and round it up to 48; Liverpool would have finished ninth last season.
Dalglish has been much more productive, earning 37 point from his twenty matches, or 1.85 points per game. This would have guaranteed fourth place in all of the last 16 seasons.
In fact, as the table below shows, this would have been enough for even higher league finishes on 12 occasions. Remarkably, it was enough for the title itself in 1997.
Three points today against Bolton Wanderers will move Dalglish to 1.90 ppg for his 21 league games so far. In other words, enough to have finished first in the league last season. Look out Sir Alex, the King is coming for you.
Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.