How much does pre-season really matter?

Date published: Sunday 17th July 2016 12:53

Leicester City fans

We have finally reached one of the most important milestones in any footballing year: ‘this season’ has become ‘last season’. It may be a point of contention, but with every club now in the midst of pre-season preparations for the upcoming season, their escapades from August to May have now been consigned to history.

Manchester United started their pre-season with victory, and predictions of title victories quickly followed. But Championship winners Burnley won their first game too. Chelsea’s and Arsenal’s began with defeat, and their seasons have already been written off. Crystal Palace and Hull opened with draws. But what does a club’s results in pre-season tell us about their prospects for the next campaign? We look at the past five pre-seasons for Premier League clubs to find out.

 

2015/16 Premier League pre-season

(Record in brackets)
1) Leicester (P5 W4 D1 L0) – won first game 3-1 v Lincoln City, won last game 3-2 v Birmingham

2) Arsenal (P4 W4 D0 L0) – won first game 4-0 v Singapore XI, won last 1-0 v Wolfsburg

3) Tottenham (P5 W3 D0 L2) – won first game 2-1 v Malaysia XI, won last game 2-0 v AC Milan

4) Manchester City (P6 W3 D1 L2) – won first game 2-0 v Adelaide, lost last game 4-2 v Stuttgart

18) Newcastle (P7 W2 D1 L4) – won first game 1-0 v Gateshead, lost last game 1-0 v Borussia Monchengladbach

19) Norwich (P8 W5 D0 L3) – won first game 7-0 v Gorleston, won last game 2-1 v Brentford

20) Aston Villa (P8 W2 D4 L2) – lost first game 3-1 v Fulham, drew last game 3-3 v Nottingham Forest

 

What did we learn from the 2015/16 pre-season? That apparently playing Lincoln and Birmingham in your first and last games is perfect preparation for winning the Premier League. Who needs AC Milan or Bayern Munich? The top two went unbeaten, while the relegated three lost nine games between them.

 

2014/15 Premier League pre-season

1) Chelsea (P10 W7 D1 L2) – won first game 5-0 v Wycombe, won last game 2-1 v Ferencvaros

2) Manchester City (P6 W3 D2 L1) – lost first game 2-1 v Dundee, drew last game 2-2 v Olympiacos

3) Arsenal (P4 W2 D0 L2) – won first game 2-0 v Boreham Wood, lost last game 1-0 v Monaco

4) Manchester United (P6 W6 D0 L0) – won first game 7-0 v LA Galaxy, won last game 3-1 v Liverpool

18) Hull (P5 W3 D2 L0) – drew first game 0-0 v North Ferriby, won last game 2-1 v Stuttgart

19) Burnley (P5 W3 D1 L1) – won first game 8-0 v Grossklein, drew last game 2-2 v Celta Vigo

20) QPR (P7 W3 D2 L2) – won first game 1-0 v Rot Weiss Erfurt, lost last game 1-0 v PAOK

 

What did we learn from the 2014/15 pre-season? The top two endured mixed preparations, with Chelsea and Manchester City losing three games between them. Manchester United won each of their six fixtures, but only finished fourth. Hull also went unbeaten in their five games, but were relegated. QPR’s relegation came as no surprise considering their summer form.

 

2013/14 Premier League pre-season

1) Manchester City (P8 W5 D0 L3) – won first game 4-3 v Chelsea, lost last game 2-1 v Bayern Munich

2) Liverpool (P7 W6 D0 L1) – won first game 4-0 v Preston, lost last game 1-0 v Celtic

3) Chelsea (P6 W4 D0 L2) – lost first game 4-3 v Manchester City, won last game 2-0 v Inter Milan

4) Arsenal (P6 W4 D1 L1) – won first game 7-0 v Indonesia XI, lost last game 2-1 v Galatasaray

18) Norwich (P7 W2 D3 L2) – won first game 3-0 v Dorados De Sinaloa, won last game 2-0 v Panathinaikos

19) Fulham (P6 W2 D2 L2) – won first game 4-0 v Cartagines, lost last game 2-1 v Parma

20) Cardiff (P5 W3 D1 L1) – won first game 4-3 v Forest Green, won last game 2-1 v Athletic Bilbao

 

What did we learn from the 2013/14 pre-season? Liverpool’s title charge was precipitated by six wins from seven. Champions Manchester City lost three out of eight, including their final fixture. Chelsea and Arsenal in third and fourth actually had comparable records to relegated trio Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff.

 

2012/13 Premier League pre-season

1) Manchester United (P6 W3 D3 L0) – won first game 1-0 v AmaZulu, won last game 4-3 v Hannover

2) Manchester City (P6 W3 D1 L2) – lost first game 1-0 v Al Hilal, lost last game 2-1 v Oldham

3) Chelsea (P5 W1 D1 L3) – won first game 4-2 v Seattle Sounders, lost last game 3-1 v Brighton

4) Arsenal (P6 W3 D2 L1) – won first game 1-0 v Anderlecht, won last game 4-0 v Koln

18) Wigan (P5 W2 D2 L1) – won first game 1-0 v Ostersunds, lost last game 1-0 v Celta Vigo

19) Reading (P7 W2 D4 L1) – won first game 7-0 v AFC Wimbledon, won last game 2-0 v Crystal Palace

20) QPR (P6 W4 D2 L0) – won first game 5-0 v Sabah XI, drew last game 2-2 v Augsburg

 

What did we learn from the 2012/13 pre-season? Manchester United went unbeaten in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final pre-season before sauntering to the title. Bitter rivals City lost both their first and last fixtures. Chelsea also struggled but went on to finish third, while Wigan, Reading and QPR were beaten just twice in 18 combined fixtures. They would all suffer relegation.

 

2011/12 Premier League pre-season

1) Manchester City (P5 W5 D0 L0) – won first game 2-0 v Club America, won last game 3-0 v Inter Milan

2) Manchester United (P7 W7 D0 L0) – won first game 4-1 v New England Revolution, won last game 4-1 v Irish League XI

3) Arsenal (P6 W2 D3 L1) – won first game 4-0 v Malaysia XI, lost last game 2-1 v Benfica

4) Tottenham (P4 W2 D1 L1) – lost first game 1-0 v Kaizer Chiefs, won last game 2-1 v Athletic Bilbao

18) Bolton (P8 W6 D0 L2) – lost first game 1-0 v Tampa Bay, lost last game 1-0 v Levante

19) Blackburn (P6 W4 D1 L1) – won first game 5-0 v Oldham, won last game 4-1 v Kilmarnock

20) Wolves (P6 W4 D1 L1) – lost first game 2-1 v Crewe, won last game 2-0 v Real Zaragoza

 

What did we learn from the 2011/12 pre-season? Manchester City won five games from five – including a comfortable victory over Inter Milan – ahead of their first-ever Premier League title win. Manchester United went two better by winning seven from seven, but were pipped on goal difference come May. Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves did rather well in pre-season, but they dropped to the Championship by the end of the season.

 

What can we learn from pre-season?

* Three of the past five Premier League champions have gone unbeaten in pre-season.

* Five clubs have gone unbeaten in pre-season, but did not win the title. That includes two sides who suffered relegation.

* Each of the past five Premier League champions have won both their first and last pre-season fixtures – except for Manchester City, who lost their last fixture in 2011/12.

* More clubs have finished in the top four (four) than have been relegated (three) after losing their first game in pre-season.

* As many clubs have finished in the top four than have been relegated after losing three or more pre-season fixtures (both three).

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