Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Everton on Sunday was quite hard work but also surely the most predictable win in the history of the Premier League’s three major local derbies (apologies in advance to fans of other silly little derbies, go right ahead and have your tantrums about not being included here in the comments) and that got us thinking, which is always dangerous.
Of the three – Merseyside, Manchester, north London – there really is only one that is about anything more than those admittedly all-important Local Bragging Rights. Only one where there is a meaningful rivalry outside the geographical. So we looked at some numbers and that half-baked initial thought was actually even more true than we thought. God bless Spurs and Arsenal and their ongoing commitment to absurdist banter, frankly.
We looked at the last 10 years because 10 is a good solid number isn’t it? And also it conveniently takes us back to 2012/13 which is both the last time United finished above City and the last time Everton finished above Liverpool.
Liverpool and Everton
2021/22: Liverpool (2) lead Everton (18) by 50 points
2020/21: Liverpool (3) beat Everton (10) by 10 points
2019/20: Liverpool (1) beat Everton (12) by 50 points
2018/19: Liverpool (2) beat Everton (8) by 43 points
2017/18: Liverpool (4) beat Everton (8) by 26 points
2016/17: Liverpool (4) beat Everton (7) by 15 points
2015/16: Liverpool (8) beat Everton (11) by 13 points
2014/15: Liverpool (6) beat Everton (11) by 15 points
2013/14: Liverpool (2) beat Everton (5) by 14 points
2012/13: Everton (6) beat Liverpool (7) by 2 points
Head-to-head: 8 Liverpool wins, 1 Everton win, 11 draws
Average points difference: Liverpool by 23.4
Average position difference: Liverpool by 5.7
A few striking things here. One is that Liverpool are (let’s be realistic, almost definitely) going to beat Everton by 50+ points for the second time in three years. Another is that this rivalry might not even be a Premier League thing next season. And third is a rejoinder to the idea that ‘the formbook goes out the window’ in these matches. On Merseyside, it is simply replaced by a derby-specific formbook in which Liverpool nearly always win the games at Anfield while Everton nearly always battle gamely to a point at Goodison.
But perhaps the most absurd thing in the context of these numbers is that the one Everton win – last season, at Anfield – was only 14 months ago and at that time not really much of a surprise. It truly was a very, very weird season. Everyone likes to asterisk 2019/20 – mainly just to wind up Liverpool fans in fairness – but 2020/21 is the freakish outlier. Klopp’s Liverpool finished behind Solskjaer’s United, for goodness’ sake.
Manchester City and Manchester United
2021/22: City (1) lead United (6) by 26 points
2020/21: City (1) beat United (2) by 12 points
2019/20: City (2) beat United (3) by 15 points
2018/19: City (1) beat United (6) by 32 points
2017/18: City (1) beat United (2) by 19 points
2016/17: City (3) beat United (6) by 9 points
2015/16: City (4) beat United (5) on GD
2014/15: City (2) beat United (4) by 9 points
2013/14: City (1) beat United (7) by 22 points
2012/13: United (1) beat City (2) by 11 points
Head-to-head: 10 City wins, 7 United wins, 3 draws
Average points difference: City by 13.3
Average position difference: City by 2.4
Despite a couple of high-profile embarrassments, United have at least managed to keep the derby games themselves halfway competitive overall and scored a couple of unlikely Etihad triumphs along the way. Generally, though, the 10-year trend here is for United to appear deceptively close to their noisy neighbours on the table right up until you glance across at the points column where, with the notable exception of 2016 where nobody is looking below ‘1. Leicester’ anyway, a rather different story emerges. That is the only time in the last nine seasons that United have got within nine points of City, and this season has every chance of being the second with a gap of over 30 points.
Tottenham and Arsenal
2021/22: Arsenal (4) lead Spurs (5) by 2 points
2020/21: Spurs (7) beat Arsenal (8) by 1 point
2019/20: Spurs (6) beat Arsenal (8) by 3 points
2018/19: Spurs (4) beat Arsenal (5) by 1 point
2017/18: Spurs (3) beat Arsenal (6) by 14 points
2016/17: Spurs (2) beat Arsenal (5) by 11 points
2015/16: Arsenal (2) beat Spurs (3) by 1 point
2014/15: Arsenal (3) beat Spurs (5) by 11 points
2013/14: Arsenal (4) beat Spurs (6) by 10 points
2012/13: Arsenal (4) beat Spurs (5) by 1 point
Head-to-head: 6 Spurs wins, 7 Arsenal wins, 6 draws, 1 TBC
Average points difference: Spurs by 0.5
Average position difference: Spurs by 0.3
Now that’s the stuff, isn’t it? Two teams who have been fully committed to banter for so long that they have effectively become identical. They are the Spider-Man meme in football club form.
If Spurs win the rearranged NLD in a few weeks, even the head-to-head will be dead level. If they don’t then Arsenal will probably make it five ‘wins’ apiece over the last decade on the league table, although there are definitely more twists and turns to come there from this pair of absolute jokers. Five times in the last nine seasons – and every chance that’s six in 10 when this one’s done – they’ve ended up within one game of each other points-wise in the final table, and this looks likely either way to be the fifth time in 10 they end up in adjacent finishing positions in the table. For the last decade there has never once been more than two other sides between them in the final reckoning and over very nearly 10 full seasons – 375 matches each – they are separated by a grand total of five league points. And, while City continuing to outperform United seems likely and Liverpool’s ongoing divergence from Everton almost certain, there seems absolutely no reason to think these two won’t be stumbling over the finish line with barely a crisp packet between them for many more years to come. The derby that beats all others specifically because both teams are good enough to matter without being actually good. Heroes the pair of them.