We’ve taken a look at which sides have made the most and least progress year on year. We’re talking percentages, because that’s fairer than simply counting points. And only six of 17 teams have actually improved. It hurts our brain when we try to work out why/how that has happened…
Premier League clubs ranked on points improvement since same stage last season (17 games):
1) Leicester City: +80%
Last season: 22 points; 12th position
This season: 39 points; 2nd position
One of the greatest Premier League players of the decade and the year, some incredibly astute business and a manager who has managed to put the worst of himself in a locked drawer. They all combine to produce a Leicester side 13 points clear of fifth and on course for a return to the Champions League.
2) Burnley: +75%
Last season: 12 points; 18th position
This season: 21 points; 12th position
It’s easy to forget just how badly Burnley started last season. But it’s worth noting that seven clubs were on sub-point-per-game pace last season while there are now only four clubs – Watford, Norwich, Southampton and Aston Villa – treading that dangerous path. Burnley will be mightily relieved to have pulled themselves into the mid-table mess.
3) Crystal Palace: +53.33%
Last season: 15 points; 15th position
This season: 23 points; 9th position
Pure Roy Hodgson. Only doomed Watford have scored fewer goals than Palace this season, but only Liverpool, Leicester and Sheffield United have conceded fewer goals. A top-half position after basically no investment would be an extraordinary achievement.
4) Newcastle United: +37.5%
Last season: 16 points; 14th position
This season: 22 points; 11th position
Basically, Steve Bruce > Rafa Benitez. Who knew?
5) Southampton: +25%
Last season: 12 points; 17th position
This season: 15 points; 18th position
More points than last season but they now find themselves back in the relegation zone after back-to-back one-goal defeats. You would still fancy them to pull themselves out of the mire – the bookies believe they will eventually drag themselves past Aston Villa – but this is not what the Alpine Klopp was supposed to deliver.
6) Liverpool: +8.8%
Last season: 45 points; 1st position
This season: 49 points; 1st position
They have conceded double the number of goals but that fallibility has had zero impact on their ability to pick up victories. We have run out of ways to champion the brilliance of this Liverpool side. They are champions-elect. They are invincible. And they have the best player of 2019 in their ranks.
7) Manchester United: -3.85%
Last season: 26 points; 6th position
This season: 25 points; 6th position
It’s been pretty much ‘as you were’ for Manchester United, though one manager was sacked and another is being lauded. DNA, you see. It’s fair to see that defensive strides have been made – they absolutely should have been for £135m investment – but they still keep taking one step forward (against better sides) and another back (against everybody else).
🔝 Manchester United vs top half this season:
16 points. ✅
⬇️ Manchester United vs bottom half this season:
9 points. 🙄
— Sky Bet (@SkyBet) December 15, 2019
8) Wolves: -4%
Last season: 25 points; 7th position
This season: 24 points; 8th position
To basically stand still while making progress in the Europa League is phenomenal work from the Midlands club. Incredible.
9) Brighton: -4.75%
Last season: 21 points; 13th position
This season: 20 points; 13th position
You won’t see it on the league table but Brighton are so much better under Graham Potter that he has signed a new contract just a few months after his first. They average more possession than either Tottenham or Manchester United, and pass the ball more accurately than the latter. They are well-placed to avoid another late-season collapse.
10) Bournemouth: -17.4%
Last season: 23 points; 11th position
This season: 19 points; 14th position
Injuries bring some mitigation and it’s no surprise that the Cherries’ losing streak was ended with the return to fitness of Josh King. Not that anybody really noticed they were losing as nobody ever really questions Eddie Howe.
11) Manchester City: -20.5%
Last season: 44 points; 2nd position
This season: 35 points; 3rd position
It’s too simplistic to say that this is the tale of a defence destroyed by serious injury to Aymeric Laporte, but add that factor to the difficult of winning a third title, long-term injury to Leroy Sane and short-term injury to Sergie Aguero and you get a ‘collapse’ (that’s actually smaller than three other Big Six clubs).
12) West Ham United: -20.83%
Last season: 24 points; 9th position
This season: 19 points; 15 position
They spent over £70m on attacking players in the summer and somehow made themselves less potent. But every time it looks like Manuel Pellegrini might be under serious pressure, he pulls a 1-0 win out of the bag that confuses the sh*t out of everyone.
13) Chelsea: -21.6%
Last season: 37 points; 4th position
This season: 29 points; 4th position
A lack of incoming transfers – and injury to Antonio Rudiger – brings some mitigation, though the suspicion remains that Frank Lampard is falling short when it comes to defensive coaching. After winning early points for his use of young, British players, he is rapidly losing them after defeats to poor West Ham, Everton and Bournemouth sides. But he will be allowed to fail more than any other Chelsea coach, especially after claiming a place in the Champions League last 16. Just about.
14) Everton: -25%
Last season: 24 points; 8th position
This season: 18 points; 16th position
Ah, we enter sacking territory. There is something quite pleasing about the four bottom clubs on this list being the clubs who have acted to change their manager; maybe clubs are sensible in 2019 after all. The fact that xG would have them eighth – and two games unbeaten under Duncan Ferguson – suggests that there is not an awful lot wrong with this Everton side that a bit of confidence could not solve.
15) Tottenham: -33.33%
Last season: 39 points; 3rd position
This season: 26 points; 5th position
Those figures would look a whole lot worse if Tottenham had persisted with the sinking Mauricio Pochettino instead of appointing Jose Mourinho, who has won four of five Premier League games in charge. Victory on Sunday at home to Chelsea would put them in a position only a fool would back them to surrender.
16) Arsenal: -35.3%
Last season: 34 points; 5th position
This season: 22 points; 10th position
And here, an illustration of the danger of being indecisive in your succession plan; Arsenal have actually looked worse under Freddie Ljungberg than Unai Emery. Mind you, the Swede has been hung out to dry. The good news for his successor is that Arsenal are still only three points off a Europa League place, which has to be the absolute minimum.
17) Watford: -62.5%
Last season: 24 points; 10th position
This season: 9 points; 20th position
Doomed. Ta-ra Watford.