Chelsea the kings of Barclays peaks and troughs as a proud Palace record comes under threat

Dave Tickner
Jean-Philippe Mateta celebrates scoring from the penalty spot for Crystal Palace.
Jean-Philippe Mateta celebrates scoring from the penalty spot for Crystal Palace.

Does anyone else have a random bit of Barclays trivia that just lives in the head entirely rent free?

We do. Obviously. Because that would have been a very weird intro otherwise. And for us it’s this: during Crystal Palace’s current Premier League run, now in its 11th year, they have literally never finished with a points total outside the 40s.

It rattles us more than you could ever know. It’s just such a mind-numbingly boring number of points to always get. The spread of points between their best and worst season since 2013/14 is eight. You must see how that’s mental? It’s not just us, is it? Please tell us it’s not just us.

Anyway, that proud record of middling humdrummery is now under serious pressure as Palace sit on 30 points from 30 games with a nasty-looking run-in. They might not get 40 points this season, and that is world-shattering stuff.

We must, therefore, do something with this information now before it’s too late and what we’ve done is this. We’ve put Palace up against the other eight teams who have been in the Premier League every season since 2013/14 to find out just how much of an outlier that eight-point total spread is between the best and worst efforts by a club across an entire decade of top-flight football.

Does it tell us anything? Probably not. Is it worth it just to snigger at Chelsea having a near 50-point gap between their best and worst campaigns? Just about.


9) Chelsea – 49pts
Best: 93pts (2016/17)
Worst: 44pts (2022/23)
Average: 64.5pts

Increasingly just a profoundly nonserious football club, highlighted by the fact that up until Thursday night they could still have technically finished this season first or last. But it’s worth remembering that they managed a 43-point swing in a single year from 2016 to 2107. And that was back in the Roman Abramovich days when, sure, they were an overtly evil stain on our game but weren’t yet really associated at all with the kind of cartoonish slapstick farce that we all enjoy from them these days.

That classic Mourinho third-season blow-up in 2015/16 – just an absurd season of Barclays all round it has to be said – nestling snugly between title-winning efforts of 87 and 93 points is one of the great Barclays bits.

It was actually followed by a five-year period of quite striking serenity in points totals if not overall vibe. From 2017/18 to 2021/22 Chelsea were to be found somewhere between 3rd and 5th with a final total between 66 and 74 points. Since then, though. Oof. Just 44 points last season and seemingly heading for mid-50s at best this time around.


8) Liverpool – 39pts
Best: 99pts (2019/20)
Worst: 60pts (2015/16)
Average: 78.1pts

One of several teams to go entirely AWOL during the Leicester Fairytale but have in recent years produced a handful of the very best Premier League seasons ever. Foolishly, though, had two of those coincide with City having very slightly better ones.

Records are made to be broken, but getting 97 points and not winning the league is going to take some topping. Only having one league title to show for a pair of seasons that yielded 196 points from a possible 228 and just four defeats in 76 games feels impossibly harsh, and is a worthy rejoinder to any bad-faith ‘only one title’ jibe aimed at Jurgen Klopp as his farewell tour continues.

Liverpool have never since been able to put that kind of back-to-back effort together, though, currently preferring a maverick choice of alternating brilliant seasons with drab ones.

From the high of 99 points in 2020 they fell 30 points the following year, jumped back to 92, then fell down to 67 and are this season on course for something around 88. One can from this very scientifically extrapolate that Klopp’s successor will get about 64 points in his first season at Anfield, something that we’re very sure will be accepted as simply following established trends and not in any way make everyone lose their entire minds.


7) Everton – 36pts
Best: 72pts (2013/14)
Worst: 36pts (2022/23)
Average: 51.3pts

The good news for Everton is that this spread will be far smaller once 2013/14 drops off the ranking period at the end of this season. Shut up, it’s kind of good news.

Striking, really, to be reminded that Everton did at least appear to be a functioning Premier League club relatively recently. That 72-point, Romelu Lukaku-propelled season in 13/14 was a high point, sure, but not a freakish one. It was no rogue outlier. They’d had a final tally in the 50s or 60s for nine straight seasons before that.

But they’ve only made it past 50 three times since – only once reaching 60 points in that time – and these days 40 points looks like a stretch target. They’d bloody love to hit that average now.

Obviously, it does help if you’re not having what points you do manage to cobble together nicked back by the powers that be, but Everton really have only themselves to blame there.


6) Manchester City – 34pts
Best: 100pts (2017/18)
Worst: 66pts (2015/16)
Average: 85.6pts

Yeah, 2015/16 really was an absolute rogue year of Barclays. Perhaps in time City only getting 66 points will be the weirdest thing about it. Maybe not. But still.

It stands out because they haven’t been near to dropping below 70 points since – Guardiola’s 78 in his first season is the only time he hasn’t reached 80 – or just as importantly in the four years before it. Sixteen points needed from nine games to maintain their 80-point record for a seventh straight year, and yeah you’d probably back them there. Only Liverpool do better in the run-in.

The 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, meanwhile, sit as a ludicrous high point in Barclays history, with City taking 198 points from a possible 228 with 64 wins from a possible 78. Daft.

They’ve actually only gone past 90 points once in the four seasons since then – and won’t do so this year – despite Liverpool and Arsenal fans being noisily insistent that these days you have to get 90 points to win the league or you’ll be arrested and thrown in jail.


5) Arsenal – 28pts
Best: 84pts (2022/23)
Worst: 56pts (2019/20)
Average: 70.3pts

Choose a slightly different 10-year period and Arsenal were the kings of Premier League predictability in their own slightly loftier fashion than Palace. From 2008/09 until 2016/17 they secured somewhere between 68 and 79 points every single season, with 2017 a significant moment as they finished outside the top four for the first time since 1996 despite a very respectable final tally of 75.

It was more recently that Arsenal hit their real fallow years, with their six-year run outside the top four and a nadir of eighth place and just 56 points in 2020. Yet only three years later they were snagging 84 points. And it should have been more.


4) Tottenham – 27pts
Best: 86pts (2016/17)
Worst: 59pts (2019/20)
Average: 68.9pts

It’s a bit underwhelming, isn’t it? Just not really very Spursy when considered on bald numbers alone. Nothing quite sh*t enough there in the raw data. The Spursiness exists, we suppose, in the fact Spurs have been either competent or very good for a decade now and still have not one single pot to show for it.

They are, though, in their own slapdash way quite drearily consistent. Spurs have finished between third and sixth in 11 of the last 14 seasons and we can be reasonably confident about those numbers soon reading 12 and 15.

A quirk we enjoy, given Spurs’ clear status as the smallest member of the loose Big Six collective, is that in none of the last 10 seasons have they been the weakest of that group. There has always been at least one Big Sixer below them in the final reckoning. Even when they finished eighth, Chelsea finished 12th.

That best season remains one of our favourite ever Barclays efforts from any club. They were absurdly good fun and while neutrals are more likely to perhaps remember laughing at the collapse on the run-in against Leicester in 2016 or trying to get their heads around the inexplicable run to the Champions League final of 2019, it was in 2017 that Pochettino’s team undoubtedly peaked. They scored more goals than anyone else, conceded fewer goals than anyone else, yet still managed to finish seven whole points behind a Chelsea team who’d been 10th the previous year. Spurs won 17 and drew two of their 19 home games that year at a ground they were literally in the process of demolishing. It’s just so Spurs coded to have their best team and their best season in decades still be that, well, Spursy.

Anyway. Spurs are one of the teams for whom the raw average actually tells a pretty accurate tale. Four of their last 10 seasons sit very neatly and precisely in the three-point range between 69 and 71, while their current PPG this season would get them to an on-brand 72.


3) West Ham – 26pts
Best: 65pts (2020/21)
Worst: 39pts (2019/20)
Average: 48.8pts

Relatively small spread, but bonus points aplenty for West Ham. Managing to stay in the Barclays for more than a decade impressive enough itself these days for a non Big Six outfit, when you consider the sorts of teams unable to currently claim such a current run – your Villas, your Newcastles – but the big win here is achieving the worst and best totals in successive seasons. That’s precisely the kind of Our League we want to see from teams who can’t reasonably be expected to compete at the very top end of it.

And generally speaking, West Ham are good value. There are pleasingly few drab seasons in here. The average points total masks the truth here, because 48.8pts has an inherent implication of mid-table mundanity, but that has rarely been the case with the Hammers.

Theirs is a run of peaks and troughs; only three of the 10 seasons under consideration actually finished within five points of that deceptive, rudimentary mean figure. In fact, only twice in the last 10 seasons have the Hammers landed between 46 and 60 points, with a 47-point effort in 2015, 52 in 2019 and 56 in 2022. And even that 56 was interesting enough to get them into the Europa Conference which they would subsequently win.

They’ve got five seasons of 45 points or under, and two north of 60. Credit where it’s due, that’s good Barclays.


2) Manchester United – 23pts
Best: 81pts (2017/18)
Worst: 58pts (2021/22)
Average: 68.9pts

As decades spent in miserable directionless wilderness go, it’s not bad really is it? This 10-year spread currently neatly encapsulates the post-Fergie years at United, and a club that still hasn’t really moved on.

The problem, of course, is not just these numbers but the ones that precede them with all the titles and the 85-point average and so forth. Last season there was enough about United to suggest they might finally be making some meaningful progress but that has once again turned out to be entirely illusory. Present speed and course takes them to 63 points this season, which is poor even for a post-Fergie doldrums campaign.

The high point, of course, came in 2018 when brave Jose Mourinho and his merry men valiantly pushed Manchester City all the way before coming up agonisingly just short by a mere 19 points while playing some of the drabbest sufferball Old Trafford has ever endured after a wildly deceptive start to the season saw them rack up four 4-0 wins within the first seven games.


1) Crystal Palace – 8pts
Best: 49pts (2018/19)
Worst: 41pts (2016/17)
Average: 44.9pts

The obvious inspiration for this whole nonsense with a stat that rattles around rent free in our head. Just… how? How do you achieve this kind of consistency at this fundamentally middling level? We can understand, say, Manchester City having consistent points-scoring, because they consistently get nearly all the points. That makes sense.

But consistently getting the same quantity of some of the points seems far more absurd to us. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe we’re the weird ones. But we just cannot get our head round the fact that across a decade of largely untroubled Premier League existence Palace haven’t thrown in a single rogue good season.

Forty-something points. Every. Year. Even the 10-year average is just about as mid-40s as it’s possible to be. It’s ridiculous. Have one interesting season, we beg of you.

We’re not asking for Leicester 2016 here, either. Just a 55-point campaign. Finishing eighth. Bit of a push for Europe before just coming up short. It’s not much to ask, is it? For that to happen just once? In an entire decade? Come on.

Not like Palace haven’t had some really fun players in that decade either. Zaha! Olise! Eze! Cabaye, for goodness’ sake. We’re so rattled by it all we didn’t even format that as an Office reference like we should have done.

We will be thoroughly, perhaps irrevocably shook when they finish this season with 39 points. But at least they’ll still be 15th. Please. If they finish up outside the correct quarter of the table as well, we just don’t know how we might react.