By Brian Sears
10 February 2011
Liverpool fans will argue with some justification that their ‘natural’ place is higher, but they haven’t been living up to that billing, and for a while longer at least they will remain outside the top five.
Thus the current ‘Big 5’ are Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham, and as our analysis below shows, United are on top because they’ve delivered consistently not only against the ‘Other 15’ but also against the other ‘Big 5’ (B5) clubs.
United have taken eight points from four games so far against B5 rivals, ahead of this weekend’s Manchester derby, which is a point more than Arsenal, who’ve played two B5 games more already, and twice as many points as Chelsea, who’ve had one win and one draw from four B5 games this season.
When it comes to United against the ‘Other 15′ (O15), they are also ahead of their B5 rivals, winning 13 of 21 games, drawing seven and losing only the once, to Wolves last time out. As we can see, Manchester City and Tottenham’s title chances are being damaged by too many draws and losses to O15 teams, while Chelsea having been dropping points all over the shop.
So what of the O15 clubs – which of those do best against the B5, and against each other? Well it’s not Liverpool on either count, for now at least. Everton, Sunderland and Wolves have won most points against the B5 (nine each), with Wolves the only O15 team to have won as many as three games against the B5.
Stoke are the kings of the middling. They’re better at getting points off the other also-rans than any of the other also-rans. Liverpool are second in this measurement.
Wolves are enigmatic, with those three wins (from eight games) over the B5, which is more wins than any of the B5 have got so far against the B5! And yet Wolves have only managed fours win from 17 games against their fellow O15.
All three wins in the Wolves B5 hat-trick happened at Molineux with wins over City, Chelsea and United. They will visit the Emirates on Saturday with no sense of being overawed and after that they only have one more B5 game: at home to Spurs in early March.
Wolves’ Premier League survival will depend on turning round their form in games against the “Other 15”. They have the poorest record of all in those games, having only 15 points so far from 17 contests but they have 11 more to come. Aston Villa, too, have just one more B5 game to come: away at Arsenal in May.
Blackpool have gained all their points from O15 games (remembering of course, that Liverpool are an O15 club). Dauntingly for the Lancs Oranjie, they have only completed half their fixtures against the B5, with not a single point so far coming their way.
Stoke, too, have yet to face five B5 games, having only so far gained the one point.
When it comes to the B5 clubs in this kind of analysis, they line up in results against the O15 in precisely the order they are in the Premier League table. They will eventually play eight games each against each other, and Arsenal have only two to go: home to United and away to Spurs. Five of the 12 inter-B5 games played so far have been drawn, four of them 0-0.
Should be a cracker at Old Trafford.