By Brian Sears
7 December 2012
In the past five seasons in the Premier League, no club with fewer than 26 points at this stage of the season – 15 games – has risen to a top-four finish.
On that statistical reckoning, only the two Manchester clubs, plus Chelsea, Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion are in line for the top four this time round. They are the only ones with 26 points or more after 15 games.
While a few others outside the current top five might argue “We can still do it”, with Everton and Arsenal having the strongest historical claims, the rest can make no realistic case at all.
And Liverpool, whose manager Brendan Rodgers was adamant last week when saying a top four finish is still possible, would need a truly unprecedented feat to get there.
Three points at home against an out-of-sorts Southampton last weekend was certainly a step in the right direction but no team in the 20-year history of the League has managed a top-four finish having gained fewer than 21 points from their first 15 games. Liverpool at the moment have 19 points.
As our table below shows, Manchester United have twice risen from the ashes of 21 points after 15 games to climb the table. Twenty years ago they were 10th after 15 games but in May 1993 they were crowned as the first Premier League champions, and by 10 clear points from Aston Villa.
In those days you had a season of 42 games in which to recover and not the 38 of these days. Then again in 2001-02 at this stage of the season United were ninth with 21 points from 15 games and they rose to 3rd by season’s close.
Leeds were another Premier League club that could start a season slowly and finish strongly. In 2000-01 they languished 11th after 15 games with 22 points and finished 4th; two seasons earlier they had achieved the same placed finish from 23 points after 15 games.
And Rodgers can gain some inspiration from Liverpool’s own history. Nine seasons ago, 6 wins, 4 draws and 5 defeats had gained Liverpool 22 points and they did go on to finish 4th. And six seasons ago they went one better to finish 3rd from 22 points after 15 games.
But 19 points after 15 games? A top-four finish this time would be a historic achievement.