The first Premier League season I followed from start to finish was the 1993-94 season, a year in which my club, Coventry City, embarked on the most statistically average season the league has ever seen. Their 11th place finish contained 14 wins, 14 draws and 14 defeats, with only a marginally negative goal difference of -2 spoiling the otherwise perfectly even statistics. Nevertheless, it is a record which is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon, since in a 20 team league, it is impossible to win, draw and lose the same amount of games over the course of the full season, and there seems little appetite currently to increase the size of the league back up to 22 teams.
Nevertheless, there are currently 3 teams who are as close to an even season as it is possible to be, in the sense that they have won as many games as they have lost. Everton and Watford have both won 14, lost 14, whilst Leicester City have won 15, lost 15. Of course, a statistically average season doesn’t necessarily mean an average season when it comes to expectations. As a Coventry City supporter in the 1990’s, a mid-table finish was actually a very successful season given most years involved a long relegation battle, and Watford’s current campaign must also be seen as a success, especially considering they have reached the F.A. Cup Final. For Everton, their current position of 9th could be seen as disappointing considering they have only finished outside of the top 8 on 3 occasions across the past 14 seasons, especially given an active Summer transfer window which saw them spend more that £60 million net to bring in Richarlison, Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina, plus the recruitment of Bernard on a free transfer and the loan signings of Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes.
For Leicester City, the current season is surely neither a significant success nor a disappointment. Though they have lost a number of key members of their 2015-16 Premier League title winning squad, the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan and Jamie Vardy still remain, and there enough quality to ensure that a season without concerns regarding Premier League survival should be the norm. Yet at the same time, their budget is much smaller than any of the clubs in the top 6, forcing them to largely recruit from outside the Premier League rather than being able to bring in proven Premier League performers, and therefore it will always be extremely difficult for them to even break into the top 6, yet alone challenge for a 2nd Premier League title.
For the majority of Premier League sides outside of the top 6, retaining key members of the squad is arguably just as important, perhaps even more so, as getting recruitment right. Leicester’s Plus Minus ratings are currently led by Jamie Vardy, and given he is now 32 and therefore offering little resale value, it seems unlikely that a ‘bigger’ club are going to come in for him at this stage in his career. Similar statements could also be made about the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, 32, and Jonny Evans, 31, and therefore the club should be optimistic about retaining at least 3 of their top 5 performers from a Plus Minus perspective.
That top 5 is also includes Youri Tielemans, currently on loan from Monaco and a player who the club will surely be desperate to secure on a permanent deal. Since making his debut, the club have won 6 and drawn 1 of their 11 games for a return of 1.72 points per game, compared to just 1.28 points per game prior to Tielemans’ arrival.
In second place on the list is Ben Chilwell, and perhaps even more so than the likes of Harry Maguire, James Maddison and Wilfred Ndidi, is the player Leicester will probably find hardest to retain. At 22 years old and yet to record a century of club appearances, he could be seen as inexperienced, yet the maturity he has shown not only in a Leicester shirt but also for England this season suggests he would not be phased by playing at a higher level. Many of his defensive statistics including blocks, interceptions and clearances are superior to those of PFA Team of the Year left back Andy Robertson, and though much of that can be attributed to the fact that Leicester have less of the ball on average than Liverpool and spend more of the match defending, Chilwell has actually managed to put in more crosses than Robertson across the same number of appearances. He would be an obvious target for Arsenal, though potentially even Manchester City will be interested given Benjamin Mendy’s injury problems over the past two seasons. Indeed, Chilwell would improve the squad of any of the top 6, as well as most of the top clubs in Europe. So, will he stay, or will he go?
Fantasy Football Tip – James Ward Prowse
With their Premier League safety now guaranteed, Southampton’s trip to West Ham could be an open affair, especially given their recent form. Their 16 league matches so far in 2019 may have only yielded 3 clean sheets, but they have only failed to score twice (away trips to Chelsea and Arsenal). The Saints normally score, and with 7 goals to his name, James Ward-Prowse is one of the men most likely to provide those goals.