The Rise and Reign of Premier League's Goliaths: An In-depth Data Analysis

Updated: 46 Football

Discover how top teams in Premier League are not only improving but taking over. Our in-depth data analysis gives insights into this elevating dominance.

The Rise and Reign of Premier League's Goliaths: An In-depth Data Analysis
Dan Tracey Data Scientist and Football Editor

Writer, analyst, podcaster, Spurs fan. Three out of four is not bad. If there is a data angle, I will find it.

Are The Top Teams Getting Even More Dominant?

As fans, we can't help but notice the rise and reign of top tier teams in the Premier League. This article delves into a comprehensive analysis of this growing dominance, showcasing the increasing strength and number of these football giants. Enrich your understanding of this football evolution and stay ahead in your knowledge of the Premier League!

Dominance is growing in the EPL

Witness the rise and reign of the Premier Leagues's Goliaths with our in-depth analysis!⚽🏆 Discover the secrets behind their growing dominance.

They often say that the gap between the teams at the top and the bottom of the Premier League is getting wider but how do you prove such a statement? Usually, it is a case of comparing the champions to the team at the foot of the table but this also lacks a whole lot of context.

If only because the team at the table can have the most dominant of seasons, the team at the bottom could be Derby County and the miserable 11 points that were collected across the whole of the 2007/08 campaign.

The way to counteract that lack of context is by grouping the top six, the midtable eight and the bottom six together and seeing how and where the points are won each season. No single team in isolation but a pack of teams working together.

Why the top six and the bottom six? Since the evolution of the elite known as the ‘big six’ football has taken something of a distinction between the haves and the have nots and this gives us the perfect parameters to frame our points data.

Data which looks as follows: 

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To supply some context here, we have removed the first three seasons of the Premier League – as there were 22 teams rather than 20 and therefore, the data sample would not be a clean comparison year on year.

In every season since the start of the 1995/96 campaign, there were 380 matches that have been played and this means that a maximum of 1,140 points could be scored in total at the end of the season.

Demystifying Points Dynamics: Exploring Balance in the Premier League Season

✏️📊 To keep data clean, we started comparisons from the 1995/96 Premier League season with 20 teams. With 380 matches, the total points could hit 1,140. But draws mean totals often sit in the low 1000s. Lower points usually indicate a balanced league with numerous draws. ⚽️🔄

However, for this to happen, each of the 380 matches would have to provide both a winner and a loser. Three points for a win, multiplied by 380 and you get the maximum of 1,140 points handed out across the table.

Of course, we know that league football allows the draw and this is why the sum column in the table above has figures that are in the low 1,000s rather than the 1,100s – while the lower the number overall, the more draws are likely to have taken place.

The more draws (or the lower the sum value of points per season), the more balance there is in a league and this would subsequently drive down the total number of points collected across a full season.

Then again, the sum of the points is not the key indicator here, it is the percentage of points won by each of our groupings and you only have to look at the difference in splits from 1995/96 to 2022/23 to see how things have changed.

In the first six years of our data sample, either side of 40% of all the points collected was the norm by the teams that finished in the top six of the Premier League. Fast forward 21 years and that figure has rocketed up to 45%

As we know, a split of this can be considered something of an outlier but if anything, it is only the peak of an upward trend. From the 2007/08 season to the 2013/14, only two saw the top 6 earn less than 43% of the points – 2011/12 missed out on that by 0.40%

Rise of the Titans: Emergence of Strong Top Six in the Premier League

🔝⚽️ Over 21 years, the top six Premier League teams moved from clinching 40% to a stark 45% of all points! This trend upwards suggests intensifying competition at the top. In 7 seasons from 2007, only two saw the top 6 win less than 43% of points. 📈🏆

While the 2007/08 season seems a rather significant line in the sand and once again it comes down the elite being grouped together. There was no official date of the ‘top four’ being launched, but this was certainly the peak of the powers.

Only because the ‘top four’ would soon become the ‘big six’ with the invites of Tottenham and Manchester City a couple of years later and with Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United already members of the establishment, these six clubs have been the ongoing Premier League powerhouses.

Powerhouses they may well be, but that is not necessarily a guarantee of a top six finish. The beauty of the Premier League is that any team can beat any other on any given day and the likes of Newcastle, West Ham and Leicester have recently gatecrashed the big six party.

Unpredictable Premier League: Newcastle, West Ham, and Leicester Crash the 'Big Six' Bash!

🥳⚽️ Power of the Premier League - anyone can reign supreme on any given day! Newcastle, West Ham & Leicester have recently crashed the big six party! 🎉🔝🏆

Which is why the grouping has been placed towards the top six rather than the big six, so as to offer the same comparative consistency throughout the analysis and to offer some more context, we will rank the top six percentage points in season order. 

Season Top 6 %
2016/17 45.17%
2017/18 44.76%
2013/14 44.44%
2018/19 44.34%
2007/08 43.85%
2008/09 43.72%
2012/13 43.60%
2021/22 43.44%
2009/10 43.19%
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If we look at the bottom end of the table, we can see that the first two seasons were before the turn of millennium. Four of the bottom seven were seasons between 1995/96 and 1998/99 – therefore we can say that the top Premier League was less dominant before we reach 2000.

That can be linked to the number of Champions League places that were on offer by UEFA. It used to be just the one up until the mid-90’s when a second invite was offered, two would then become three around the turn of the millennium, before eventually becoming four for the 2002/03 season and beyond.

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The more teams that represent England in the Champions League, the more teams get a slice of UEFA’s big financial pie. Not everyone can get a slice, but those who do find themselves almost permanent members of the top six. 

At the top of this table, there is no direct pattern in terms of seasons in some form of annual succession. However, we can see that the top four highest percentages have all occurred in the past 10 years – a period when the big six is well and truly alive.

This data paints one picture, but perhaps it needs another layer and that layer comes from those teams that are either struggling to avoid the drop or are the three teams that succumb to relegation at the end of the season.

It is all very well looking at the very best but does the very worst actually offer more in the way of insight. If we once again rank the seasons from top to bottom in terms of percentage points won but this time, we are going to rank the bottom six from lowest to highest. 

Season Bottom 6 %
2018/19 17.87%
2009/10 18.16%
2007/08 18.65%
2021/22 18.73%
2020/21 18.92%
2005/06 19.00%
2022/23 19.28%
2013/14 19.40%
2019/20 19.47%
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This is where things start to get really interesting and it also reinforces the question as to whether the teams at the top are getting more dominant. Three of the last five completed Premier League seasons are also in the top five lowest percentages of bottom six points earned.

At the end of the 2018/19 season, just 17.87% of all the points were collected by the team at the bottom. Just three seasons later, the figure had increased to 18.73%, two seasons later and it was only 18.92%.

Less for the Bottom, More for the Top: A Growing Imbalance in Premier League?

🔍💭 The growing dominance of top teams is glaring: three of the last five Premier League seasons saw the bottom six earning the lowest percentages of points. 📉⚽️ If this trend persists, the Premier League might have a major issue to address. 🤔🚩

As we know, there is only a maximum of 1,140 points to go around, the teams at the bottom are now seemingly getting less and less than before and if this continues into the next few years and beyond, the Premier League may have a big problem on their hands.

The beauty of English football is the pyramid. A team at the very bottom level of the game can eventually make its way to the top level via a number of promotions. Admittedly going from Step 11 to the Premier League is unlikely but the dream is there for all to dream.

However, you only have to look at the start of the 2023/24 Premier League season to see that this dream could be in a form of long-term jeopardy. The trio of Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton all earned promotion a few months ago, on early evidence they could be going straight back down.

Should this be the case, then it would not be the biggest surprise but it would also highlight that the gap between the Premier League and the EFL Championship below is only getting wider – if it happens this season and to another three teams next time around, then there is trouble.

Because although the system of promotion and relegation is most definitely in place, the same exact teams going up and then down removes the jeopardy that is connected to the Premier League and without that jeopardy, there are eight or nine teams with nothing to play for or fight against.

If you are team that finds yourself in the lower reaches of midtable – a perfect example would be Crystal Palace – there is no true incentive to improve if you know that 17th is the worst you will ever finish.

Why try harder when the Premier League riches are guaranteed to be coming your way. The trapdoor may not be slammed shut but if the promoted teams cannot keep up, the whole sub-plot of relegation is completely erased. 

For all intents and purposes, there is no relegation battle that neutral supporters cherish each year. Take that away and the malaise of many sets in and this only weakens the Premier League as a whole while the teams at the top get even stronger.

The Ebbing Excitement: Is the Premier League Relegation Thrill on the Wane?

🔄⚽️ Promotion and relegation brings an edge to the Premier League, but the same teams oscillating up and down could strip this away. Consider Crystal Palace - why push harder if worst-case scenario is 17th place? 🤔💭 The thrill of relegation battles could be fading...💔

This scenario has not happened just yet, but the trend suggests that it is very close to starting and it is something that the Premier League powerbrokers will have to be wary of before the title of the ‘best league in the world’ begins to lose its saleability.

Which also begs the question, what makes a league good? Is it great teams or great competitiveness? You would have to say that the Premier League has just the right balance of both and another way to measure this is by looking at the points that the mid-table teams earn.

In this instance we are going to compare the percentage splits of the top six and the midtable eight – in theory, the latter should always win because there are two more teams to earn points but is that the case? 

Season Top 6 % Midtable % Top 6 vs Midtable
1995/96 40.12% 39.16% Dominance
1996/97 39.19% 37.52% Dominance
1997/98 38.28% 39.14%  
1998/99 40.10% 37.85% Dominance
1999/00 40.36% 39.98% Dominance
2000/01 39.85% 38.98% Dominance
2001/02 42.83% 36.28% Dominance
2002/03 40.10% 38.67% Dominance
2003/04 40.31% 38.08% Dominance
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A look at this data shows that this is definitely not the case. In only two seasons since the start of the 1995/96 seasons have the teams that finished 7th to 14th in the Premier League table amassed more collective points in the top six – in the 2020/21 season, the midtable ‘won’ by just three points.

A single Premier League victory serving as the difference between the top six racking up another collective win. The only season where there was something approaching a convincing victory was at the end of 1997/98, when midtable teams earned nine points more than the top six.

In every other campaign bar those two, the top six have earned more points – this is labelled by ‘Dominance’ in the table above. Two less teams in their pool, but those at the sharper end are also leaving their midtable counterparts behind. 

Another way to contextualise this is by ranking the difference between the points won by the top six and the points won by the midtable eight and then ranking those differences from highest to lowest: 

Season Top 6 % Midtable % Difference
2016/17 45.17% 35.23% 9.94%
2017/18 44.76% 35.06% 9.70%
2013/14 44.44% 36.16% 8.29%
2008/09 43.72% 36.15% 7.57%
2012/13 43.60% 36.05% 7.56%
2018/19 44.34% 37.79% 6.55%
2001/02 42.83% 36.28% 6.54%
2007/08 43.85% 37.50% 6.35%
2021/22 43.44% 37.83% 5.61%
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Here we can see that the back-to-back seasons of 2016/17 and 2017/18 saw the top six not just come out on top but come out on top very comfortably. Both these season’s saw more than a 9% difference in total points. 

While four of the top six seasons in terms of points difference have been recorded in the past decade. That may paint a picture of doom and gloom but the last two completed seasons suggest that the top and middle of the table my just becoming more homogenised.

In the 2021/22 season the points difference was only 5.61%, a season later it had dropped to 4.37% - the reason for this is the likes of Brighton, Brentford, Newcastle and Aston Villa who have done their best to upset the apple cart.

The Erosion of Midtable: Is the Premier League Evolving into a Two-League System?

🔝⚽️ Good news for clubs aiming to join the elite group, but is midtable disappearing for the bottom six? 📉🚫 With two mini-leagues emerging instead of three, the Premier League's structure is unevenly tilting. ⚖️🔄

While it may spell good news for those clubs that find themselves looking to join the elite, it arguably spells further bad news for those clubs who find themselves in the bottom six. To the point where the concept of midtable is almost eroding away for good.

Whereas the Premier League used to be considered as a competition that has three mini-leagues in it, it is now closer to just two and it’s not even a clean split of the 10 top half teams and the other 10 at the bottom.

You could make a case for 12 to 14 teams fighting it out for at least some form of European football and then leaving behind those find themselves in real relegation drama and the last thing you want to do is be cast adrift in the unwanted half dozen.

This is not a split that has happened yet and if it is to happen it is going to be a rather soft transition, but at the same time it does suggest that the bigger clubs are not only getting better but there are even more of them in the Premier League.

Methodology and Author Information

This article was researched and fact-checked by Dan Tracey who also then added the words - Dan is a multi-talented writer, data analyst and podcaster whose six-year career in the sports data sphere has seen incredible successes. From helping UEFA create their annual technical reports to writing articles for Sports Betting Websites, including sites like TheLinesUS and Goal

Source:

Data from Wikipedia, calculations made by writer.

Data correct as of 11th September 2023.


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