4 losses, 5 losses, 5 losses, 5 losses, 1 loss, 0 losses
That’s your last 6 Premier League winners’ losses tally. Yesterday Perry Groves made what on its surface seems an incredible claim; that this year the title winner could lose as many as 6 matches and still win the title. Most people would think “6 losses? that’s crazy!” and historically they’d be correct. Arsenal lost 6 last year and it was only good enough for 4th place. After thinking about it, though, I’m going to agree with Perry for two reasons; first, because of the challengers to the top four, and second because it’s better to lose a match while going for the win than it is to sit back and go for the tie.
So far this season several teams have looked very impressive; Sunderland looks like they might be the type of team that will push all of the title challengers — with their stropping two center forwards and a middle of Cattermole, Cana, and Malbranque they are a no nonsense squad and will turn over top four teams this year. Their draw against Man U was no fluke, they earned that. Villa are still a dangerous team and folks would be silly to write Martin O’Neill and his squad off as an easy three points. Everton are constructed to grind their opponents down and with news that Phil Jagielka is ready to make a comeback they should look to make up for their poor start to the season with some solid play. Tottenham is a squad that wants to score a ton of goals and that will surprise a lot of folks. And, of course, City look like they are solid enough to push teams, at least until the infighting starts. All this is to say that beyond the usual surprises, such as Wigan stealing one against Chelsea, there are a lot of teams who are built to challenge, if not beat, the top four clubs. None of which even mentions the fact that the top clubs will fight tooth and nail for all three points when they face each other. so, 6 losses each for the top clubs is by no stretch of the imagination infeasable.
But really it’s not losses that matter so much. Sure, it’s dropped points, but so are draws. The old adage is that top four teams sees draws as two dropped points while smaller clubs tend to see it as a point salvaged. How important are draws on a final tally? Well, a team that draws every game gets 38 points and probable relegation. Whereas a team which wins half, and loses half, ends up on 57 points and playing in the Europa League. As for the title challengers, here’s another way to look at it: during Arsenal’s unbeaten season they went 26-12-0 and garnered 90 points. Man U lost 4 matches last year and got the same point total, because they won more, going 28-6-4. They drew half as many and won just two more games, and they got the same number of points! Incredibly, in that unbeaten season, if Chelsea had converted just 4 of their draws to wins, they would have beaten Arsenal to the title by one point — while losing 7 matches to Arsenal’s 0. Clearly, winning is everything. This sounds almost stupid to say but, 6 losses won’t matter to the league winner as long as they win more games. Win more games, win the title, as it should be.
I’m not saying that draws are useless. They can be a good result, say, in a comeback from a 2 goal deficit. Rather, that top clubs and title winning clubs approach nearly every match as a chance to get three points. It’s early in the season but I think Wenger’s approach to this problem is pretty clear: you need to score goals to win and we’re going to outscore you. Yes, this means that like the City game, we’re going to go into the game saying that we’d rather lose 4-2 than get a 2-2 draw. Under that system, and the way that we are playing defense, I can actually see Arsenal losing 7 or 8 this season — and still challenging for the title. Since our comptetitors will be looking at 5-8 losses as well, it will be the win to draws ratio that will decide this season.
All we have to do is win more!