Points in hand over games

The assumption in some quarters is that City will win all of their remaining matches (including the one over Arsenal) and in so doing will win the Premier League. It’s not entirely without logic, they are playing incredibly well, Guardiola has adopted some of Arteta’s tactics (putting a CB in the fullback position), and they have an in-form goal-scoring machine. Meanwhile, Arsenal are missing two incredibly influential players in Saliba and Zinchenko and have had back-to-back draws. Both of those draws felt more like defeats, since the team took a 2-goal lead each time and ended up conceding two goals to let the opponents back in.

But while City are flying high and Arsenal seem to have reverted to the mean I’d just still caution that points in hand are always better than games in hand. You don’t win anything with games in hand. You do win things with points in hand.

I suggest you assess this by probability rather than in absolute terms. Once the matches are decided, when you either do or do not have points in hand, then you can think of things as fairly absolute. But until then, there’s only a probability that such-and-such team will win the League. For example, a lot of folks are already assuming that Arsenal are going to win tomorrow and that’s a fairly safe assumption; the chance of Arsenal winning is currently at 76%. And many of us are assuming that Arsenal are going to lose at City, again, a fairly safe assumption since they have are currently favored to win at 61%. But as we have seen time and again, teams slip up and drop points. And assuming that the points are already in hand – when they literally aren’t – is almost the most dangerous attitude a player, fans, or team can take.

You want the points in hand, not the probability that you’re going to win. After all, Arsenal’s probability of taking all three points against West Ham, when Arsenal had the 2-goal lead, was something like 80%. Saka’s probability of scoring from the penalty spot was 76%. And we know how both of those events turned out.

So, while the probability is on City’s side at the moment, and they have a game in hand (against high flying Brighton I hasten to add), I still look at our four point lead in the league and say we have the advantage because we have the points in hand. And for tomorrow’s match against Southampton what we absolutely cannot do for even a moment while the game is going is think that we have it won. A single stupid moment, a foul in a dangerous area, could let James Ward-Prowse have a chance to score from a direct free kick, and that win could vanish like a spring fog.



  1. I, for one, don’t think that City will win all of their remaining games. Unfortunately, I don’t think Arsenal will either. Having said that, I think the decisive game will be against them at the Etihad. Take a point from that game, and we have a chance. Take all 3, and I think the title is ours to lose. Suffer a defeat, and City will be crowned champions yet again. Just my personal humble opinion.

  2. Without Saliba, I am sure we will win fewer points than City. They are on fire and could well win the treble. We should not have risked first team players in the EL, where Saliba picked up his injury. Amazing season from the lads but we will fall short against a state-funded machine. Reinforce in the summer and try again.

    1. I respectfully disagree… in fact, I think we should have played our strongest starting XI against Sporting in the second leg to begin with. We would’ve won the tie (I have no doubt), and progressed. And who’s to say that we wouldn’t have won the whole thing in the end? You never know how/when any injury can occur so if we don’t win the title this season, we could wait another 20 years to get another shot at it whereas Europa League was definitely within our reach. We’ll obviously get the top 4 (probably 2) but if we don’t win any trophies (which it increasingly feels like) then it’ll be a huge disappointment not only for fans but the players as well.

      1. Maybe it’s just me, but I put no stock in the EL. Even if you win it, what does that mean: ”best of the rest”? The old Cup Winners Cup at least was a cup for winners, unlike the EL which is for also-rans.

        1. Europa League is a prestigious European trophy and as a club with just one European trophy we shouldn’t be looking down our noses at it.

      2. Not a big disappointment for this fan. At the beginning of the season, I was hopeful about being able to edge into 4th. To have spent most of the season at the top, and likely end up 2nd still feels like a significant success. And we’re probably only being edged out by the behemoth that is City.
        The EL would have been nice, but Cups are a crapshoot. All it takes is one bad match and you’re screwed.

  3. This season we have risen to the occasion more so than not….we’ll continue as such…never in doubt

  4. Any advantage we have is technical, a paper advantage. There is a non-zero chance that City could slip on a banana peel somewhere and turn that paper advantage for Arsenal into something more, but it is not much above zero.

    In other words, they have to blow it, after we’ve already blown it in two straight matches, giving up 2-goal leads. Highly unlikely.

    Let’s go back to last year at this time, though. Would you have taken a pretty much nailed 2nd place finish with a decent Champions League seeding for next year?

    If we produce a result at the Etihad stadium and not get snuffed out, as I expect, it will be our greatest season since the Invincibles, regardless of who finally wins the title.

    This team is the best thing that ever happened to me since the 2014 F.A. Cup.

  5. I see they have decided that since going up 2-0 didn’t work very well they have decided to take an opposite approach, and go down early.
    Eye roll. It had better improve or people really are going to be talking about cracking under pressure.

  6. I burst into tears when we equalised, that’s never happened before. We’re expecting a lot because the boys have been trying so hard for a long time with incredible results. What they did the last 12 minutes or so is enough for me, and gives me a glimmer of hope for the next game and next season. And Gabriel, my man.

  7. for the folks higher up the thread talking about the europa league, i’d like to interject. i feel that if you’re going to be a big team, you have to play every game to win…including the europa league matches. once you play it safe by trying to prioritize, you’re no longer a big team.

    let me be clear, the league is a more definitive at determining who a better team was than a cup competition. like slc says, all it takes is one bad match and that could be your cup competition. alternatively, the league is about consistency and is less forgiving for a single poor performance.

    ultimately, i’d prefer to win any trophy i can. pre-season cups like the europa super cup, community shield, emirates cup, etc. are cute but don’t matter like a proper cup competition.

    1. also, what kind of league champion would bank on chalking up points against other teams instead of beating their main rival in a match. Bring on city I say.

  8. the beauty of yesterday’s result is that all of the pressure is now on manchester city. the reasonable expectation is that arsenal have blown it and man city will go on and win the league. there’s no pressure on arsenal to win at man city.

    my fear is that arsenal win at man city and go to st. james’ park and lose…and that’ll be how they lose the league. it was the same last season. everyone was saying how winning at tottenham was so crucial. well, arsenal lost at tottenham but that wasn’t what killed their top 4 quest. it was the loss at newcastle. i’ve actually been there once, back in the late 90s and the thing that stood out most for me, except for how hideous the women were, was their fans. the fan base is something different up there. but i understand; there’s absolutely nothing in newcastle except that team.

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