It has been said countless times that this is a unique season. The lack of a real pre-season, late start, three-game international breaks, all resulting in a condensed schedule resulting in top teams essentially not having a free midweek to train until Christmas.
There is no doubt it has been a gruelling one with the reigning Champions in all of the top-five European leagues struggling to match their performance levels from the previous seasons.
As a result, Bayern Munich are the only reigning champions who currently lead their domestic league. Their four wins in eight games suggest it has been far from plain-sailing either.
Points per Game Comparison: 2019/20 vs 2020/21
When you look at the points per game (PPG) for teams in the top 5 leagues last season and this season side-by-side, there are several things that stand out.
Typically, more than 2.25 points per game wins you a title. This equates to an 86-point season over 38 games. There are exceptions, of course, most notably Liverpool finishing on 98 points in 2018/19.
The point is though, over 2.25 points is a title-worthy team. It is a measure of a consistently high-performing side. In the Premier League, only three times has a side got over 86 points and failed to win the title. Manchester United in 94/95, 11/12 and Liverpool in 18/19.
In United’s case, they won both league titles either sides of those seasons. For Liverpool, they won the Champions League in 18/19 and then the league title in 19/20. Both of these teams were consistently high-performing sides.
Across the top 5 European Leagues last season, only Juventus failed to get more than 2.25 points per game while winning their domestic league.
However, they were in cruise control from the beginning of July, winning only two of their final eight games of the season and losing three of the last four. At that point, they were averaging 2.5 points per game and were 11 points clear of second-placed Inter.
This season, we are seeing only two teams above the 2.25 line – Atletico Madrid and AC Milan. Both of whom were around the 1.8 PPG mark last season and have had easier rides than most in Europe this season.
Atletico were drawn in one of the easiest Champions League groups. While AC Milan were able to rotate their side heavily in the Europa League whilst topping their group.
All reigning champions have seen a drop in results from last season, with an average of 14% point reduction across the five teams. Liverpool’s drop is the most pronounced at 25.5%.
Premier League PPG Comparisons
Looking just at the Premier League, it is clear looking at the distribution of teams based on PPG how unique this season is compared to more recent ones.
However, looking solely at the Champions in each season, it seems a large drop-off is quite common after winning a title.
Each of Chelsea’s title wins were followed by a season battling it out in mid-table. Likewise, Leicester’s win in 2015/16 was followed-up with a season struggling to stay out of a relegation battle.
Liverpool’s pattern more closely resembles that of Manchester City, who after two high-performance seasons above 2.6, suffered a drop-off putting them closer to 2.2 and now below 2.0.
We can also see the only season the title winners fell below 2.25 PPG was Leicester’s win in 2015/16. Another season in which no side put together a strong run of performances, with the runner up finishing on 71 points; a total that wouldn’t even win top 4 in other seasons.
Extending this further still for twenty years, we can see how adrift much lower the points totals are for the relegation battling sides this season. But also how thick the pool of sides with ambitions for finish in European places is.
Premier League PPG – In Summary
This isn’t a bad thing per se. In fact, having a dominant side in a domestic league can make it boring and predictable seeing casual or neutral observers lose interest.
The fact that since Alex Ferguson retired, sides rarely retain their title with nobody winning more than two in a row is one of the factors behind the Premier League blow the rest out of the water in terms of TV rights value.
However, the underlying problems behind this season should be a concern. Teams struggling to keep their star players fit and in form. Players looking jaded to exhausted. Not to mention a feeling the quality of football to a neutral has taken a massive down-turn compared to previous years. These are the things that should concern us all.
To see our thread on twitter better explaining how to read this graph, click here.
A glossary of all the terms used in this article and throughout the site as a whole is available here. Also, click on any image in the article for a full-size high definition version.
All data used in our articles is sourced from Understat, FBRef, Sofascore, Transfermarkt and 538.