Who ate all the ties?

Photo by striatic

"Mr. Tie" Photo by striatic

A very peculiar thing is happening in the Premier League this year: there have been virtually no draws through six weeks of the season. The result is a rather stretched table for so early, making my argument—and frankly that of many—that the top of the table will be more competitive this year look a bit off the mark. This could be just a statistical oddity that will even out over the course of a 38 game schedule, or it could be caused by lots of late goals like the rather controversial winner at Old Trafford yesterday.

Of the 57 games played through the first six weeks of the season, only four have resulted in a draw, compared to ten draws through the same period last year and 14 ties in 2007-08. When compared to the overall rate of drawn matches over a full season, the lack of ties is even more evident. Just 7% of games this year have been drawn, compared to 25.5% in each of the last two seasons.

The effect on the league table is obvious. None of the top nine teams have drawn a single match with Chelsea enjoying a three point advantage over second place Manchester United, followed by another three points to four teams level on points led by Liverpool in third place on goal difference.

That six point stretch from first to third creates some breathing space for Chelsea, especially when you look at what the top of the table looked like after six games last year. Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United had each drawn twice by then, with Liverpool and Chelsea sharing the top spot on 14 points, Aston Villa a point behind, and Arsenal just another point back in fourth on 12 points (United had one loss to go with its two draws and had also only played five games).

The consistency of the number of draws over the course of a season—the same number in each of the last two years—indicates that the lack of draws are more likely a statistical blip. But there have been a lot of late winners this year. Chelsea have scored a stoppage time winner twice in just six games, while Man U, Spurs, Everton, and Birmingham also have snatched winners after 90 minutes. Surely there isn’t some grand conspiracy to add more time to games so big clubs can nick late goals, this isn’t Italy. But raise your hand if you think Man City would have been allowed to take that free kick or then play on after it had been cleared.

Whatever the cause, the lack of draws among the league’s top teams has put added pressure on everyone, especially those chasing Chelsea, to take maximum points week after week.

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