I’m sure most Utd fans are absolutely buzzing after a second weekend of knocking one of their top four challengers down a notch and doing so with gusto. Yes Utd were the media whipping boys after their calamitous loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup, with many pundits claiming that they had no hope of making top four, funny how quickly things can turn.
For shits and giggles (and because it is the point of the post) here is a table of how the top 7 teams in the Premier League have done against each other:
That’s right, Man Utd are top of the average points table, not Chelsea and magic Mourinho and not Arsenal and their rejuvenated tactics. Who would’ve thunk it?
It is hard to not ponder why Utd are top of the table and what the difference between this year is and last. Is it the gagillion dollars they spent on new players? Are they all on steroids and nobody has realised? Or is it more likely that Louis Van Gaal knows how to win the big games? I know the answer and it’s the third one.
All you need to do is take a look at Utd’s record against the other top 7 teams last season and you will see that in 12 games only 6 points were won and that is an average of 0.5 points a game. 0.5…It is hard to describe how truly awful that really is and it is the reason that David Moyes is managing at Real Sociedad rather than at Old Trafford. Yes Utd spent a lot of money in the summer (a hell of a lot more than the board gave Moyes) but only Daley Blind started the games against Spurs and Liverpool. Now you could question Utd’s transfer spending (not the time or the place) but it essentially means that LVG is producing top quality results against the teams around him with more or less the same players Moyes had at his disposal.
I’m not here to beat up on Moyes because it has been done to death, rather I am here to praise the turnaround in tactical astuteness and confidence under LVG. When you look at the record of Utd in comparison to the other teams around them you have to wonder why Utd aren’t at least challenging for the league, but it is the silly dropped points against the likes of Leicester and Swansea which have cost Utd. In many ways LVG has played in the top leagues in the world but whether it is Germany, Holland or Spain, there is almost a tendency for the small teams to roll over when the big boys come to town, something which doesn’t happen in the Premier League.
By no means am I saying that Utd are going to walk the top 4 because there are still tough games against Chelsea, City and Arsenal to come and as we have seen in the past fortnight things can change so quickly in football, especially when you are totalling up results ahead of time. However I don’t see the top four changing from what it is now because it would be a very big ask for Spurs, Southampton or Liverpool to overturn such a large deficit.
This post was all really about Man Utd’s improvement under LVG however the nice guy that I am I’ll take some time out and talk about the other teams. I’d have thought that Chelsea would have had a better average than 1.56 but I assume this is largely down to Mourinho often playing for draws in the big games. City have a decent record but have had a number of odd results (including losing to Arsenal at home) which has hurt their stats. Arsenal despite a good result against City earlier on in the season have an atrocious record of an average of only 1 point a game, Arsenal are desperately lucky that there are thirteen other teams in the league because they would be struggling desperately otherwise, on a counter though imagine where they would be with at least an average of 1.5, very near the top I imagine. Liverpool have a good record also considering how poorly they started the season, but Utd doing the double over them could become very costly. Spurs usually are seen as a team which doesn’t do it on the big stage and the stats agree, despite the fact they have had very good results this year against Chelsea and Arsenal. Southampton are unsurprisingly bottom of the averages, showing the big differences between the very top teams and the next bracket, despite that they’ve still had a great season.
Look in case you haven’t guessed I’m a Utd fan (not that I actually hide it) and by no means am I saying that this first season under LVG has been fantastic, however I find the turnaround in results against the very top sides from last to this year as quite remarkable and how it shows the impact a different manager can have. It turns out that it is actually true that LVG is a manager for the big occasions, whereas Moyes clearly was not.
Leave a comment on what you have thought of the games amongst the top 7 this season and how you think the battle for the top 4 will turn out by the end of the season. Obviously I’ll reply to anything if you want to share your thoughts, even if it’s just to tell me I’m a total walloper.