How Man United and Chelsea are Men Among Boys in the Premier League

premier league alternative table How Man United and Chelsea are Men Among Boys in the Premier LeagueNow that the opening weekend of the Premier League has kicked off, one thing is absolutely clear. Both Chelsea and Manchester United have a new rival to contend with. It’s an opponent that will be hanging over their heads throughout the entire season, adding pressure at key moments. It’s a new competitor in the Premier League that both top clubs fear. Its “name” is two words: goal difference.

No longer is it a question of whether Chelsea or Manchester United can win their matches each week. It’s now a question of how many goals they can score against their opponent. Such is the might of both clubs that seemingly the only thing that may separate them at the end of the season is goal difference. Perhaps we soccer fans should change the way we describe how many points a club gets each weekend? Instead of Chelsea or Manchester United “picking up three points,” maybe we should remark “Chelsea got a +6 this weekend.” What about Manchester United? “They got a +3.” Of course, I’m being slightly sarcastic, but you get the point. The gulf in class between the top two clubs and everyone else is extremely noticeable. Yes, the opening fixtures for Chelsea and Manchester United were against clubs who were just promoted from the Championship, but there’s an obvious difference in talent between the “Big Two” and the rest, even Arsenal and Liverpool.

I don’t mean any disrespect to supporters of the other 18 clubs in the Premier League, but the league has really turned into a league of men versus boys. West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United were schooled so much this past weekend that it was extremely blatant. And it’s not only recently promoted teams. Remember how Chelsea walked over seemingly tough competition last season such as Arsenal (both home and away)? And how Manchester United blew Arsenal away at the Emirates?

Yes, Chelsea and Manchester United will face difficult opposition now and again but it seems that they’re continually able to pull something out from their bag of tricks to still salvage a draw or grab all three points. But these close games are too few and far between. Instead it’s the pressure of goal difference that spurs them on to try to demolish teams and ratchet up the positive goal difference. Last season, Chelsea ended the league with a +71 goal difference. Manchester United, while only one point behind in second place, achieved a goal difference of +58. In the first season of the Premier League, 1992-93, there were two more teams in the league than there are now. But still Manchester United won the league with a goal difference of +36. Applying that goal difference to today’s standards, United would have the fourth best goal difference in the league.

For supporters of Manchester United and Chelsea, these one-sided “contests” are enjoyable to watch. But they’re not much fun for everyone else from the neutral observer or supporter of other teams. Manchester United and Chelsea shouldn’t change anything, and I don’t want to see the same type of parity which paralyzes a lot of American sports. Instead, there needs to be something done to level the playing field a little.

In sports, there are always underdogs. The reason many of us like underdogs is because sometimes the underdogs win. When you lose that, you lose unpredictability and things get decidedly boring. The 2010-11 Premier League is still only a few days old and things may change, but so far it looks like it’ll be a two-horse race with a lot of also-rans this season. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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44 Responses to How Man United and Chelsea are Men Among Boys in the Premier League

  1. Stacy Richardson says:

    I still don’t understand why head-to-head competition isn’t the first tiebreaker, ahead of goal difference and goals scored.

    • Eagle Eye says:

      I think goal difference is better coz it forces teams to fight it up to the last match. It also keeps the fans entertained… who know maybe that is one of the reasons the EPL is the most watched league.

      http://soccer.mynucleus.org

    • Dave C says:

      That’s a good point – I can see why it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in the group games of the World Cup (because otherwise you get a lot of dead-rubber games, like in Germany ’06), but in a league competition over 38 games, it would make a lot of sense to just go on a head to head basis.

      I guess maybe the only argument in favor of Goal-difference (or goals scored) is that it encourages attacking play throughout the season. Otherwise, imagine if Chelsea beat Man Utd 1-0 at home and tied 1-1 away – then they would be happy to just scrape through all their other games by 1-0. At least with GD, there is still an incentive for Chelsea (in this scenario) to at least try and score a bundle of goals.

  2. spark says:

    Can we hold the coronation until Chelsea & Man U play a team that was actually in the Premier League last year? I do admit both squads looked strong but they did what you’re supposed to do to at home to teams that are fighting only to avoid relegation.

  3. Clampdown says:

    Sorry, Gaffer. But it’s way too early to make that judgment. We have learned nothing from their two matches, other than the reasons why their opposition were in the Championship last year. Blackpool’s victory was more impressive than either Chelsea’s or United’s.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a much tighter race among the top 6 this year than we’ve ever seen.

  4. lolwut says:

    This article makes absolutely no sense.

  5. gunner says:

    BULLSHIT!MAN UTD AND CHELSEA BOTH PLAYED NEWLY PROMOTED SIDES WHILE 4 OF THE OTHER CONTENDERS PLAYED AGAINST EACH OTHER!WRITE THIS STUPID SHIT AT THE END OF THE SEASON AFTER A PROPER ASSESSMENT OF ALL TEAMS

  6. john says:

    People tend to overreact after things. It’s a long season….there will be spells where Man U and Chelsea are not at their best and dropping points. While I do believe they both are the best teams, the talent gap isn’t as wide as you believe.

  7. Robert says:

    As a reminder not to overrate the first match of a new season – last year Europe’s champions Inter drew with newly promoted Bari at home. The season turned out ok for them. Also last season, Arsenal thrashed Everton 6-1 to begin the year. Let’s give it a month before supporters declare their club the best ever.

  8. James says:

    Perhaps I’m being naive, but how often has goal difference even mattered in determining the winner? It’s not like you get an extra league point for every +5 in goal difference. If the race ends 90 – 89, who will even say a thing about goal difference?

    Silly article.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Goal difference is becoming more of an issue now that it has been in the past. Sure, Chelsea beat Man United to the title by one point by effectively they won the Premier League by more than one point. Even if Man United had tied Chelsea on points, Chelsea was far ahead of United on goal difference. It makes a big difference toward the end of each season.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  9. eplnfl says:

    Have to agree that looking at the teams they are the two best. Fans of the other 18 teams have to always be looking up. The race for 3 through 8 maybe a good one this year, even better than last year and will be enough to keep us all interested until next May.

    Please no one get excited about Blackpool. We have seen newly promoted teams pull surprise results the last few years only to see them before September is out and begin the crash and burn to the Championship.

  10. Patrico says:

    Agree with Clampdown and most other comments – it’s a long season. What did you expect from Man U and Chelsea at home against newly-promoted sides? Out of the usual top 7, four of the clubs played each other (two draws) and three had easy wins.

    Aston Villa (especially with Collins and Cuellar out, and Agbonlahor) and Blackpool were the surprises of the weekend.

    Man U didn’t show anything that made me think they would blow out Arsenal, Tottenham, etc. And Chelsea has had plenty of matches like this (or worse than 6-0) over the past few years.

  11. guitarearl says:

    So how do you improve the competition in the league without costing the league it’s reputation and prestige? It seems to me one aspect that makes it difficult is that the prospects of relegation leave teams like Wolverhampton, Stoke, Sunderland, and others hesitant to take the risk of putting a lot of money on the market. If you fail, you’re going to fail hard.

    It’s easy when you’re a ManUtd to go a billion dollars in debt, because you’re almost guaranteed a spot up top because of the foundation your club’s been built on.

    • Dave C says:

      While you have a point (somewhat), the examples you chose are pretty bad – Sunderland have definitely been pretty big spenders in the couple of years, and Stoke have also made some big-money signings (Beattie, Huth, Tuncay, Kenwyn Jones).
      Portsmouth and Leeds would be the more obvious choices.

  12. Sir Guy says:

    I’m almost afraid to ask, Gaffer. What did you mean by…..

    “….there needs to be something done to level the playing field a little.”

    • The Gaffer says:

      Guy, I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t think it should be a salary cap, but something needs to be done.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • guitarearl says:

        In my mind, part of the problem is that, when a salary cap is mentioned, it’s always the Chelsea and ManUtd fans who will start clamoring about, “Oh, the league will go to crap, nobody will want to play here, blah blah blah.” Their collective loss of market share in the league constitutes earthquakes, meteor showers, and the opening of the Lake of Fire in the minds of those who enjoy celebrating shellackings.

        I don’t think a salary cap would be as effective as a comprehensive revenue-sharing model, coupled with a stipulation that says all shared funds must be used towards club growth. The toughest part is that all this ManUtd debt is predicated upon their ability to reclaim the funds based on success; anything that would hamper that ability will be met with consternation by the Glazers. But hey, why police it, it’s not like competition means anything anyway?

  13. Mohammed says:

    How do you come to that conclusion when liverpool played arsenal and City played spurs? If the above teams had faced different opposition the results would’ve been totally different. I think it’s premature to make that statement after just one game…where the opposition wasn’t the best

  14. Gary says:

    Gaffer, you just like your posts to get the most comments.
    You controversial son of a gun!
    You identify the top 2 but the gulf between them and the next 2 or 3 teams will not be as wide as you’re pretending it it will. Especially since the closest competition played each-other to draws. Was Man U’s 2nd half against Newcastle drastically better than Spurs 1st half against City on Saturday? I would say they were equally impressive and Spurs did it against the billionaires. Let’s see what happens when “the men” take on their closest competition and the likes of Spurs and Arsenal get a run at Newcastle, West Brom and the rest of the cannon fodder.
    I’d say that you’re about to be proven wrong but I think you’re taking a disingenuous stance for the sake of drawing in some comments. Worked on me!

    • The Gaffer says:

      Let’s see how the season goes and then revisit this story in March or April. To me, it just seems that the top two are running away with it and are head and shoulders above everyone else.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  15. Brandon says:

    This article could be true but I think it is too early to assume Chelsea & United are this much better then everyone else after the 2 teams they played in the 1st week.

  16. Behrad says:

    This is so true and that’s exactly how I watched the first weekend, I wanted Chelsea to score at least 5 goals because they need to rack up goals against weaker sides in order to position themselves well in goal differential for the remainder of the season.

  17. Jacob says:

    As much as I hate to admit it, I think I have to agree with you Gaffer. They look amazing and it really hurts me to say that cuz I HATE Chelsea. I guess we all just have to pray for injuries.

  18. Brian says:

    Unfortunately the only way to help level the playing field is to re-contruct the Premier League on a franchise system on par with the Major League Baseball in the United States. The new EPL should be 18 teams and there should be no promotion/relegation each year. I for one love the promotion/relegation battles every year, but it is one of the reasons why many sides do not take the risk of spending a lot of money, only to find themselves in the Championship the following year due to injuries, poor play, bad luck, etc.

    Under a system like MLB, every team would get an equal share of TV money regardless of how many times they appear on TV, and regardless of their league position. Also, gate receipts would be shared between the home and away clubs at an 70/30 ratio. There would also have to be a minimum payroll level to spend on players and a maximum level. However, that max level would not be a hard cap. If a team wanted to spend over that limit, they could, but for each pound spent over the limit 1 pound would have to be paid into a revenue sharing system that would pay out money to the clubs that have less revenue.

    Back to the promotion/relegation system. Every 4 years or so, there should be a review of every club in the Premier League and if a club is not upto standards (ie too much debt, gone into administration), it should be thrown out and replaced with another team. Yes, it takes away from the yearly promotion/relegation battle, but it leaves the door open for lower level teams to move up based upon their improving performance.

    Can this plan work? Sure it can. Does it have any chace of being taken seriously? Well, can pigs fly?

    • Dave C says:

      Getting rid of promotion and relegation would absolutely kill professional (and semi-pro) football in England.

      Why would anyone bother to watch Shrewsbury Vs Macclesfield in League 2 (or whatever division they might be in), if they are denied the dream of promotion to the next division (and maybe one day the premier league).

      • guitarearl says:

        I don’t even think the promotion/relegation system has to be adapted. If anything, cut it back to 2 clubs. But revenue sharing would be a big step, especially if it were mandated that clubs could not pocket funds dispersed from “the kitty.” The point isn’t to stop Chelsea and ManUtd from signing the big names, the point would be to give teams like Blackpool the resources to be able to field an EPL-quality team, and hopefully outbid the big boys in a few cases.

        • Matt T. says:

          There should be revenue sharing and a salary floor. You’re given £X million and you have to spend that on player salaries.

  19. Liam says:

    Let me follow this article’s logic and arrive at the conclusion that Blackpool will be in the top three this season.

  20. Sir Guy says:

    What I noticed about Man. Utd……Three subs and what happened? Absolutely nothing. The train just kept on running. Granted, it was against Newcastle, but when you can just plug and play like that it bodes nothing but good for your team.

    I was impressed by Chicharito. He WILL run. That run over into the corner to steal the ball and set up a goal was great. How many other players would even bother?

    SAF has to be licking his chops. “If Wayne gets back on track and Berba stays interested and Javier just keeps on being Javier……” Of course, I started that sentence with “if”. It’s a long, long season.

    I give you April 11, 2009. Rovers 0—United 0. Whoops.

  21. Dave C says:

    Gaffer,
    This is a really ludicrous article.

    For a start, it’s a blatant re-hash of your article from a couple of days ago about how boring it is to watch Chelsea win so easily so often.

    It’s also based on some ridiculous logic. As everyone has pointed out, you have written this after ONE GAME of the new season, in which the two best teams in the league have played against two of worst teams in the league. As someone else mentioned, by this same logic you can assume that Blackpool are also one of the “men”, and can expect to finish third in the league. Last year Arsenal opened up with a 6-1 win at Everton, but Arsenal didn’t run away with the league title.

    The notion that “No longer is it a question of whether Chelsea or Manchester United can win their matches each week. It’s now a question of how many goals they can score against their opponent” is obviously wrong. So you’re expecting Man Utd and Chelsea to win EVERY single league game this season, with only GD to seperate them?? That’s highly unlikely, if prior seasons is anything to go by. Both teams will drop points here and there, and THAT is what will seperate them at the year end. No match is a foregone conclusion.

    “Yes, Chelsea and Manchester United will face difficult opposition now and again but it seems that they’re continually able to pull something out from their bag of tricks to still salvage a draw or grab all three points. But these close games are too few and far between.”

    In fact, Chelsea and Man Utd lost 6 and 7 games respectively last season, which is actually a relatively high number of losses for the top two teams, historically speaking. So they’re not as “few and far between” as you think.

    “In sports, there are always underdogs. The reason many of us like underdogs is because sometimes the underdogs win. When you lose that, you lose unpredictability and things get decidedly boring.”

    I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the EPL has the highest rate of “upset” results (i.e. statistical underdogs beating bigger teams) than any other major sports league in the world (not sure where I saw this, so don’t jump on me too hard if I’m wrong), which also goes against your view that the league is men against boys.

    And you might bring up the fact that Man Utd and Chelsea both “schooled” Arsenal last season, but I don’t think this says much – didn’t Liverpool comfortably beat Man Utd last season??

  22. Yespage says:

    So, men among boys. Chelsea had 6 losses, Man United had 7 losses last season. The season prior, Man United had only 4, and second place L’pool had just 2.

    And add that Liverpool last season, finished in 7th, with 63 points (more points than is typical for 7th). If anything, it’d appear that the top seven in the EPL are getting tighter and more competitive.

    Yes, Chelsea has shown a propensity to slam hard on the 2nd half of the league table, but they are certainly vulnerable when playing competitive sides.

  23. Scott Alexander says:

    Collectively home matches seem to be predictive of table finish but I don’t think individual home wins do much to augur the quality of the sides. Chelsea and Manchester United have dominated at home for some time and their blowing out of newly promoted sides hardly seems unique or telling.

    That being said, Chelsea and Manchester United have both been very beatable away from home the last few seasons and Chelsea’s form away from home last year was frequently appalling for a champion (and probably lucky to have only dropped an astounding 23 points away). If Chelsea and Man United do end up being men against boys as you say, Chelsea and Man U should dominate away from home as well. And while they may ultimately prove to be a lot better sides than last year’s versions, neither was particularly dominant last year, certainly not the last men against boys, Chelsea 2004-05 or Arsenal 2003-04

    Home Records: Chelsea FC and Manchester United 2004-2010

    Chelsea P W D L F A GD PTS
    2004-05 19 14 5 0 35 6 29 47 1st Home / 1st League
    2005-06 19 18 1 0 47 9 38 55 1st Home / 1st League
    2006-07 19 12 7 0 37 11 26 43 3rd Home / 2nd League
    2007-08 19 12 7 0 36 13 23 43 3rd Home / 2nd League
    2008-09 19 11 6 2 33 12 21 39 4th Home / 3rd League
    2009-10 19 17 1 1 68 14 54 52 1st Home / 1st League

    Man U P W D L F A GD PTS
    2004-05 19 12 6 1 31 12 19 42 3rd Home / 3rd League
    2005-06 19 13 5 1 37 8 29 44 4th Home / 2nd League
    2006-07 19 15 2 2 46 12 34 47 1st Home / 1st League
    2007-08 19 17 1 1 47 7 40 52 1st Home / 1st League
    2008-09 19 16 2 1 43 13 30 50 1st Home / 1st League
    2009-10 19 16 1 2 52 12 40 49 2nd Home / 2nd League

    Away Records: Chelsea FC and Manchester United 2004-2010

    Chelsea P W D L F A GD PTS
    2004-05 19 15 3 1 37 9 28 48 1st Away / 1st League
    2005-06 19 11 3 5 25 13 12 36 2nd Away / 1st League
    2006-07 19 12 4 3 27 13 14 40 2nd Away / 2nd League
    2007-08 19 13 3 3 29 13 16 42 1st Away / 2nd League
    2008-09 19 14 2 3 35 12 23 44 1st Away / 3rd League
    2009-10 19 10 4 5 35 18 17 34 2nd Away / 1st League

    Man U P W D L F A GD PTS
    2004-05 19 10 5 4 27 14 13 35 3rd Away / 3rd League
    2005-06 19 12 3 4 35 26 9 39 1st Away / 2nd League
    2006-07 19 13 3 3 37 15 22 42 1st Away / 1st League
    2007-08 19 10 5 4 33 15 18 35 3rd Away / 1st League
    2008-09 19 12 4 3 25 11 14 40 1st Away / 1st League
    2009-10 19 11 3 5 34 16 18 36 1st Away / 2nd League

  24. mike says:

    you can not base anything after one match,first as you pointed they played shit clubs and yes its still impressive to score 6 against a shit club,im not saying they will not be top teams but to say this is alil premature,

    so when the nba season starts and the miami heat destroy the competition by 20+ first 5 games of the season,are you going to say its over? too premature, had chelsea/man u faced liverpool/arsenal/spurs/city..i guarantee you the outcome would not of been the same,im in no way taking anything from either club,but come on,this article is dumb

  25. harry says:

    MAN U 3 CHELSEA 1 – Charity Shield 2010
    That would make manu king of men and chelsea the queen.
    And, of course, WBA and Newcastle are contenders for the top four.

  26. dennis bergkamp says:

    good to see that the stupids are only at goal.com. if this very article was published on goal.com atleast half a dozen jokers would have claimed that arsenal will almost certainly pip united and chelsea to the post. i personally think that over the 38 matches the better bench strength of chelsea will be pivotal. losing carvalho however is going to hurt chelsea but i still think that chelsea will win.

  27. Guitarearl says:

    In order not to spoil anyone who has it DVR’ed, I think one side in this discussion could use this afternoon’s result as support for their argument.

  28. ynwa86 says:

    Wow…going to have to resonate what everyone else is saying here…far far too early. You sound like an analyst on sportscenter who doesn’t feel the need to think before he speaks. If there’s any argument to make, it is that the “boys” in the league are the teams that got beat down in the first week. Thought you were better than that.

    On a completely different note…gotta say mascherano showed his class with his performance on sunday…for a player who is most likely leaving and is vocal about wanting out of liverpool, he still played his ass off…hats off

  29. the other robert says:

    sad but true. until man city starts magnetizing themselves with wins. wins (or recent history of) and money are the only thing that draws the biggest talents. where do all the giants go? the top two, maybe three in every league. man u and chelsea in the epl, real madrid and barça in la liga, the milans and maybe juventus in italy.

    if man city can pull an “abramovich”, they’re next.

    …which sucks ’cause I’m rooting for the gunners, who have now become a feeder team that refuse to play ugly to win. damn them, their responsible budget, and their beautiful football.

  30. Pakapala says:

    Gaffer, I think you’re confusing the EPL with La Liga. Real & Barcelona are men against boys in their league. Wasn’t it last season that I heard people saying the premier league was unusually unpredictable in term of results. You had Chelsea losing twice against Manchester City, losing once against Aston Villa, Everton, Spurs, Wigan(!!!), and tying Birmingham, Blackburn, Everton, Hull (!!!), West Ham. Also while they thrashed a lot of teams at home last season, they had a lot of closed games away!
    As far as the other Man among boys, their bad games include losses to Aston Villa, Burnley (!!!), Everton, Fulham, Liverpool
    and draws against Aston Villa, Birmingham, Blackburn, Sunderland.

    Keep your pants on Gaffer the season is just starting.

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