I’ve seen it reported in many places that Tottenham’s total of 86 points this season would’ve been good enough to win eight Premier League titles. That’s quite a gutting statistic, that in 25 seasons we had nearly a 1 in 3 chance of winning the title on our current form. But the news gets worse, or better, than that, depending on your point of view.
These eight “titles” don’t include 1993-94 and 94-95 when Manchester United won the Premier League with 92 and 89 points respectively. However, re-calibrating our points-per-game (2.26) to a 42 game season, which these were, means 95 points and so our form was actually good enough to win TEN Premier League titles.
But league football didn’t start in 1992, it began in 1888, so how many titles could we have won in total?
The answer will astonish you.
Let’s look at the seasons when there were 3 points for a win, from 1981-82 to 1991-92, the last of the old Division 1. The first 6 were 42-game seasons and no team comes close to 95 points. Spurs would’ve won all of them. The seventh season was a 40 game season, which means Spurs would’ve finished on 90 points, the same as champions Liverpool. Their goal difference was +63, ours at the current rate would’ve been the same. They scored 87, the stats say we would score an additional four on top of our existing 86 in those additional two games, so we win on goals scored. Of the remaining four seasons of 38 matches Arsenal did the best, reaching 83 in 1990-91, so that’s four more titles. In all eleven seasons our form would’ve been good enough to be crowned champions.
So what of the 84 seasons at 2 points for a win? Converting our 26 wins and 8 draws gives a total of 60 points under the old system, 66 if re-calibrated to a 42 game season, which it was from 1919 onwards. In these 55 seasons only two sides registered more than 66 points; Leeds in 1968-69 (67 points) and Liverpool in 78-79 (68). Two other sides made it to 66 points, Arsenal in 1930-31 and, of course, Tottenham’s double-winning side of 1960-61. The 2017 vintage of a recalibrated +66 goal difference means they’d finish above the 61 vintage by a goal difference of +6. But it wouldn’t be enough to overhaul Arsenal’s +68.
So, from the end of WWI to 1981, this Spurs side did enough to win the League 52 times in 55 seasons.
Pre-war it gets a little more complicated, as between 1888 and 1905 the First Division was expanded on several occasions from 12 clubs to 20. But there were ten 38-game seasons from 1905 to 1915. Remember, at two points for a win this season Tottenham would’ve gained 60 points. Not once did a side in these ten seasons reach 60 points. That’s another 10 titles to the list.
Before 1905-06 we need to convert the tally to 1.57 points per game over 22, 26, 30 and 34 game seasons. The only teams in this period with a better record are Preston North End’s Invincibles of 1888-89 and Sunderland in 1891-92 and again the following year. In 1894-95 it would go down to goal difference, but Sunderland’s +43 wouldn’t compete with Tottenham’s +47. Aston Villa would twice be beaten on goal difference too.
So, a season like Spurs have just had would’ve been good enough to win the league 97 times in 118 years of league football. There were teams, of course, not least our own Double winners, who had won the title long before the season-end and took their foot off the gas, skewing their results slightly, but statistically at least this Tottenham side is one of the strongest ever to play the game and any other year would’ve been worthy champions; it was just our luck that we had such a season the same year Chelsea had a season good enough to win the title 116 times out of 118.
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