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The fairest way to end the 2019-20 Premier League season

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UEFA announces guidelines for European competition qualification should be based on ‘sporting merit’

Everton FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus

It’s looking increasingly likely that the 2019-20 football season is not going to resume any time soon, and probably will start cutting into the 2020-21 season the longer the pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic goes on.

The question of how to complete the current season remains unanswered, and though voiding the 2019-20 campaign seems to make the most sense, there are still other realities that need to be taken into consideration, including who plays in Europe next season, who gets relegated from the Premier League and which three Championship sides take their place.

Ending the season on the current standings is one that has been proposed the most often, though the ‘fairness’ of it can be questioned since some teams have played better/worse teams once/twice already. Just a quick reminder, here is the current Premier League table.

Current 2019-20 Premier League table

Earlier today, the European football governing body UEFA released their guidelines for Champions League and Europa League qualification for next season in case should domestic leagues cannot resume before the summer.

The UEFA executive committee met with a number of footballing bodies including the European Club Association, European Leagues and FIFPRO Europe, and insisted that every possible avenue for completing the current season be explored first while ensuring a backup plan was in place should that become impossible,

A couple of lines from that report though are attracting particular attention -

“... to have the currently suspended domestic competitions completed enabling football clubs to qualify for UEFA club competitions on sporting merit in their original format.

...

“... preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit.”

Now no definition of ‘sporting merit’ has been provided anywhere, but one would assume they are using it to mean that the fairest possible result that is agreed upon by majority/all members of a domestic league.

While in our opinion canceling the current season and voiding it remains the best solution, great forces (read £€$) are also at play and some sort of closed camp fixture completion or playoffs to determine who goes to Europe and who gets relegated might end up being the choice taken.

Sport Coronavirus - Monday 16th March
Goodison Park has been a quiet place for the last few weeks
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

However, should no more football be played this season, we propose what could be considered the fairest solution. Since some teams have played more games that others, points-per-game has been mooted as a measure of sporting merit, but we contend that teams that have played better teams twice (or worse teams twice) have had a better/worse chance to better their PPG.

Instead, here is another option - how about we take into consideration just 19 games for each team, against each team in the league. Where a club has played another twice, the better result is selected for them. For example, Everton have taken on Newcastle twice this season, winning 2-1 away and drawing 2-2 at home. In the Toffees’ fixture list, we take the better result, which is the 2-1 win away while for the Magpies it’s the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.

Using that format, we drew up the fixtures for every team in the league, starting with Everton.

Everton’s modified results for the 2019-20 season

Once we completed that task we put together all the data to make a Premier League table based on the modified results, and the resulting standings were quite interesting.

(Narrator: If you were hoping things were going to get better for Everton... they did not.)

Runaway leaders Liverpool continue to be untouchable, unsurprisingly. However, things did change for a number of other teams, including European prospects and very importantly, down in the relegation zone too.

2019-20 Premier League table based on modified results

Assuming that Manchester City’s appeal holds and their suspension from European competition is withheld for next season, they will be in the Champions League but will ceded second spot in the League to Leicester City, with Chelsea rounding out the top four.

Manchester United will go to the Europa League and will be joined by not Wolverhampton Wanderers but Tottenham Hotspur who leapfrog them and Sheffield United. Also assuming that with City having lifted the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup will be canceled, then another spot in the Europa League should become available to the seventh placed team, which will be Wolves. After an excellent season back in the top flight the Blades will count themselves as very unfortunate to miss out on a European berth,

The biggest drop is that of Arsenal, who plummet from 9th to 14th, while the Blues drop from 12th to 13th, with Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Southampton all edging ahead.

At the botton, Watford FC complete their miraculous recovery from the foot of the table and are up in 16th, and AFC Bournemouth also save themselves going up one spot to 17th. Norwich City and Aston Villa were already doomed and this doesn’t change, but the third team that joins them is a surprise - West Ham United. The London outfit drop to the Championship for the first time since 2011-12.

Again, with millions of pounds at stake, it is unlikely that any sort of unanimous decision is going to be made by all the teams in the league, but to us this does seem the fairest of the choices that have been currently mooted. Unless the Premier League decides to play out the remaining fixtures with a 5-a-side tournament in which case we have the best Everton squads for that too.