Football/Soccer

Kenny Archer: Little point in looking too closely at English league ladder for now

Everton manager Marco Silva (left) and his West Ham United counterpart Manuel Pellegrini are both under pressure - but the league table is extremely tight.

WHAT do points make? Prizes!

If you’re of that certain age to recall that catchphrase you may also remember ‘league ladders’.

Young soccer supporters received those with magazines and moved the clubs’ names around as they rose or fell after each week’s results.

This English season would put you at risk of RSI, or at least bending some of the little pieces of card beyond use, perhaps even losing them with all the shifting around required.

As ever, some managers are also at risk, of being discarded, due to their current lowly status on the league ladder.

Take Everton and West Ham. Please. (That’s another old school allusion)

There’s no avoiding the fact that the Toffees and the Hammers have been performing poorly recently – but they’re not really in a sticky situation.

It depends in large part on how you look at where they are.

Which sounds worse – that Everton are in 16th position, or that they’re only six points behind fifth place? Both are true. It’s a similar scenario with West Ham, who are a mere point and a place worse off than the Merseyside Blues.

What really matters is their points tally.

Wolves are receiving praise for being in that fifth spot, as are Sheffield United (quite rightly) for being in sixth – but both are closer to the Hammers, in terms of points, than they are to the Champions League places.

The real concern for Everton and West Ham is their points total, not their place.

Obviously the two are related, but some perspective is required.

There’s no doubt that both clubs would expect to finish much higher up the table; indeed there was a fair bit of giddy pre-season talk about Everton challenging for the top four after all the money they have spent.

Yet there’s plenty of time for improvement, with almost two-thirds of the league campaign still to be played.

Of course positions matter – but only at the end of the season, or quite close to it.

An angry Arsenal fan (is there any other kind in recent years?) messaged me on Monday to point out that they’d gone ‘50 days without a win in the league’. It’s now 52 days.

It’s unlikely that he took into account that there were two international breaks during that time-frame.

That fact could also have been augmented by adding ‘and they’re still above Manchester United and Spurs’.

Arsenal are among more than half of the teams in the division which have won exactly four league games each so far, indicative of how closely matched many of them are.

You could throw a proverbial blanket over 13 teams, as long as it was six points wide.

Yet that six-point blanket would still leave fifth-placed Wolves trailing Chelsea in fourth.

Below the top four the rest are much of a muchness, arguably including all 16 other sides in that category. It’s too soon to write off Southampton and Watford, while Norwich have managed to win at Everton and also beat Manchester City.

The top four are very good – Liverpool haven’t lost yet, Leicester have only lost at Anfield and Old Trafford, while Chelsea have only been beaten by Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City.

It is somewhat surprising that, apart from losing at Liverpool, champions City have been defeated by Norwich and Wolves, but defensive absentees have contributed to their greater susceptibility so far this season.

It’s pretty questionable that the highly influential BBC radio soccer phone-in show ‘6-0-6’ was basically inviting supporters of Arsenal, Everton, and West Ham to call for their respective manager’s head on Saturday evening.

The supporting argument for such populist behaviour is that supporters ‘pay their money’ (always hard-earned) so they ‘have a right’ to ‘voice their opinion.’

Yet most callers also have to pay the BBC licence fee, but the phone-in presenters and pundits would be outraged if people demanded some of them be sacked for poor performances and/ or ‘thinking that they’re bigger than the show’ (naming no names of those who insist on putting their names to certain segments…).

There are some clear under-performers in the league at present, although not many.

You can pretty much guarantee that Spurs will climb the table from their present position of 10th, as will Manchester United, who are sitting just above them at the moment. On goal difference. Everton and West Ham are also likely to finish the season in more elevated positions.

However, all the rest?

There really is little point (sorry) getting your knickers in a twist about placings in this league, unless you’re bottom-placed Watford. Even then, they’re only five points from ‘safety’, as some would term it.

Much better for now to look at a team’s points tally and the gap to the top four/ top six – or to the bottom three – than the present position on such a tight table.

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Two women, four non-whites, someone born in Jamaica, another born in New Zealand, a Welshman – props to those who selected the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year shortlist.

At a time when racism, sexism, and xenophobia are regularly voiced not only by wingnuts on Twitter or other forms of anti-social media, sport can send out a wonderful, positive message about equality and inclusion.

The recent examples of racism in soccer and cricket are a reminder that there are too many pathetic haters around but generally sportspeople set a much better example than many politicians.

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Football/Soccer