The stat that proves Man City title win v Arsenal was anything but 'inevitable'

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The numbers highlight how the Premier League remains the most competitive of Europe’s top-five leagues.

It’s fair to say Manchester City lifting the 2023/24 Premier League trophy wasn’t a universally popular outcome on Sunday, as Pep Guardiola’s side made top-flight history by collecting a fourth straight title.

It’s not a surprise that neutrals were routing for change at the division’s summit, while rival supporters are obviously keen for a new challenger to take City’s crown, especially given the 115 Premier League charges hanging over club’s head, allegations City strenuously deny.

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But it led to a narrative that the title race lacked jeopardy and there was no escaping City’s certain triumph. Gary Neville claimed in March that there was an ‘inevitability to City’, Jamie Carragher thought the Etihad was ‘flat’ in a crucial victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers during the run-in, while Blues were left irritated by a Football365 article earlier this month that insinuated the fans were bored of winning.

The jubilant scenes at the Etihad on Sunday suggest otherwise, while any sense that City’s title victory was inevitable has been dispelled by Arsenal’s excellent form in the final months of the season. The Gunners won 16 of 18 games and pushed the champions to the last day of the campaign - it wasn’t quite an effortless saunter to the title for the Cityzens.

In fact, statistically the 2023/24 title race was the closest it has been in 30 years, with 1.51 points separating the top two across the season, the smallest average gap between first and second since 1992/93.

Sunday was also the third time in six years that first place was settled on the last day of the season, and four times in the last 10 years. Of the traditional top five European leagues, only La Liga (five) has seen the title’s destination settled more often on the final weekend over the last decade.

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In fact, several stats from the last 10 years indicate that the Premier League remains the most competitive of the top five divisions. The English top flight has seen the joint-most winners (four) in that period, along with Serie A, while an average winning margin of seven points is considerably lower than Italy, Germany and France.

Aston Villa’s qualification for the Champions League also gives hope to other clubs in the division who have not experienced recent success. The Villans are the eighth Premier League team to secure a Champions League spot in the last three years, and over a five-year period no other division has a higher number than England’s eight different teams who have earned a spot in Europe’s top competition.

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