The proposed European Super League may have flamed out within 48 hours of it being announced this week, but for a brief time we were being promised a new league chock full of footballing superpowers: AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Internazionale, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
Had the whole thing not dissolved quicker than you could say “this idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers,” the competition would have pitted a stellar selection of the continent’s most venerated and decorated clubs (and Spurs) against each other.
The Super League’s organisers were banking on the sheer historical stature of the 12 would-be “founder” clubs from England, Spain and Italy delivering on a regular basis the kind of enthralling heavyweight slugfests usually reserved for the latter stages of the Champions League.
Sounds great, right? Well, as is so often the way, the reality of the situation probably doesn’t match up to the big sell.
A look at this season’s results between the breakaway clubs from the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A when they play each other at domestic league level shows that, when the big teams clash, the action isn’t quite as pulsating as you’d imagine.
The high calibre of names involved would definitely be worthy of the “Super” moniker, but alas the underlying stats don’t quite follow through on that promise.
Meetings between Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are usually built up as epic, gladiatorial clashes but the truth of the matter is they can often be tense, cautious affairs which struggle to deliver much in the way of thrills.
For example, there have been 27 league meetings between two “Big Six” sides so far during the 2020-21 season, which combined have mustered a relatively meagre total of 59 goals:
Man United 0-0 Man City
Man City 0-2 Man United
Man United 1-6 Tottenham
Tottenham 1-3 Man United
Man United 0-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 0-0 Man United
Man United 0-0 Chelsea
Chelsea 0-0 Man United
Liverpool 0-0 Man United
Man City 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 1-4 Man City
Chelsea 1-3 Man City
Man City 1-0 Arsenal
Arsenal 0-1 Man City
Man City 3-0 Tottenham
Tottenham 2-0 Man City
Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool
Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham
Tottenham 1-3 Liverpool
Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham
Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea
Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham
Tottenham 2-0 Arsenal
That’s an average goals-per-game ratio of 2.18, which is considerably lower than the overall 2020-21 Premier League average which stands at 2.67 (854 goals in 320 games as of the end of matchweek 32).
Of those 27 “Big Six” matches, a total of 6 have finished in goalless draws, which amounts to 22.22% of those matches. This is far higher than the overall league proportion for 0-0 results this campaign, which stands at just 8.75% (28 goalless draws from a total of 320 matches) ahead of this weekend’s games.
A further 5 of the 27 all-“Big Six” encounters have produced a single goal, while well over half (16) of those games have been limited to just two goals.
There are still three all-“Big Six” league fixtures to come before the end of the season: Man United vs Liverpool (May 2), Man City vs Chelsea (May 8), and Chelsea vs Arsenal (May 12).
Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid were the three Spanish clubs who initially signed up to the Super League concept, which was spearheaded by Real president Florentino Perez. The numbers from domestic league clashes involving any two of those sides are slightly more favourable once compared with their counterparts in England, though they still fail to provide a compelling case for dismantling the current system.
Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico
Atletico 1-1 Real Madrid
Atletico 1-0 Barcelona
Spain’s three biggest clubs have scored 12 goals in 5 meetings this season, an average goals-per-game ratio of 2.4. By way of contrast, the 318 games to take place in La Liga so far this campaign have yielded a total of 794 goals, meaning the league as a whole has produced slightly more bang for the buck with an average rate of 2.49 goals per game.
Only one of the 5 matches between Barca, Real, and Atletico has ended in a draw (last month’s Madrid derby ended 1-1), meaning none have finished goalless.
Overall, there have been 26 goalless draws in La Liga so far during the course of the current campaign, which equates to 8.18% of the total number of games.
There is still one fixture left between two of the top trio, with Barca scheduled to face Atletico at the Camp Nou on May 8 in a clash that could yet decide the title.
Andrea Agnelli was the other chief architect of the failed Super League coup. His club, Juventus, were one of the three Italian sides to sign up, along with AC Milan and Inter.
Those three have only been involved in four meetings between each other in Serie A so far this season, Those four encounters, which include two Milan derbies, have produced 12 goals at a comparatively high average ratio of 3 goals per game.
Inter 1-2 Milan
Milan 0-3 Inter
Milan 1-3 Juve
Inter 2-0 Juve
However, the overall goals-per-game ratio for Serie A this season is still narrowly higher, with 319 games producing 969 goals — an average of 3.04 goals per game at the end of matchweek 32.
Juventus still have to play both Inter and Milan next month, meaning the numbers are bound to change.
In general terms, despite its somewhat outdated reputation for cagey football, the Italian top flight has produced considerably fewer goalless draws than the both Premier League and La Liga this season. In fact, only 15 of the 319 games have finished 0-0, 4.7% of Serie A results this season.
So there you have it — this season has seen the combined domestic league meetings between Super League “founders” return fewer goals than all their respective league averages.
And just to make matters more damning, the Premier League “Big Six” — who were originally meant to constitute half of the teams in the European Super League — have resulted in goalless draws at a rate almost three times higher rest of the division.
So for all of the claims of fans wanting to see more matches between the biggest teams, this season’s results would suggest that a Super League churning out more of them might not actually be especially “Super” after all.