Imagine if we blew time on every Premier League match far earlier than we should have. What impact would it have on the table?
We’ve built a simulation that allows us to do just that, with the aim of picking out which teams have started matches better than they’ve finished and who has relied on an unhealthy number of late winners to keep them afloat.
As they have shown by racing into early two-goal leads against both Manchester clubs this month, Stoke have been fast starters this season. They are the only top flight side to have scored more than half of their goals in the first half an hour of matches – nine of their 16 in the Premier League – with the result that their prospects have tended to fade as matches play out.
If time had been called on every Premier League match after 11 minutes they’d be top of the table and this situation would continue right through to the 26th minute, when they’d be edging out Spurs on goal difference. Meanwhile a sluggish Manchester United would find themselves down in 15th.
Stop the clock in every match after 41 minutes and Chelsea would be sitting in fourth place with 29 points rather than in 14th with 20. Their goal difference would also be much healthier – plus 4 rather than minus 6 – but insufficient to move them above third-placed Stoke.
Arsenal would still be top in this universe but Spurs would be second, which would provide ample ammunition for the surely still-employed Jose Mourinho to pick a few fights over.
If referees had swiftly regretted allowing the second half to commence and called the whole thing off after just a minute of play, then we’d be talking about a completely different surprise contender for the title.
Leicester would be hovering anonymously in 11th with 25 points – 14 fewer than their “real life” total of 39 – while Watford would be second and just a point behind leaders Spurs. There’d also be plenty of praise for Tony Pulis, whose West Brom side would be sitting comfortably in seventh.
It’s not just the league table that would look very different if we started randomly ending matches early: it would also play havoc with the top scorer chart. If only goals scored up to and including the 61st minute were counted then Everton’s Romelu Lukaku would lead the way with 12, edging out Odion Ighalo and Harry Kane.
Jamie Vardy would have just seven strikes to his name – still respectable but hardly headline news. In those final 30-odd minutes, Vardy has banged home another eight goals – more than doubling his tally – while Lukaku has added just three to bring them both level on 15.
If matches ended after 65 minutes, Villa would be sitting 18th with 16 points – double their tally of eight once every match reaches full time – still in the relegation zone but with their fortunes looking far less bleak.
Swansea would be a point beneath them and Sunderland would be at the bottom of the pile with just 10 points. Their route out of the bottom three would be clear: both Bournemouth and Newcastle would have 18 points and could therefore be overtaken with a single win, while Norwich – in 15th with 19 points – could also be caught.