Another long rant about competitiveness in the Premier League (with numbers!)

It's time for my annual moan about the Premier League and how it's killing English football. There are a variety of approaches one can take to make this case. Anyone who prefers the financial approach would be advised to read David Conn's The Beautiful Game?, which I wrote about last year at 26 Books. I prefer to look at competition. Last weekend Chelsea won the Premier League, making them English football champions for the third time in six seasons. Yesterday they added the FA Cup to their haul. Chelsea have won the Cup six times altogether - three of their four wins in the Premier League era have come in the last four years.

Winning both trophies means that they have completed 'the Double'. That used to be quite a feat. Between 1889 and 1992 just five clubs managed it. Since the 1992-93 season, the Premier League's first, there have been six Doubles - Chelsea's this season, Arsenal in 1998 and 2002 and Manchester United in 1994, 1996 and 1999. In other words, something that used to happen once every 20 years or so now happens, on average, every three years.

The fact that four of those Doubles were won in the 90s could be seen as a sign that the Premier League is opening up but other evidence suggests that is not the case.

Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool have dominated English football since the 1992-1993 season. Here's how each competition breaks down:

Premier League
Winning clubs: 4
Big Four trophies: 17 of 18

FA Cup
Winning clubs: 6
Big Four wins: 16 of 18

League Cup
Winning clubs: 9
Big Four wins: 10 of 18

Eleven different clubs have won the Premier League, the FA Cup or the League Cup in the 18 seasons since the Premier League began. Out of 54 possible trophies, the Big Four have lifted 43.

And how did the previous 18 seasons compare?

League
Winning clubs: 7

FA Cup
Winning clubs: 10

League Cup
Winning clubs: 11

A total of 19 different clubs won trophies in those years. The league and FA Cup were almost twice as competitive. Only the League Cup had a similar number of winners.

Are things getting less competitive? In the first nine seasons of the Premier League the Big Four won 20 of a possible 27 trophies. Since then they've won 23 of a possible 27. I don't know whether that's statistically significant but it's certainly not encouraging.

For the last two seasons Chelsea and Manchester United between them have won all three major English trophies. It's too early to call that a trend but perhaps the Big Four is becoming a Big Two.