Joejag - Just Another Geek

Greatest English Club Side

Feb 25, 2020

Last night on Monday Night Football the hosts Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher spent about an hour discussing the hot topic of “Greatest English Club Side” ever.

The cool thing for me was that they created a scoring mechanism:

euro cups and league wins get the highest scores

They then agreed that a three year period is the justification for a great team, which seems fair to represent a period of dominance.

They applied their scoring mechanism to every season since the second world war and came up with this chart:

euro cups and league wins get the highest scores

Something irked me though, I felt like another Liverpool team could fit in there, and the hosts were using their nostalgia to choose some of the teams on the list. So - being a massive geek with nothing better to do on a Tuesday night - I download the raw data for all the competitions for the league and wrote a program to re-calculate their league table.

The results were quite different, and have added in the current Manchester City team as one of the greatest to have ever played in the English league. Here is the computer-generated, and less nostalgia-based, version that I’ve made from raw data:

Seasons Team MNF Points Trophies
1975-78 Liverpool 23 European cup (2), league (2), UEFA Cup, league runner up, super cup
2006-09 Manchester United 21 European cup, league (3), European cup runner up, league cup, club world cup
1981-84 Liverpool 20 European cup, league (3), league cup (3)
1998-01 Manchester United 20 European cup, league (3), fa cup, Intercontinental Cup
1977-80 Nottingham Forest 18 European cup (2), league, league cup (2), league runner up, super cup
2009-12 Chelsea 14 European cup, league, fa cup (2), league runner up
1978-81 Liverpool 14 European cup, league (2), league cup
2004-07 Chelsea 13 league (2), fa cup, league cup (2), league runner up
1993-96 Manchester United 13 league (2), fa cup (2), league runner up
2001-04 Arsenal 13 league (2), fa cup (2), league runner up
2016-19 Manchester City 12 league (2), fa cup, league cup (2)
1960-63 Tottenham Hotspur 12 league, fa cup (2), league runner up, cup winners cup
1984-87 Everton 12 league (2), cup winners cup, league runner up

Notable differences:

Thanks again to Gary and Jamie for coming up with the scoring mechanism. It was fascinating to hear their thoughts and memories.

While looking over the data, I was also able to look at years when teams had been the most dominant in the last three years, then look for a sustained period. So here is the list of teams that were the best within any given three year period for a sustained amount of time:

Team Seasons Seasons on top
Manchester United 1990-2001 11
Liverpool 1979-1985 6
Liverpool 1972-1978 6
Manchester United 2006-2010 4
Arsenal 2001-2004 3
Liverpool 1986-1989 3
Manchester United 1965-1968 3
Tottenham Hotspur 1960-1963 3
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1957-1960 3

Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest team punctuates Liverpool’s 1970-80s dominance. So it’s Gary Neville’s United team of the 1990s that we should see as the greatest over a long period.

We’ll see if Guardiola’s or Klopp’s teams come in, but they aren’t near yet.