The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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A Brief History of Nothing

Yesterday we joined Dave in asking when the big four were last held scoreless on the same weekend. Today, When Saturday Comes has the answer: last weekend was the first time it’s happened since Chelsea joined the old big three:

Indeed since Chelsea joined the previous big three after the injection of Roman Abramovich’s millions five years ago, there has not been a round of fixtures in which all four failed to score. Hence Fulham’s and Newcastle’s clean sheets at Liverpool and Chelsea respectively have been hailed like cup shocks. This is a statistical fluke that won’t be repeated, but the fact that all have looked unexpectedly vulnerable at various times this season ought to be a cause for celebration.

WSC counterintuitively turns this into an occasion to lament the existence of the big four and of the “billionaire hobbyists” who control…well, one of them. Immediately, however, the moment is another sign pointing to a slight but real tightening in the Premier League, which we can also see in the congested table (only 10 points separating 17th place from a Champions League spot), the records of the promoted teams, the ending of Chelsea’s home unbeaten streak, Aston Villa’s success against Arsenal and Manchester United, Roman Abramovich’s suddenly straitened finances, and the fact that three of the big four are performing worse than last season against the same teams in the same venues (Liverpool is the exception).

It’s entirely possible that all of these signs are flukes and that the top four teams will finish 20 points clear of the UEFA Cup. But if you dislike the dominance of the big four and want to see a less predictable Premier League, you have to feel that things are trending in the right direction.

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A Brief History of Nothing

by Brian Phillips · November 24, 2008

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