The HPL 2015-16 review

rafa ranieri

Leicester are luckiest champions in history.
Arsenal should have won the Premier League.
Ref howlers relegate Newcastle instead of West Brom.
West Ham robbed of Champions League.

Monday, May 23

The title celebrations appear to have died down – on the western side of the globe at least – and the relegation tears shed.

So time to get real. Time to face some truth with regards this remarkable thriller of a Premier League season just passed. Time to take at look at what could, should and, quite possibly, would have transpired were TV refs available to ensure most of the wrongs were  put right in a flash.

That’s what the Hypothetical Premier League does as it attempts to illustrate how elite football would be a far fairer sport and way better spectacle with an instant review system in place to aid our officials in their desperate moments of need.

And following our ten-month study, game by game, week by week, into the major match-changing, mind-blowing, campaign-defining controversies of 2015-16, the final HPL week 38  table (pictured below) makes pretty startling, shocking reading.

Leicester City, God bless Claudio’s Kings of England, did not win the Hypothetical Premier League. Stale old Arsenal did – by three points (or one using our 37-game measure*). The fantastic Foxes actually collected NINE points too many through dead dodgy calls going their way and, while at this end of the table, check where West Ham come in our shake-up. Third!

That is automatic qualification into the Champions League group stages.  No wonder Irons co-owner David Sullivan, and his livewire son Jack, were losing the plot more frequently than Moss, Oliver and Dean put together during the rollercoaster run-in.

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However, as much scrapping over silverware, the top four and Europe is all extremely important, most profitable and prestigious, and while everything is always relative, life in and around the Premier League summit surely cannot compare with the stomach-churning, gut-wrenching, money-shredding hell awaiting those who crash into the Championship.

Yes, we appreciate clubs no longer need sink without trace if they go down, because of the  huge, hefty parachute payments acting as incentive for owners to keep investing in the  ever-more realistic opportunity of an immediate return to the filthy-rich English elite.

That, though  will be of scant consolation to relegated Aston Villa, Norwich and Newcastle this summer. Actually, forget Villa and Norwich. They disappear into the second tier whether you correct the refereeing mistakes or not.

Newcastle, on the other hand, are a very different case. In real life they were relegated in 18th place, with 37 points. Their fate was actually sealed before the last game.

Courtesy of the most savage run of relentless misfortune, allied to quite the reverse befalling most of their rivals in the bottom half! What a vicious cocktail.

For in the HPL justice-must-be-done-if-possible universe, Rafa Benitez’s Toon finish a dizzying 12th – a bumper FIVE points clear of trouble and EIGHT points better off than they were permitted to be in the official Premier League, where there is no simple flick-of-the-switch video gadget,  providing an equal rub of the green across the competition. 

Newcastle’s place in the HPL drop zone is taken by West Brom, the recipients of five points too many from refs over the course of the campaign. Just don’t tell their manager Tony Pulis. It might mean the ‘technology in football’ campaign loses one of its most vocal leaders. Nobody more than the Welshman wants TV reviews and a managerial Hawk Eye challenge system introduced into top level football. His militant preference is for managers to be given two challenges per half, which even for us is taking things too far. One challenge a match, a la the hockey at London 2012, would be fine. 

The money-lost argument for this bold new dawn is not a favourite of ours and, alone, is not a worthy reason to dare mess with the silky fabric of the gorgeous modern-day game.  Whether Newcastle owner Mike Ashley would agree with this stance is debatable. We are talking of the Geordies losing around £150 million in revenue next season because of ref justice or, rather, a complete lack if it. 

That’s why Newcastle are the HPL’s unluckiest top-flight side of 2015-16 (with Arsenal and West Ham joint second.)

The flip side to that equation, of course, is wild, wonderful Leicester are, indisputably, the luckiest of the lot, shading it from the Baggies.  May sound harsh, and we don’t mean to be killjoys, yet the facts and stats are glaring.

It genuinely seems the greatest sporting upset in history never materialises without a staggering sequence of extraordinary, never-ending good fortune.

Indeed, the living Italian legend that is the Foxes manager, Claudio Ranieri explained all to the HPL perfectly back in January when we confronted him with our then mid-season table and findings.

“I love being the luckiest. Yes. As Napoleon said: It’s better to be lucky than good’,” smiled the King Power supremo, before insisting he was an advocate of the IFAB proposals to test using video referee reviews. What a marvellous man.

Let’s make one thing clear – the intention of this piece is not to belittle Leicester City’s achievements. Not in any way at all  Sure, they may have had more than their fair share of luck over the 38 weeks but they still had to take advantage of it, which they managed in the most breathless fashion imaginable,  

No, the HPL is simply a glimpse into football’s future (technology for refs  is coming) – and a method of highlighting how best to utilise it.

To be honest we are far from convinced that Arsenal, even if they had led the table in the final couple of weeks of the season (as in HPL Week 37 and Week 38), would have avoided their annual trademark choke at the scary sight of a winning post. 

Till the next time, take care. Come on England! HPL

With no official title or relegation matters to be resolved on the final weekend of action, you may prefer to ignore the week 38 matchday- and go with our week 37 table for the  final HPL standings. Strangely, there is no change to any of the top seven or bottom three. 

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