Who are the most efficient team in the Premier League?

We investigate what has echoed through every pub in the land for years. 

“Money is ruining the game”.

“You can just buy trophies these days”. 

Using data we’re able to dig into what really matters in the beautiful game.

Can Premiership football glory be bought? Is the modern game simply about who’s investors have the deepest pockets? Read on to find out what we at DataVision Sport have to say.



Here we’re comparing a team’s points-per-game (PPG) against the average annual salary per player in the 2021-22 season. What is clear is the obvious correlation, the higher the salary bill the greater the PPG. Even if this is something intuition tells you is highly likely it’s interesting nonetheless and definitely an indication that is has an effect that needs to be considered when calculating predictions. As the old adage goes ‘correlation does not mean causation’. 

We can see there are two teams that really stand out, Arsenal and Leeds. 

Let’s dig deeper and see more. 




What we’re doing here is comparing where teams rank based on total points this season (as of March 3rd, 2021) and also ranking teams based on their average salary payouts. Manchester United are top of the Average Salary table when it comes to what they’re paying - an eye-watering £6.5m is what a player is paid on average at the Theatre of Dreams. 

Next, we’ve looked into who’s over or underperforming if we were just to look at average salary as a ranking factor. We can see that Leeds, who come in second from the bottom in terms of salary (19th) are ranked 11th when it comes to the number of points - meaning they are overachieving against what their salary bill would ‘predict’. 

On the other hand we have Arsenal and Tottenham, two teams routinely battling for a top 4 finish over the years and what we can see is that they’re sitting joint last place when it comes to how efficient they are at converting player salary into points on the board. 

The Leeds salary is about 5x lower than Arsenal’s, yet they’re only two points shy of the Gunners. What’s clear is that while salary is closely correlated it’s not just salary that drives team performance. 

3. Leeds Have the Lowest Cost per Win, By Far

Leeds Have the Lowest Cost per Win, By Far

Who is the most efficient of them all? Leeds top the table here at an impressive (relatively speaking) £2m in salary spent for each of their Premier League wins this season. For some of the heavyweights like Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham we’re looking at over £11m per win. This really highlights how incredibly effective Leeds have been with their team, tactics and approach this season. They’ve spent 75% less than the average Premier League team per win and are still in contention for a top 8 finish.  

In summary, high salaries don’t cause a team’s top tier performance but they do attract the most in-demand and skilled players on the market. Simply put, teams like Manchester City can afford to pay players like Agüero £200,000 per week. Build a team of players at this level and you’re going to win more matches. 

That being said, not all players are paid ‘fairly’ - some are overpaid compared to the value they bring to a team while others are underpaid while delivering week in week out for their clubs. We’ll be examining these players in an upcoming series so keep an eye on the Backpage Blog for this and sign up for an account here to be notified when it’s published.

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