Consecutive Win Records – Facts or Fiction?

Manchester City’s victory over Swansea last night in the FA Cup (3-1 on 10th February 2021) caused a number of fans, media outlets and statisticians to question the record set by City in 2017. Between August 26 and December 3, 2017 Pep’s Blues managed a 20 game winning run that included a League Cup penalty shootout win over Wolves in in October 2017. 

In 2017 the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – the body that is the ultimate rule maker and sits above FIFA – stated that wins via penalty shootouts count in sequence records, hence City establishing the record at 20 consecutive wins. Some statisticians argue this point but IFAB are the rule makers while statisticians, fans, the media and historians are merely observers. We may have views but ultimately IFAB are the ones who set the rules regardless of whether we like them or not.

So where does this leave last night’s record? Well, to solve all future debates and arguments it’s fairly simple to me. Last night’s win means that City currently hold two records that no one can quibble with. These are:

Most Consecutive Wins (including penalty shootouts): 20, 2017.

Most Consecutive Wins (excluding penalty shootouts): 15, 2021.

Over the coming weeks hopefully the record established last night will increase and, who knows, it may even overtake the 2017 record but, for common-sense sake, it’s clear to me that regarding it as two records resolves the issue.

One point worth making though concerns Pep’s 200th win. This was regarded as last night’s game by many of the same organisations who do not count the 2017 record due to the penalty shootout. Well, we can’t have it both ways. If 2017 does not count at all because of the penalty shootout then Pep hasn’t yet reached 200 wins – that’s a nonsense of course. I’d love to see what happens when someone from the media, a rival club or a statistician tells him that his single game wins via shoot-outs don’t count. Anyone who thinks differently should have a chat with Pep and tell him what they think.

Incidentally, back in 2017 when City’s penalty shootout win v Wolves was counted as a win by IFAB there had also been a few precedents, for example concerning a consecutive away record Arsenal had (see for the details) and Sir Alex Ferguson’s own win records. These predated City’s 20 game record and remained classified as records. These are clearly precedents that were widely reported at the time.

There are anomalies – people widely point to two-legged ties that are ‘won’ on penalties or extra-time – and whenever people raise these they really should speak with IFAB and seek a definitive decision. Ultimately, as I said earlier, statisticians, media and fans are observers not rule makers.

Statistics hey? 

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