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Comparing 2016 & 2017 MSL season, JDT still the top side but big separation starting to appear

8:34 AM GMT 30/10/2017
Mohamadou Sumareh, Pahang, Azrif Nasrulhaq, Johor Darul Ta'zim, Super League, 11/07/2017
Could there be a possibility of a top six teams emerging in the Malaysian Super League?

The 2017 Malaysia Super League closed its curtain last Saturday after 22 rounds of matches were completed. Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) emerged as champions once again, retaining the title that they have won since 2014, a remarkable record by any standards.

Pahang and Kedah provided the title challenge but both teams faded away as the season went on and JDT were able to clinch the title with three games to spare. At the bottom, Kelantan survived the drop which left Sarawak and Penang counting the cost of their relegation to the Premier League.

Goal take a look how the recently concluded 2017 season compared with the 2016 season.

Lower margin of title success and points total but little difference

While JDT is rightly applauded for winning a historic fourth consecutive Super League title, the points difference to second place was reduced compared to the 2016 season. Last year, they amassed 58 points and left Felda United trailing by a massive 15 points. This season, the total JDT gained was only 50 points and Pahang are only behind by nine points. 

Worth noting that Pahang's (2017) result of 12W 4D 6L weren't that dissimilar to Felda's (2016) 13W 4D 5L, in that sense that next best team were almost comparable. The lower points difference was down more to JDT's own performance. The Invincible season that they had in 2016 was arguably hard to be maintained and the three defeats JDT suffered this season lowered the points difference.

Despite the obvious drop in quality in the JDT side, that can be attributed to missing Hariss Harun and a better attacking unit, the Southern Tigers still hold a significant gap to their closest challengers.

Larger separation between top and bottom half teams

In 2016, the gap between the 11th placed team and the 6th placed team was mere seven points, compared to 12 points in the 2017 season. This quite clearly indicates that a breakaway group of six teams have dominated the league over six others who can rightly be judged as weaker teams.

PKNS, Melaka United, T-Team and Kelantan flirted with relegation for most parts of the second half of the season while they finished commendably as high as 7th or 8th, it gave a misconstrued idea that they were average sides these season.

If the top six teams continue to build on their strengths, it will be hard to see the same separation not happening in the upcoming 2018 season.

It takes 22 points to be safe

If in the English Premier League, the safety mark that most teams look for is predominantly around the 40 points total - for the Super League, the total teams will be eyeing in the 22 points total. That has been the case in both the 2017 and 2016 season where the 10th placed and last survivor of the drop, stayed in the top flight with 22 points.

Penang did it last season with a final day win over Terengganu in 2016 while Kelantan's away win at Melaka United last Saturday both paved the way for the respective teams to gained their 22nd points of the season.

It would be remiss of any teams in the 2018 season not to look at the 22-point barrier and plan to get there as soon and as early as possible in the season, to avoid the same fate that Sarawak and Penang suffered in the 2017 season.