1-0 To Someone Else

As I have discovered how many 1-0 wins each side has had in the Premier League to date, I’ve added a postscript to this piece from last season.

As the cliché goes, a great team can win 1-0 even when they haven’t played well. “1-0 to the Arsenal” was a mantra that won championships after all. It might be a cliché, but it’s also true.

Look at 2008/09 for the evidence; Liverpool drew nine league games that season either 0-0 or 1-1, compared to Manchester United’s six. Meanwhile the Red Devils clocked up a whopping ten 1-0 wins to Liverpool’s four, and won the league by just four points, despite an inferior goal difference. By winning just two of those nine low scoring draws, Liverpool would have been champions of England for the first time in nineteen years.

Clearly competing at the very top of the table is beyond Liverpool at present, but when perusing their league results this season, I was surprised to see that the Reds have only won one match by a 1-0 scoreline, when they beat Queens Park Rangers at Anfield in December. This is their fewest 1-0 wins since the 1998/99 season, where bizarrely they didn’t win a single game by that score. Not many teams win three times as many games 3-0 as they do 1-0, but that’s exactly what the ‘Pool have done in the Premier League this season.

At the time of writing, Liverpool are fourteen points from fourth place in the table; considering their terrible league form since January, that isn’t actually as far away as they easily could’ve been, especially as they’ve been outside the top four since the fifth game of the season onwards.

Could the Reds have made the fourteen point difference up in 1-0 wins this season? Looking at the match stats, they realistically could have.

Liverpool have drawn four league games 0-0 this season, and have drawn three matches 1-1 where they scored the first goal, so were in a strong position to win 1-0. Convert these results into seven 1-0s, and they could be on the verge of Champions League football ahead of their first ever visit to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

To prove how realistic this is, Liverpool have averaged 5.6 shots more than their opponents across these seven games, always at the very least matching their shot total. With an average of 1.4 more shots on target as well, we can see that, as has been discussed to the point of nausea, the Reds’ woes in front of goal have cost them dearly this season.

Aside from the general poor shooting, the Reds also hit the woodwork in three of these games, including finding the frame a scarcely credible three times in the draw with Norwich City at Anfield. Throw in missed penalties against Sunderland and Wigan Athletic, and it’s easy to see where some narrow wins could have very easily been conjured up.

Credit must also go to Ali Al-Habsi of Wigan (who made nine saves in the above game) and John Ruddy of Norwich (who made eight) though, as they have made the second and third most saves by opposing keepers in Liverpool’s league matches this season. It’s certainly fair to say they played their part in denying the Reds a further two victories.

As you might expect given the team’s recent form, five of these seven would-be-one-nils were in the first half of the season. Had these matches been won, combining them with the impressive nine wins from their first nineteen games that they did manage would have given Liverpool a very healthy fourty-four points at the half way stage.  Third place in the table and just a single point from the top on January 1st in fact.

I have shown recently how nineteen league wins is enough to put a team very much in the frame for a top four finish, and Liverpool could have very feasibly won fourteen matches (or 74% of the required total in other words) by the new year. A sobering statistic for anyone who wants to see Kenny Dalglish replaced, I’d have thought.

No way to know how they’d have performed from then onwards of course, but it would have provided a much firmer platform for the second half of the season, compared to sixth place where they found themselves in reality. A not-too-demanding twenty-five points from their following eighteen matches (or just 1.39 points-per-game, if you prefer, which is below their form for the season as a whole) would have seen them guaranteed Champions League football already for next season, ahead of their trip to south Wales this weekend.

To compound matters further, the Reds have also lost five matches by a 1-0 scoreline this season too (their most for seven years), so a further five points were up for grabs there, and might have been obtained purely through better defensive work.

Once again, Liverpool had more shots than their opponents in every one of these five games (by an average of an enormous 8.4 per game), with 1.6 more shots on target per game too. That Liverpool hit the post twice in two of these games (Fulham away, and West Bromwich Albion at home) only serves to rub further salt into an already painful wound.

‘1-0 to the Liverpool’ might sound like a boring chant in a boring season, but it seems the Reds will need to make this a more common occurrence if their quest for the Champions League next season is to be successful.

Update 19 November 2012: At the time of this amendment, Liverpool have only won one league match this season by a 1-0 scoreline, meaning that they only have two of the most narrow victories in the bag since the start of last season.

It was therefore little surprise to learn (via Martin Tyler’s stats blog) that of the top ten teams for most 1-0 victories, Liverpool have the lowest percentage of their total wins secured via a 1-0:

Team 1-0 wins Total wins %wins that are 1-0
Chelsea 102 408 25.0%
Man Utd 100 509 19.6%
Arsenal 85 419 20.2%
Everton 78 277 28.2%
Aston Villa 75 285 26.3%
Liverpool 70 382 18.3%
Blackburn 69 262 26.3%
Tottenham 67 299 22.4%
West Ham 57 207 27.5%
Newcastle 56 280 20.0%

Just seventy 1-0 wins in over twenty years of the Premier League for the Reds; I wonder how many potential such victories became 1-1 draws? Interesting also to note that the “1-0 to the Arsenal” idea is a bit of a myth, as two teams have more 1-0 wins, and six have a higher percentage of them.

More of these wins please Reds! Statistics sourced from EPLIndex. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.

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