Having come through two very tough away games relatively unscathed (albeit having drawn both despite leading both), attention turns to Liverpool’s relatively easy run-in, as fans start to dream of a late charge for fourth place and Champions League football in 2013/14.
Although the Reds have picked up form-wise of late, they still have an Achilles heel which will, in my view, prevent them from kicking on too much further up the table.
It’s easy to point to the poor results in the first five games this season as the reason that the Reds won’t finish fourth, but it’s important to remember they were mostly tough games, and so the results weren’t that surprising.
The greatest issue lies with Liverpool’s defence. The regularity with which Brendan Rodgers’ team concede two-or-more is what’s holding them back. The charge sheet for this crime reads as follows:
West Bromwich Albion (Away) 0-3.
Manchester City (Home) 2-2 – Liverpool lead twice in this match.
Arsenal (Home) 0-2
Manchester Utd (Home) 1-2 – The Reds lead their great rivals in this game, but lost.
Norwich City (Away) 5-2.
Everton (Away) 2-2 – Two derby points were lost as Liverpool surrendered a 2-0 lead.
Tottenham Hotspur (Away) 1-2 – The Reds never lead, but were 0-2 down in sixteen minutes, which proved a bridge too far.
West Ham United (Away) 3-2 – Liverpol lead but then later found themselves behind. They got away with this one!
Aston Villa (Home) 1-3 – The ‘Pool found themselves 3-0 down at home, to relegation-bound Aston Villa. Ugh.
Stoke City (Away) 1-3 – After scoring a penalty (believe-it-or-not), the Reds folded under a typical Stoke bombardment.
Manchester United (Away) 1-2 – Liverpool didn’t start playing until 0-2 down (see Spurs).
Arsenal (Away) 2-2 – The Reds were 2-0 up, before the Gunners blitzed them with two goals in three minutes.
Manchester City (Away) 2-2 – Came from behind to lead at least, but Liverpool couldn’t see the job through and dropped two further points.
This from WhoScored shows that Liverpool have lost fourteen points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, and they’re all contained within the games listed above. Only seven sides have thrown away more points from winning positions in the league this season than the Reds have.
Liverpool supporters may be looking to new signing Coutinho to spark an unprecedented run to fourth place, but for all his variety of skills, he’s not going to make Liverpool less porous at the back! Plus goalscoring is clearly not the issue.
The Reds are already scoring 42% more goals than they did last season, which is a massive improvement. Granted, last season was a bit of an outlier with regards to finishing, but how much more can a team realistically improve in one season?
Bear this in mind: if the Reds score three against West Brom (who are one of only two sides without an away clean sheet in the Premier League this season) on Monday, then Liverpool will have equalled last season’s goal tally with twelve matches (or nearly a third of the season) left to play.
Nine of the above games were away from home, and three of the four home games were against last season’s top three. If Liverpool are to have any chance of finishing in the top four this season, they need to tighten up their defence away from home. That’s what will make the difference.
Related articles you may enjoy:
Twenty Game Form Guide – Liverpool have been doing surprisingly well for the last half season.
Coutinho: The Lowdown – All the facts and figures you need on the Reds’ new boy.
What You Need To Finish Fourth; Are Liverpool Close? – Some ways yes, some ways no…