I know what you’re thinking; why on earth would anybody compare two teams over a fifty-one game period?
Fear not, there is method in my madness. Ahead of the Merseyside derby on Sunday, Liverpool have played fifty-one games in all competitions this season. This just so happens to be the total number of matches they completed in 2011/12. So how do the records compare?
Leaving aside the differences between the higher quality of cup opponent faced (last season) and the less rest between fixtures and much greater travel involved (as happened this season), the records are remarkably similar:
Which obviously begs the question, was it worth changing manager? It’s also interesting to note that although this season’s Reds are scoring more goals and keeping more clean sheets, they’ve actually won one fewer game.
In my opinion, Liverpool have looked better overall this season, though of course some fans value cup wins and/or final appearances higher than others (myself included), and so would say that this season has been a major disappointment when compared to the last campaign.
I guess the key difference is that the Reds are finishing this season reasonably strongly (with 1.81 points per game over the second half of the season in the league, which would usually be enough for fourth place) and that a decent end to a campaign will tend to keep a manager in his job.
Unfortunately, last season the league form started well enough, but nosedived in the last three months of the season, with no indication that it could recover, and Dalglish paid the price with his job as a result.
As neither season has been hugely inspiring in the league, I suppose when assessing Brendan Rodgers you have to ask “have the foundations been put in place for future success?” rather than simply looking at points won, win percentages or cup runs. The decision to replace Dalglish with the former Swansea boss was obviously taken with the long term future of the club in mind, rather than as a quick fix, after all.
I would say that Liverpool have now got a decent young squad on long contracts, and all the overpaid deadwood has been stripped away (though of course this might’ve occurred with Dalglish in charge; we’ll never know). They also seem to have lost the losing habit in the league, as evidenced by the fact that they have not lost more than one game in a row in the league this season, which is something they’ve only managed once in the preceding fourteen years.
It therefore appears to me that, yes, the foundations may well be in place. There’s still undoubtedly plenty of work to be done though, not least as the defence will need rebuilding over the summer.
If Liverpool can take six points from their last three games and finish with sixty, I’d say Brendan Rodgers can be satisfied with his first season in the Anfield hotseat. The bar will be set considerably higher next season though.