This article was originally published on Wednesday 29th January, but I added an update after Saturday’s matches had been completed. Scroll to the end to see what difference those games have made.
Without wishing to get too far ahead of ourselves, after a fantastic 4-0 win over their Merseyside rivals Everton, Liverpool’s next match with West Bromwich Albion is quite simply huge.
I have read a number of analyses regarding how many points will be required for fourth place this season, and the consensus seems to be around seventy-five. Here is a table of how many points the teams who are chasing fourth require to hit that target.
Liverpool need 1.93 per game to reach seventy-five by the end of the season, and are currently averaging 2.00. The Reds are also eighteen goals-or-more ahead of the teams in the chasing pack, which is effectively worth a point too. So far so good.
But a win against West Brom would tip that to 1.86 per game required, for a team who would then be averaging 2.04. What’s more, aside from after the defeat away at Hull, when Liverpool’s points-per-game tally dropped to 1.85, the Reds have been better than 1.86 per game after every other match this season. Their form from this season should therefore sustain a fourth place challenge, not least as the majority of their hardest matches will be at home during the run-in.
The Baggies’ form has been poor of late too, so a win should certainly not be beyond Liverpool. Since their unlucky 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, West Brom have only won one of their twelve league matches, and lie second bottom in the Premier League table for this period.
Without going into pre-match stats too deeply, as this piece is about the potential significance of a win rather than the match itself per se, the numbers look very promising.
Albion’s form for shots both for and against, shots on target and possession are distinctly mid-table, whereas Liverpool are comfortably nestled in the upper echelons (aside from shots against, so let’s hope Mignolet took plenty of confidence from his clean sheet against the Toffees). A win for the Reds looks eminently achievable based on the stats so far in 2013/14.
As Liverpool lost at the Hawthorns on the opening day of last season, a win on Sunday would also add three points on to the ‘corresponding fixtures’ total too. It would put the Reds a whopping fifteen points up on last season, meaning that reproducing the 2012/13 points for the remainder of this campaigns matches would actually see them finish on seventy-six.
Perhaps equally importantly, a win at West Brom would ease the pressure on the following match, against Arsenal at Anfield. As we saw most recently against Everton, but also at other points throughout the season, if Liverpool can feel confident to go out and play their football then they’re a match for virtually any team.
I identified the five game run from Stoke to Arsenal as key a while back, as it offered fifteen points where Liverpool only took a solitary point in total last season. With seven on the board already, four-or-more from the next two will, in my opinion, make it the cornerstone of a successful top four challenge. That’s why this is Liverpool’s biggest game in a long time. Until the one after, and the one after that, and the one after that…
Update: Saturday 1st February
After all three of the teams chasing Liverpool were losing at half time on Saturday afternoon, I thought it would be interesting to add some additional columns to the table at the top of the page.
Although they didn’t all lose in the end, the updated table still makes very encouraging reading for Liverpool.
Liverpool can afford a minor loss in form and still reach the seventy-five point target. Tottenham and Everton need over two points per game, which they’re not accustomed to doing, and Manchester United quite simply have not got a prayer.
It’ll take a lot more than Juan Mata for them to improve by 0.83 points per game; put another way, they’ll need eleven wins and two draws from their last fourteen, when they’ve only won twelve of their first twenty four so far.
As you can see, the Reds currently need ‘seventy-three point season’ form from here onwards. What have Liverpool got from their last thirty-eight league games? Seventy-three points.
If anything, today’s results have made the match at The Hawthorns even bigger from Liverpool’s point of view. A win tomorrow would give the Reds a fantastic cushion ahead of the Arsenal match next weekend.
Recent posts you might like:
Liverpool FC Assists 2013/14 – Have you ever wondered which players have assisted each other the most this season? The answer is here if you’re interested.
Liverpool 4 Everton 0: Stats Round Up – All the great facts and figures from a fantastic Merseyside derby.
Henderson and Comolli – An in-depth look at Jordan’s creativity in his final season at Sunderland. Was Comolli right to rate it so strongly?
Solid Foundations – Whether Liverpool finish in the top four or not this season, I think they’re well set for another challenge next year, and here’s why.