I’m sure I’m not the only person in the Liverpool fanbase who can’t make up their mind at the moment.
My mental pendulum swings from ‘yes, Liverpool can win the league’ to ‘they’ll be lucky to make fourth’ on what feels like an hourly basis (though perhaps more accurately, as the team alternates between sizzling home performances and damp squib efforts on the road).
With twelve games to go, I thought I’d take a look at what history shows us we can perhaps expect to happen.
It would be fair to say that Liverpool have underachieved in the Premier League in the previous few seasons, for a multitude of reasons that don’t need repeating here.
However, the fact is that the Reds entered 2013/14 as the team that had finished the previous campaign in seventh. Furthermore, if Liverpool were to finish fourth this year, from the point of view of a team that finished the previous season in seventh it would be virtually unchartered territory.
|7th Placed Team||Pts||Position Next Season||Points Next Season||Pts Diff.|
|2001/02||West Ham United||53||18||42||-11|
|Average Pre 2012/13||57.4||11.3||49.9||-7.5|
Notice how rare it is for a seventh placed team to improve the following season, much less by the sixteen points that Liverpool currently have (based on the improvement made upon the corresponding fixtures from last season). At present, the Reds are the most improved team in the Premier League.
I suspect many of the previous seventh placed terms were burdened by it rather than helped in the next season; they may have had tiring Europa League campaigns to navigate, and looking at some of the names in the list, perhaps seventh was as high as they were ever going to realistically finish, and so a regression was inevitable.
Even so, the above table makes it look like a top four finish would be a fantastic achievement, with the title a mere pipe dream.
Or so I thought, until I read this article by Martin Tyler of Sky, which made the pendulum swing back towards title talk again.
It featured a table of the teams who have been in fourth place after twenty-six games, and where they finished. One thing stood out for me (which I’ve put in bold).
|4th after 26 games||Points||Final position|
Arsenal had the joint-most points of any fourth placed team in 2001/02, and went on to win the league. Liverpool currently have two more points now than the Gunners did then. Perhaps the title talk is justified after all?
Then again, Aston Villa also had fifty-one points after twenty-six games in 2008/09, and they only finished sixth. Liverpool have a small squad much like that Villa side had, so will they suffer from burn out as Martin O’Neill’s teams usually did?
In reality, tiredness shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Liverpool have only played five cup games this season, so with a week to rest and prepare between the remaining fixtures, the Reds should feel fresh and focussed ahead of each of the final twelve games, and perform accordingly.
Or so you would think. Check out this list of horrorshow performances that have occurred under Brendan Rodgers that featured a week of rest beforehand:
Aston Villa, home, lost 3-1.
Man United, away, lost 2-1.
West Brom, home, lost 2-0.
Southampton, away, lost 3-1.
Southampton, home, lost 1-0.
Arsenal, away, lost 2-0.
Hull City, away, lost 3-1.
And that’s before you get to the draws! I wouldn’t want Liverpool to be playing every week in the Europa League obviously, but for whatever reason it does seem that a lot of the worst performances under Rodgers have followed a week of rest.
I believe that on their day in a one off match the Reds can beat anyone. I look at each remaining match and think, ‘yeah, Liverpool can definitely win that’.
But I remain unconvinced that the ‘Pool can string enough wins together to actually win the league. If they beat Swansea this weekend, which I fully expect them to, then it’ll be only their eighth run of three-or-more wins in the last five seasons.
You can probably now see why I’m so indecisive about Liverpool’s chances! I enjoy trying to analyse the Reds’ form and progress, but I think for the rest of the season I should just lie back and think of an unlikely title win, and pick through the bones of 2013/14 whilst England are boring me senseless in the summer.
When I thought of ‘The Weight Of History’ for the title, I was initially thinking about some of the above facts, and how they show Liverpool can’t achieve the impossible. But in reality, it’s the weight of my history as a fan that causes my mental fluctuations.
The past few years have been strewn with disappointment after disappointment, and I guess it makes it harder to really believe that a title win could happen.
I guess if nothing else, at least Liverpool’s long-term form is very good going into the final twelve fixtures.
The Reds have taken seventy-eight points from their last thirty-eight league games, scoring ninety-three goals in the process. The goals tally is a record for the period since the start of 2004/05, and the points total is the best it has been since October 2009.
That said, Rodgers’ best twelve game run so far yielded twenty-seven points, so he’ll need to set a new personal best in order to win the league…
Enough! Come on, you Reds, make our dreams a reality.
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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.