Whilst Liverpool have had a reasonably successful season, what with reaching the FA Cup final as well as winning the Carling Cup, a relatively poor league campaign (with the Reds currently sat in eighth) has left all around the Anfield Road still feeling a little underwhelmed. As owner John Henry said back in August:
“Our main goal is to qualify for the Champions League, if we don’t it would be a major disappointment”.
Safe to assume that Mr Henry won’t be entirely impressed with an eighth-placed finish then. But what do Liverpool need to do to improve upon this season, and bring Champions League football back to L4?
I have argued previously that 1.79 points-per-game should see a team finish in the top four, but there may actually be an even simpler way to measure a team’s progress towards that goal: Have they won at least half of their games?
I read on Martin Tyler’s latest blog for Sky Sports that only seven teams have finished in the top four in the Premier League having won less than half of their games, and the last of those was Liverpool’s beloved Merseyside neighbours Everton in 2004/05. With the massive investment that the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have benefited from since then, it’s unlikely to be possible to achieve this in the future.
Similarly, only three teams have ever won half of their games and failed to finish in the top four. It may happen this season depending on how Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle finish their league campaigns, but it would still be a rare occurrence even if one (or more) of them adds to the tally this year.
Considering the investment into their squad, and also that Liverpool won away at Arsenal and Chelsea even before November was out, they will probably feel annoyed with themselves that they haven’t got closer to this nineteen-win target this year.
Not that it would ever happen, but there’s a strong case to be made for a team intent on finishing in the top four resting their best players for the matches against the big boys, to give them a greater chance of beating the division’s lesser lights. Aside from matches against the rest of the ‘big six’, Liverpool would have twenty-eight games in which to find nineteen wins, and with further money likely to be splashed on the team, that shouldn’t be entirely beyond them next season.
So there we are; winning every other game should see Liverpool in with a very good shout of a Champions League finish next season. Easier said than done perhaps, but now that at least one trophy is in the cabinet under Kenny Dalglish and FSG, this has to be the primary aim for 2012/13.