Liverpool are approaching the half way point of 2013/14 in fine fettle. The Reds have taken thirty points from their opening fifteen games, a tally they’ve only bettered at this stage twice in the last ten years.
Not only that, but the goals are generally flying in too, with nine bagged at Anfield inside four days last week. However, before the end of 2013 Liverpool must travel to Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea, for a trio of daunting fixtures.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, and Brendan Rodgers can take heart from some stats I’ve recently dug up.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is that Liverpool have scored eighty-six goals in their last thirty-eight league games. I initially noted on Twitter that this is more than the Reds have scored in any full Premier League campaign.
I’ve since dug a little deeper. Liverpool’s top scoring top flight season in their history was 1963/64, when they scored 2.19 goals per game on their way to Bill Shankly’s first league title. In the last thirty-eight games, Rodgers’ side has averaged 2.26!
It should of course be noted that Liverpool’s last thirty-eight league games isn’t the same as playing a full season (as the Reds’ forthcoming heavyweight adversaries have only each been faced once, for instance), but even so it’s fair to say that Liverpool have rarely scored so freely in their entire history.
As I’ve got game-by-game data going back to the start of Rafa Benitez‘ Liverpool tenure, I’ve had a look at the Reds’ rolling thirty-eight game scoring record over the last nine seasons. In September 2009, Rafa’s team got up to eighty-nine goals from a season’s worth of matches, but the current run has seldom been bettered otherwise.
It would also be fair to note that the Spaniard had been spending five seasons building a team of title challengers at that point, rather than eighteen months on rebuilding a struggling team as Rodgers has.
There’s no doubt though that Liverpool’s current defensive record (with forty-three opposing goals shipped in the last thirty-eight games) could be improved; the Reds have only conceded more regularly in four of the twenty-one previous full Premier League campaigns, for instance.
However, goal difference is usually a very good indicator of where in the league a team deserves to finish, and Liverpool’s goal difference of 1.13 per game over the last thirty-eight matches has only been bettered seven times in the club’s ninety-eight previous seasons in the top divison. As I’m sure you’re interested, Benitez’ peak was 1.47 per game; a remarkable record.
Liverpool’s form in 2013 has been so much better than in 2012, that it’s worth looking at the league table in order to give ourselves a confidence boost ahead of the tricky matches on the horizon.
Although Arsenal clearly lead the way here, the rest of the teams are closely packed together, and no team has scored as many goals as Liverpool. Indeed, the Reds are level on points with Tottenham, their next opponents, but are a whopping thirty goals better off in total.
The Rodgers-sceptics will at this point chime in with a comment that Liverpool’s away record under the Ulsterman has not been that impressive, and indeed on face value, a return of nine wins, ten draws and seven defeats does not inspire too much confidence ahead of the forthcoming away trips, but it is still the sixth best away record in the league in that period.We can see that Liverpool have only been four points worse than Manchester City (with a game in hand) since Brendan took charge at Anfield. Considering that they started the Rodgers era as champions and Liverpool had just finished eighth, that’s not bad going at all.
Only Manchester United and Arsenal have lost fewer games on the road than Rodgers’ Reds, and only United have scored more goals. It’s clear that having the worst defence is holding Liverpool back on this front, as conceding a few less here and there could turn some of those draws into wins. There’s room for improvement with regards to the Reds’ away form, but it’s not disastrous at this point.
We have seen that the Liverpool’s short term goal of taking some points off some of their main rivals away from home should not be beyond them. How about their long term goal this season of reaching the top four, and a crack at the Champions League?
If they can maintain their current two points-per-game average then Liverpool will surely attain their goal. Realistically this average is likely to take a dip after the next three away games, but that needn’t be the end of the world.
The Reds are looking to improve on last season by about eleven points in order to compete for fourth (and they’re five points up at present), and the forthcoming ten games provide plenty of opportunity to make ground as they only yielded nine points last season.
Therfore, if Liverpool beat Cardiff, Hull and Aston Villa at home (which at this point seems a reasonable assumption), they then have seven ‘free’ games in which to improve further upon last season’s points tally.
If the Reds were to lose the big three games coming up then all hell will no doubt break loose on Twitter and on the forums, but if Liverpool win the games that the formbook says they should, plus pick up points elsewhere from this list (with Stoke and West Brom being the next two most likely to be won I’d say) then they’ll still have more points than last season, and that matters far more than who those points come against.
As Spurs have only scored one more league goal than Luis Suárez this season, having played more games and taken some penalties, Liverpool can feel confident of getting a positive result on Sunday. But eitherway, their long term performance suggests they are certainly on the right track at the moment.
Recent and related posts you might like:
Luis Suárez: Football Genius – All the stats from the Uruguayan’s four goal demolition of Norwich City.
Spurs Problem? Shot Placement – This gives an insight as to why Tottenham may not be scoring many.
Hull City 3 Liverpool 1: Stats Zone Analysis – Can the numbers explain why the Reds were so poor at the KC Stadium?
How Many Goals Can SaS Score? – On current form, a hell of a lot!