I wrote this piece in early January, ahead of Liverpool’s away game at Stoke City. Now that the five game period the article focusses on is over, I thought I’d add an update at the bottom to see how it has panned out.
With just over half of the 2013/14 campaign in the can, it seems a good time to assess what progress Liverpool have made since last season, and if they are on track for a top four finish.
Using this workbook, which has been compiled by Simon Gleave (Twitter) we can see how each Premier League team is doing against their points tally from the corresponding fixtures last season. At present, of the seventeen teams who have been in the top flight for both this season and last, the Reds have made the joint-third best improvement, putting an extra six points on the board.
However, Southampton, who have improved by eight points, had more room for improvement in the first place, so in percentage terms the Reds have made a greater gain than their south coast counterparts.
If Liverpool replicate their results from last season across the rest of this campaign, then they will finish with sixty-seven points; a 9.8% improvement on 2012/13 would certainly be no bad thing, but it would be very unlikely to be enough to enable a top four finish.
This is why the time is now. If the Reds are to add a further four-or-more points onto their tally from last season in order to surpass the 70.4 average required for fourth, then they will almost certainly need to do it in the next four weeks.
Liverpool’s next five league fixtures yielded a solitary point in total last season. One point! Even if we were to completely write off the matches with Arsenal and Everton in this run (though as they’re at Anfield, we certainly shouldn’t), then matches with Stoke, Aston Villa and West Brom (who are all between eleventh and fourteenth in the table at present) should provide ample opportunity to put points on the board that were not won last season.
It’s not quite ‘now or never’ in the quest for fourth place, but with the Reds having to replicate form of 2.08 points for the final thirteen games of the season in order to maintain their form from the last campaign, then this next five game spell offers the greatest opportunity to add further points on 2012/13, and kick on past a seventy point finish.
Whilst it’s easy to overthink these things at times (“on current form we might get something at Old Trafford, but Spurs could get a point at Anfield” etc etc), the fact of the matter is that Liverpool only dropped points in five of the fixtures that make up the final third of the season this time around:
It is therefore unreasonable to expect too much improvement here, and merely maintaining the status quo from 2012/13 will require a better points return than the Reds have managed so far this season overall (where they’ve averaged 1.95 per game so far).
So this is it, lads. You want Luis Suárez to stay at the club beyond the summer? You want to play in the Champions League next season? You want this club to get back up towards it’s perch after five years of turmoil?
You’d better do well in the next five games then, hadn’t you? No pressure…
Update: 10th February 2014
Perhaps I should’ve stuck to assessing the importance of this period, rather than predicting what matches might yield points.
I suggested that Stoke, Villa and West Brom would provide good opportunities to put points on the board, yet the Reds required five goals to win at Stoke, needed a comeback from 2-0 down at home to salvage a point against Villa, and tossed away two points in a lacklustre draw at The Hawthorns.
Meanwhile Everton and Arsenal were both sent packing from Anfield with four goal defeats, and on the balance of play, they were lucky to do that ‘well’ too.
But far more important than my haphazard predictions is the fact that Liverpool emerged from this five game period with eleven points on the board, and when you look at the graph of how the club has improved on last season’s corresponding fixtures, the impact is quite simply immense.
Five games ago, Liverpool’s six point improvement implied a sixty-seven point season; they’re now sixteen points up, and on track for seventy-seven if they replicate the results from the last campaign from here onwards.
The Sports Club Stats website now claims that the Reds have a 86.2% chance of a top four finish, and I only wish I had noted what the chance was prior to this five game run to monitor the improvement (note to self: do this next season…).
But it’s clear that Liverpool are in fantastic shape right now, and I’m convinced that this period will be viewed as the cornerstone of a season that saw Champions League football return to Anfield.
Recent posts you might like:
The 39 Steps Part Two: Progress! – Victory over Hull City means Liverpool are seven games ahead of the last three years, and this article explains why.
2012 and 2013: Chalk and Cheese – Liverpool’s performance in the last two years could hardly be more different.
How Many League Goals Can Suárez Score in 2013/14? – This features a forecast table, which is updated after every match.
LFC Pass Combination Heatmaps 2013/14 – A look at which players have been most involved pass-wise, and who they’ve linked up with in every league match this season.