With every league game that passes, be it a good win at Stoke or a lame home draw with Aston Villa, the same issues arise on Twitter and on the Liverpool forums each time.
“This is our best chance for a top four finish in years, and it’ll get harder next year as other teams won’t be as bad again. Suárez will leave if we don’t get into the Champions League too”.
There’s no doubt plenty of truth in statements like that, but at the same time I don’t think the sky will fall in if Liverpool don’t reach UEFA’s promised land this season.
The average points required for fourth place in the last decade has been 68.4. Last year, Tottenham Hotspur set a new points record for fifth place in the league, with seventy-two points.
It is therefore clear that Liverpool need to be consistently achieving a points total of around seventy. Here is a table of how many points the Reds have taken from their last rolling thirty-eight league games as the season has progressed.
Notice how that for the last twenty games, from the victory over Manchester United onwards, Liverpool have been performing at the average level required for fourth place, and fluctuating around and above Spurs’ level from last year too.
As it stands the Reds have ten points more this season than they got from the corresponding fixtures in 2012/13, which is another good indicator of their progress, as that suggests they should finish this campaign on seventy-one.
Credit has to go to Brendan Rodgers here; he inherited a side that won fifty-two points from their previous thirty-eight league games, yet Liverpool could now lose their next twelve Premier League encounters and they’d still have fifty-three points from their last seasons worth of matches!
It’s important to remember that there will always be a limit to how many points that the team in fourth will get, simply due to the finite amount of points that there are to go around. Posting a total in the seventies will always give a team a chance of Champions League football, regardless of how their peers perform.
My point is that over the past eighteen months or so, Liverpool have laid very solid foundations in order to be competitive for the foreseeable future, and so however their rivals perform next season, the Reds are currently demonstrating that there’s a very good chance they can be ‘in the conversation’ again, as Brendan Rodgers likes to say.
As fans, we also have to be realistic; it seems that for the foreseeable future there will always be six huge teams competing for four Champions League places, and that’s before you get to Everton, who seem to definitely have their boat pointing in the right direction under Roberto Martinez.
The fact is that we, the fan-base, are very likely to face all of this hand wringing and agony for the next few seasons. Still, it certainly beats being in the bottom half of the division as has too often been the case in recent times.
So whether Liverpool reach the Champions League this season or not will offer no guarantee that they will make it at the end of next season; neither will it ensure that the Reds can not either.
It seems that the main concern is that Luis Suárez will leave if Liverpool don’t make the top four this season, and whilst that would undoubtedly be a blow, I certainly don’t think that it would prove fatal, as the Reds are no ‘one man’ team. There are plenty of decent players who will stay to have another crack at the top four in 2014/15.
Looking at Philippe Coutinho’s league record for Liverpool, whilst he hasn’t been as sparkling in 2013/14 as he was in his rookie campaign, he has still scored a goal or created a clear-cut chance in twenty of his thirty appearances for the Reds.
If we limit our review to matches where he has played over forty-five minutes, then the rate rises slightly to 72% (with eighteen out of his twenty-five games featuring a top-notch chance or him featuring on the scoresheet).
Bear in mind that both Coutinho and Juan Mata have fashioned seventeen clear-cut chances in the Premier League since the start of 2012/13, yet whilst the soon-to-be £40m Manchester United signing has created one every 210 minutes he played, Liverpool’s young Brazilian has notched one every 130 minutes. That’s quite simply a phenomenal record, and logically he should only improve with age and experience.
Similarly, Daniel Sturridge has eleven goals and three assists from his fourteen league appearances this season (contributing directly to a goal every seventy-nine minutes he’s been on the pitch this season, and every eighty-one for his Liverpool league career in total), so Liverpool’s front line would not be entirely blunt without their mercurial Uruguayan talisman.
Jordan Henderson is finally starting to become the all rounder that Kopites have been waiting to see since the summer of 2011, and Raheem Sterling is developing very nicely indeed, with three goals and two assists in his last nine league starts.
The foundations are in place, and the next six months are, in my opinion, hugely unlikely to change that however the rest of this campaign unfolds.
Recent posts you might like:
Liverpool 2 Aston Villa 2: Stats Zone Analysis – A look at Brendan Rodgers’ latest brain fart…
PLCQ: Twenty Game Round Up – My project to determine the quality of chance that each Premier League team has and allows is just past half way, so here are the findings so far.
Liverpool’s Chance Champion – A look at which Reds have created the most chances in 2013/14, and who has found the best areas most frequently.
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.