Ah, fortress Anfield. Where visiting teams arrive beaten before the kick off, and depart with their tails between their legs and nothing more than some ‘toffee’ and maybe a beer from the boot room.
The above paragraph is sadly hazy rose-tinted nostalgia; I knew Liverpool weren’t quite as strong at home in recent times, but it wasn’t until I looked closely that I saw just how bad their record has become.
Using this page on statto.com, you can see Liverpool’s complete league record in a handily sortable table. A closer look at the home portion of the table reveals a depressing trend; in four of the previous five seasons, and no prizes for guessing which campaign is excluded here, the Reds have recorded just eight, ten, nine and six wins respectively in front of the Kop in the Premier League.
Looking further down the table, I noticed that previously this few wins was a rare occurrence; Liverpool have had ten-or-fewer wins just eight times in the Premier League era. My obvious next thought was ‘well, we dominated most of the thirty years prior to that, so it probably didn’t happen too often then’, and indeed 1969-70 was the only season since promotion to the top flight was secured in 1962 to meet this criteria in the old First Division (albeit most of those seasons had twenty-one home games rather than nineteen).
What this means in short is this:
Of the nine times in the previous fifty-four seasons that Liverpool have won ten-or-fewer home league games, four of them have been in the past five seasons.
Ouch. Bear in mind too that in 2013/14 the Reds won sixteen home games for the first time since 1985/86, and for the first time ever in a thirty-eight game season, which provided the foundation for a tremendous run at the title. It’s not that their ability to dominate the division at home has completely deserted them in recent times, but on the whole the home campaigns have been a struggle of late.
The away record in the four recent poor seasons hasn’t been too shabby either; eight wins three times, with seven in 2012/13. That may not sound too impressive, but when you consider that Liverpool have only had ten-or-more away wins fifteen times in their top flight history (with just four in the Premier League era) then you realise to get eight is actually a respectable, if not spectacular, return. The Reds’ away record seems fairly consitent, in other words, but it’s the home form that determines how well a campaign unfolds.
Aside from the obvious benefits on the pitch of having good home form, you also keep the vast majority of your paying customers happy, and in the season when Liverpool will play to more home fans than ever before, this could be vital. A team that struggles at home will not encourage fans to organise themselves to welcome the bus pre-match, as we saw so memorably in 2013/14, but also for last season’s Europa League run. Win the home games, and the feelgood factor around the club multiplies enourmously.
Liverpool begin their season with three away matches as they wait for their new main stand to be completed. History tells us that how they fare once they return to Anfield will go a long way to determining whether 2016/17 is a successful season or not.