Article by Mizgan Masani
Liverpool have made a phenomenal start to the season. They are unbeaten in the league and joint-top in the table, behind due to an inferior goal difference to leaders Manchester City and second-placed Chelsea.
In the meantime, Jurgen Klopp’s men negotiated probably the toughest run of games any team could get in a long season. The Reds faced Tottenham (A), Southampton (H), Chelsea (A) and Manchester City (H) in the league in the space of four weeks and came out with eight points.
They had two very tough European assignments in PSG (H) and Napoli (A) during that period of a month. The Merseysiders won the home game and lost the away fixture in Italy.
So, it is natural for the Liverpudlians to expect a slightly favourable run of games until the turn of this year. Checking the league fixtures’ list till the end of December, Liverpool have nine games against the non-top-six teams and only two versus the direct rivals (Arsenal away and home).
Now let’s switch our attention towards the record Klopp’s men possess against mid and lower-table sides:
As usual in a 20-team league, Liverpool will play 28 games (14 home and 14 away) against non-top-six sides. During the 2016/17 campaign, the Reds managed only five doubles out of the possible 14 (vs West Brom, Watford, Middlesborough, Everton and Stoke). They conceded 32 goals at a rate of 1.14.
Klopp’s men won 57 points from the plausible 84, which is 67% of the total. The critical thing was them dropping 12 home points (2 Losses and 3 Draws).
Ideally, against favourable opponents, you’d fancy big teams to win all or 90% of their home games. Hence the reason why they were never in the race to challenge for the title over the period of nine months.
Well, Liverpool made significant improvement during the 2017-18 season against teams they should win. The Reds won seven doubles (Crystal Palace, Leicester, Huddersfield, West Ham, Southampton, Brighton and Bournemouth), which is an improvement compared to the 16/17 campaign.
They conceded just 15 goals in 28 games, at a rate of 0.53, five in 12 games after the arrival of Virgil van Dijk at 0.41 per game. Klopp’s men won 65 of the possible 84 points, an enhancement of eight points as juxtaposed to 16/17.
Last season’s champions Manchester City won 76 points, so that is the benchmark. If Liverpool can improve by 10 more points against non-top-six teams this year, they can challenge the Cityzens.
Of course, they were terrible against big teams last season and have already begun to make amends of that.
After negotiating a refractory period, Liverpool have a period of games against teams they should win. We are 11 games shy of the middle point of this season in the league.
And in the next 11, the Reds have nine games versus favourable opponents. Their improving record against potential banana skins should reveal their propensity to further enhance the numbers this campaign and seriously challenge for the title. Van Dijk and Alisson’s inclusion at the back will have positive aids as well.
Article by Mizgan Masani
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