This is an extensive list of some of the achievements of Rafa Benítez and his players in the past five and a half years. Some of them won’t be remembered as highly significant, but many of them highlight the progress made since 2004.
Following the list, there is some statistical analysis on the manager’s performance, in comparison with previous Liverpool managers.
August 2004 – January 2010
In his 1st home game in charge (Man City) Liverpool came from behind at half-time to win a game for the first time in more than 5 years.
At Fulham (October 2004) the Reds came from behind at half-time to win an away game for the 1st time in 13 years.
Liverpool became the 1st British club to ‘keep’ the European Cup following a 5th Final success.
Steven Gerrard became the 2nd youngest player to captain a European Cup winning team.
Became only the 3rd team, and the 1st British side, to win the European Super Cup 3 times.
Steven Gerrard became the 1st Liverpool player in history to score in 5 successive European matches.
Kept clean sheets in each of their opening 4 league games for the 1st time in the club’s history.
Sami Hyypia played in a 56th consecutive European game – breaking the club record for an outfield player (he extended that record to 57).
Liverpool set a new club record of 11 consecutive clean sheets (Oct-Dec 2005).
Went 762 minutes without conceding a league goal (a post-war club record).
Won 10 league games in a row for the 1st time in 15 years.
At Luton Liverpool scored 5 goals in an away F.A. Cup tie for the 1st time in 59 years.
Liverpool beat Manchester United for the 1st time in the F.A. Cup for 85 years.
Recorded their biggest ever away win in the F.A. Cup (7-0 at Birmingham) and the biggest by any team away from home in the Quarter-Finals for 106 years.
Conceded only 8 league goals at home – their 3rd best total ever.
Set a club record of 12 successive wins in all competitions (it was extended to 14 at the start of the following season).
By lifting the F.A. Cup became the 1st manager in the club’s history to win a trophy in each of his first 2 seasons in charge.
Set a club record of 21 goals scored by substitutes in a season – previous record was 12.
Achieved the 6th-highest accumulation of available league points in the club’s history, and at the time, the 2nd-highest ever number of wins (as a % of games played)
Recorded his 50th league win in just 93 games – a record bettered by only 2 Liverpool managers of the previous 57 years, Dalglish and Shankly.
Went unbeaten in 30 successive home league games for only the 4th time in their history.
Scored 4 goals in the 1st half of an away league game (at Wigan) for the 1st time in 15 years.
Pepe Reina kept more clean sheets in his first 50 league games (28) than any other goalkeeper in the club’s history.
Jamie Carragher played in a club record 58th game in the European Cup.
Jamie Carragher made a club record 90th appearance in all European competition.
Conceded only 7 league goals at home – best total for 28 years.
Only second English side to win in Nou Camp (previous one was Liverpool in 1976).
Reached second Champions League final in three seasons. (If ‘lucky’ to win in 2005, the Reds were ‘unlucky’ to lose in 2007.)
Beat Besiktas 8-0 to record the biggest ever Champions League victory.
Scored 4 goals in a game on 8 occasions before Christmas for only the 3rd time in club’s history.
Steven Gerrard scored his 23rd European goal – to break the club record.
Pepe Reina kept his 50th league clean sheet in his 92nd appearance – breaking club record of 95 held by Ray Clemence.
Steven Gerrard became the 1st Liverpool player ever to score in 5 successive European games in the same season.
Fernando Torres became the 1st Liverpool player in 62 years to a hat-trick in successive home league games.
Jamie Carragher became the 1st Liverpool player to play 100 European games for the club.
Fernando Torres became the 1st player in 12 years to score 20 league goals for the club.
Pepe Reina kept 54 clean sheets in his first 100 league games to break the club record held by Ray Clemence.
Steven Gerrard became the 1st Liverpool player to score in 4 successive home European games.
Fernando Torres became the 1st Liverpool player to score in 7 successive top-flight home league games.
Rafa Benitez won 81 of his first 150 league games in charge. Only Kenny Dalglish (87) won more as Liverpool manager.
Ryan Babel equalled the club record of most goals in a season scored by a substitute (7).
Liverpool had 6 players who scored 10 goals or more in a season. Only the 3rd time this had happened in the club’s history.
Fernando Torres equalled the club record by scoring in an 8th successive home league game (all divisions).
Fernando Torres scored 24 league goals – most by any Liverpool player in a debut season for 61 years.
Fernando Torres broke Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record of most goals in a debut Premier league season by an overseas player.
Pepe Reina won the Golden Glove for the 3rd successive season.
Liverpool scored 119 goals in the season – more than any team in England.
In 2008 recorded their highest points tally in a calendar year (81) for 18 years.
Liverpool won 9 successive home league games for the 1st time since November 1990.
Fernando Torres became the club’s 2nd highest ever scorer in his first 50 games (34 goals).
Ryan Babel became the club’s 2nd highest ever goalscoring substitute (with 8 goals).
Liverpool came from behind to defeat Manchester United in the league for the 1st time in 42 years.
End Chelsea’s 84-game unbeaten home record.
Became only the 2nd English team to win in the Bernabeu.
At Anfield inflicted upon Real Madrid their biggest ever Champions League defeat.
Steven Gerrard became only the 2nd Liverpool player to play 100 times for the club in Europe.
Recorded their biggest win at Old Trafford for 72 years. It was also the 1st time 4 Liverpool players had scored at United in the same game.
Led the table for the 1st time ever in the Premiership with 2 games to play.
Broke Bill Shankly’s record of 65 European matches as Liverpool manager.
Broke Bob Paisley’s record of 40 European wins as Liverpool manager.
Recorded his 100th league win as manager in his 181st game. It was the 3rd quickest ever by a Liverpool manager and 50 games faster than Alex Ferguson.
Equalled club record set in 1904-05 by winning 13 away league games.
Amassed their highest points total ever in the Premier League (86) beating the 82 set in 2005-06. Their highest in the league since 1987-88.
Scored at least 3 goals in 6 successive games in all competitions for the 1st time in the club’s history.
Finished the campaign with a goal difference of + 50 – their best for 21 years when they amassed + 63 in 1987-88.
Lost just twice in the league – equalling the fewest they had lost in a league campaign for 105 years.
Fernando Torres scored 33 goals in his first 50 league games for the club – the best by any Liverpool player for 52 years.
Pepe Reina kept his 100th clean sheet in the fastest time in Liverpool history (197 games).
Won 75% of all available league points – 2nd highest in the club’s history.
The highest number of points by any team which failed to win the league (38 game seasons)
Went unbeaten in 31 home league games – their 3rd longest ever run and best for 32 years.
Against Manchester United recorded his 114th league win in his 200th game. The 2nd best tally by any Liverpool manager in first 200 league games (Kenny Dalglish 120 wins).
Liverpool won a 3rd successive league game at Everton for only 3rd time in club’s history.
Yossi Benayoun scored a hat-trick against Burnley to become only the 5th player in the club’s history to score a hat-trick in 3 different competitions.
Pepe Reina set a new club record of most clean sheets (79) in first 150 league games.
Liverpool scored 22 goals in opening 7 league games – best tally for 114 years and 2nd best ever.
Broke club record by scoring in an 18th successive Premier League game at Anfield.
Fernando Torres broke the club record by scoring his 50th league goal for Liverpool in just his 72nd match.
(Correct up to January 23rd 2010)
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In addition, here are some statistics relating to the eight Liverpool managers over the past 50 years.
League – Played 212, won 56.13% (currently 2nd-highest % for any post-war Liverpool manager)
Europe – Played 77, won 55.84% (currently 3rd-highest % for any Liverpool manager)
League – Played 216, won 50.00%
Europe – Played 52 , won 50.00%
League – Played 172, won 48.26%
Europe – Played 16 8, won 50.00%
League – Played 115, won 40.87%
Europe – Played 12 6, won 50.00%
League – Played 224, won 60.71%
League – Played 84, won 52.38%
Europe – Played 19 , won 68.42%
League – Played 378, won 56.08%
Europe – Played 61 , won 63.93%
League – Played 609, won 52.38%
Europe – Played 65 , won 52.31%
Progress From Predecessor?
Although it never appeared in the book, for Dynasty I compared the league records of all eight managers since 1959, with the first season’s points removed from their average tally. This first season total was removed because some managers inherited successful sides, and others inherited struggling sides; as such, I wanted a less-skewed figure for their performance.
Once Liverpool were struggling from 1991 onwards, the worst points tally posted by each of Evans (60), Houllier (54) and Benítez (58) was in their first season. By contrast, Joe Fagan, by inheriting a world-class team, had his best total in his inaugural season. The same applies to Graeme Souness (I’ve also excluded incomplete seasons if the manager left before the end).
So, when removing the first season – giving each man a season’s grace, if you will – the following figures are their average league points tallies; where a predecessor is listed in brackets it means they improved on the man before them. Currently Benítez has the greatest improvement by any Liverpool manager, but that will drop slightly if Liverpool do not reach 78 points in this campaign.
1 Paisley av. 83 (predecessor av. 77)
2 Dalglish av. 81 (predecessor av. 77)
3 Benítez av. 78 (predecessor av. 68)
4 Shankly av. 77
5 Fagan av. 77
5 Evans av. 70 (predecessor av. 61)
7 Houllier av. 68
8 Souness av. 61
So anyone who says that the club has gone backwards since the days of Houllier (that includes you, Danny Murphy) is wrong; the facts suggest a big improvement.
(All tallies adjusted to 3 points for a win system, which was introduced in 1981.)
Proximity To Champions
Following the publication of this piece, student Kais-Sabir Jesani emailed me some of his own analysis, which I feel to be first-rate.
“I feel that examining Liverpool’s points hauls in isolation, across seasons and managers fails to account for the performance of the team in relation to the highest-achieving team each season. As a result, I have analysed the points totals amassed by Liverpool in each season, as a percentage of the points achieved by the team that won the title in that particular season, for each season since 1991/1992.
“I felt this would provide some perspective as to how close the team came to winning the title or challenging for it, in comparison to the team that actually won it that season. This analysis would reflect the fact that in some seasons, the winning points haul would be higher or lower depending on the standard of other teams, competitiveness in the league etc.”
• Over the course of Souness’ two full seasons in charge (1991/1992, 1992/1993), Liverpool averaged 74.15% of the points accumulated by the team that won the league in those two seasons.
• If we are to include the 1993/1994 season, this figure drops to 71.79%.
• Over the course of Evans’ four full seasons in charge, Liverpool averaged 85.94% of the points haul attained by the title-winning teams in those seasons.
• Over the course of Houllier’s five full seasons in charge (1999/2000 to 2003/2004), Liverpool averaged 79.12% of the points achieved by the winners during those seasons.
• If we are to include the 1998/1999 season, then Houllier’s figure drops to 77.33%
The average points total achieved by Benitez’ teams, as a percentage of the winning teams totals, during his 5 full seasons in charge, is 82.1%
If we exclude his first season (as you suggested – quite rightly, in order to avoid skewing), then Benitez’ figure rises to 87.36% – the highest amongst Liverpool managers in the Premier League era.
It is interesting to note that the performance under Evans was the most consistent during his four full seasons in charge, in that there was less deviation of the points achieved as a percentage of the winnings teams points for these seasons.
However, under Benitez in 2008/2009, the points achieved by Liverpool as a percentage of the winning team’s (United) points haul (86/90 * 100) – 95.56% – is the highest total achieved by any Liverpool manager in the Premiership era.
I’ll add some further interesting bits and pieces as and when I’m made aware of them. Some of these will be made available only to subscribers.