By TTT Subscriber Neil Mundy.
‘It isn’t the games against your big rivals that normally win you the League; it’s making sure you take three points in those lesser games.’ Gary Neville, Daily Mail, 19 November 2011
I know, I know. Gary Neville and the Daily Mail. Hardly the most auspicious start to my TTT writing début! But I’m just going to have to ask you to bear with me… hopefully this will lead somewhere.
In the autumn of last year, my attention was drawn to the above quote in an article by Neville on Liverpool. In the article, he voices what many Liverpool fans have felt for years: specifically we’re up for the big matches and fall down against the so-called ‘smaller’ sides. Drawing comparison between LFC today and the Manchester United side of the ’80s, Neville writes:
‘They [United] were a match for anyone on their day against Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal. But they could never bring the level of consistency to their performances against the lesser teams, when there was less intensity about the occasion.’
I think all of us can agree that to an extent this sounds familiar. Last season alone, Liverpool managed League victories against Everton (twice), Arsenal and Chelsea (twice). We also lost to Fulham (twice), Wigan, Bolton, WBA and Sunderland. The games lacking ‘intensity’ in front of the Kop were a particular problem, as the team’s miserable home form (just five games won) bears out: too often lower league sides came to Anfield looking for a point, and comfortably got one – Stoke, Villa, Blackburn, Norwich, Swansea. I think we can safely assume that home form will be on Brendan Rodgers ‘areas for improvement’ list for the coming season.
The release of the fixture list a few weeks back made me think of this article again. The Reds had, by common consensus, a tough home start: champions City as the first home game, following by Arsenal and United (which should at least ensure, if nothing else, that the atmosphere at Anfield is decent for Rodgers’ first few home games).
More specifically, I wondered if there was a way to actually ‘prove’ Neville’s theory. Did we take more points from our games against the other top sides, and does this benefit us? How many points do we actually ‘need’ from these games?
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