Goal Differential v League Position

Goal Differential v League Position
July 29, 2013 Chris Rowland

By TTT Subscriber Steve Baughman Jensen.

How much improvement do we need this season to reach Top Four?

As the summer transfer window goes on, many of us are sweating it out, hoping that Brendan Rodgers and the LFC Transfer Committee can make exactly the right moves to “add the quality” needed to reach a Champions League spot.  But how big is the gap for this squad? Just how much does Liverpool Football Club need to improve this year, as compared with how it performed in the second half of last season, in order to reach that goal?

I am going to break from conventional wisdom to suggest that the club probably does not need to improve on last season’s second half performance at all in order to finish in a Champions League position this season. Anyone who paid even slight attention to the second half of the Premier League season recognises that Brendan Rodgers’ side performed dramatically better than it had in his first few months at the helm.

With the additions of Coutinho, Sturridge, a mostly-fit Lucas, and an almost error-free Carragher, after the New Year the Reds played football that was both pleasing to the eye and largely successful. Having managed just 25 points through their first 19 matches, the Reds sat in tenth place in the league table.

By contrast, LFC earned 36 points in the second half, pushing the team’s overall position to seventh. Judged on the second half alone, LFC’s points total put LFC just one point behind Chelsea, and three points behind Tottenham and Man City.  Liverpool’s second-half total was only sixth-best in the EPL, but it was also just seven points off first.  By comparison, LFC was 21 points behind Manchester United after the first 19 games.

Despite the evidence of obvious progress from last season’s second half points total, some supporters might point out that sixth place is still not good enough. This club needs to get back in the Champions League positions as soon as possible, for many reasons. Based on last season, even if the club secures points throughout this season at the same rate as the second half of last year – 1.89 points per game (or 72 points for the season) – the Reds could still end up in a disappointing fifth or sixth-place position. Last season’s fifth-placed club, Tottenham, ended the season on exactly 72 points (though this was a record high EPL points total for a fifth-place team). Thus, while the Reds showed major improvements in the second half of the 2012-13 season, sceptics could easily believe that the club must reach even higher performance levels across the whole of this season in order to reach the coveted Top Four position.

But does LFC’s points total from the second half of last season tell the whole story about how well the club performed during that 19-game span? Some would say, “Yes, the proof is in the pudding.” Nonetheless, I would suggest that the better answer is “No, LFC actually earned fewer points than its overall performance merited during the last half of the season.”

What makes me think that LFC earned fewer points than it deserved during the second half of the season? Two words: goal differential.

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