By Dave Cronin.
“We’ve been fourth, third, second… There’s only one place left to go!”
– Phil Thompson, 2001
The place we went to was fifth.
Second place in the Premier League has been the summit of Liverpool’s achievements in the competition since the old First Division was rebranded and last season marked only the third time we have achieved it.
Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea and Manchester City all won their first Premier League titles after finishing 2nd the previous season, while Arsenal’s first was achieved the season after finishing level on points with the 2nd placed team but with an inferior goal difference. Only Aston Villa (in the inaugural Premier League season), Newcastle and Liverpool have finished in the Premier League’s top two and never won the competition under its current name.
After finishing 2nd in 2001-02 we dropped to 5th the following season and after our 2nd place finish in 2008-09 we fell even further to 7th.
Why has the position that other clubs have used as a staging post for a triumphant assault on the League’s summit proved to be little more than a high-dive platform for Liverpool FC? What caused us to go down rather than up the table the following season? What lessons can we learn from our past experiences? Should we be preparing for another plummet down the table next season after our latest 2nd place finish?
I want to revisit the 2002-03 and 2009-10 seasons in an attempt to answer those questions. Accepting that in any season there can be a myriad of factors that shape the campaign one way or another, my aim is to try to determine the root causes in each season. But first I want to start by looking at a season where we didn’t actually finish second…
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