Here’s How Liverpool Can Still Win the Premier League Title

Here’s How Liverpool Can Still Win the Premier League Title
February 12, 2019 Paul Tomkins


Title Races Ebb & Flow. Here’s the Very Graphic Proof of How It’s Far From Over

Most mainstream football debate – in terms of the over-analysis of the latest action – has descended into merely a few hundred or thousand words of recency bias. If you won your last game you’re great; if you didn’t, you’re terrible. 

Also, it’s shown to be a natural human tendency to underplay the level of potential change that lies ahead: whatever the current status quo, it feels like it will remain the case. We are not good at seeing change coming towards us. Three months ago Bayern Munich were rubbish, ergo Liverpool got a lucky draw; now Bayern are in better form, and closing the gap on Borussia Dortmund, who had looked unstoppable. Man United are in a totally different shape to how they were when their draw against PSG was made; since when, two of PSG’s three famous attackers have got injured. 

As brilliant – and record-breaking – as City have been in the past 13 months, there have been no fewer than seventeen games in all competitions that they’ve failed to win; so to suggest, almost as a fait accompli, that they will win their final 11 league games – as some pundits are – is ignoring all the glitches that can get into any football team. To fail to win 17 games in 13 months is still damned good, but it’s not perfect. Maybe they will win their remaining 11. But it’s far from guaranteed – especially when an excess of cup competitions get thrown into the mix, as I will show in the second half of this article. That’s when weird shit happens.

In the autumn, City won seven league games on the spin, scoring an incredible 24 goals and barely conceding; then they lost three of the next four league games. Then this January they scored 28 goals without reply in a succession of wins … before they went to Newcastle, and duly lost. If City are thrashing teams then people assume that they will always thrash teams. History shows otherwise.

Whoever winning right now has “momentum”, and momentum obviously means you never stop winning, right? If you are top of the table and you don’t win then you are bottling it, even if, statistically speaking, every team will drop points here and there. (And against Leicester and West Ham, Liverpool had six players out injured and at least half a dozen more playing through flu and gastric illness.) 

Maybe part of this phenomenon can be traced back to some dumb bookmakers paying out on title wins halfway through a season; although the 24-hour rolling news hysteria and social media explosion stokes it too.  

Anyway, before I look into the current title race in some detail, and the disadvantages City might have (and after all, we keep hearing about how much better they are than Liverpool), I want to make the first part of this article free, as it’s an example worth sharing.

What follows is a fairly recent Premier League season – and is just one of many examples I could have chosen, where a similar theme occurs. 

It is the visual unveiling of a season, in stages, with the green in the graphics representing a win and red representing dropped points. (Seeing as Liverpool were recently labelled bottlers for merely drawing games, I thought I’d dispense with differentiating draws and just have a vivid red for any dropped points.)

This particular example is also from a high-points-scoring season for a title race; indeed, in a six-year spell, no other champion topped this points tally, and five of those champions amassed 1-9 fewer points. It wasn’t a record points-setting season, but it was significantly above average for the Premier League era (which is 86 points).

The challenger had gone years without a league title; the other team had recently won a fair few league titles. Which which one is Team A and which one is Team B?

Okay, so let’s see the title race in question unfold, in a series of 6 graphics…

And finally, from game 21 onwards…

“And, Team B had won four of the previous five Premier League titles. They were the ones who knew what it takes! Team A had never won the title.”

Of course, this is 2011/12, and Manchester City trying to overcome Manchester United. At the time, City were probably seen as bottlers, especially when they dropped points in four of seven league games up to the halfway point, and, at this very stage of the season now, won only one of five matches, which saw them drop to 2nd and, at match-week 33, found themselves five points behind an all-conquering Man United.

And of course, the narrative was set to be that they also bottled the final game of the season, until two injury-time goals won them the title. It’s fair to say that this Man City side is technically superior to that 2012 United side, but that United side had won the title in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Alex Ferguson was seen as the best manager around, and Roberto Mancini – who’d never won a league title in England – was hardly believed to be in his class.

I could also have chosen 1994/95, when, like City in 2012, Blackburn were also trying to win their first title in decades. Blackburn failed to win four of their final six matches, while Man United – with back-to-back titles – won four out of five, to close the gap from being eight points adrift of Rovers (but with Rovers having a game in hand) to be just two points behind on the final game of the season; and where, if United won and Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn drew or lost at Anfield, Ferguson would win his third league title in a row. Blackburn lost at Anfield to a stunning last-minute winner, but United, with all that “momentum” – which included a 9-0 league win only two months earlier (and with their superior goal difference) – could only draw with West Ham. There are other seasons like this, too.

Man City had wealth to rival United back in 2012, whereas Liverpool do not have the wealth to rival City right now; the financial disparity is a chasm. But Liverpool have posted title-winning metrics this season in just about every possible area; with the only issue being that, unlike some recent champions, City are still doing the same 12 months later. For all City’s big wins, they still have a worse points-per-game than Liverpool this season, although it appears that City have been crowned champions anyway.

And just because title races have ebbed and flowed in the past doesn’t mean the same has to automatically follow. The point I am making is about the clear moments in those two seasons when one team looked invincible, and had that damned momentum, and yet still the unproven winner landed their first crown after a wait that was, on average, 60 years. 

You can see several examples of clear “momentum” with each team in those graphics, but even with that hallowed momentum they somehow managed to slump. When in a slump they looked like they were tanking, and could be slumping for some while, until they de-slumped, and humped back up to the top. City may indeed win the title this season – who knows? – but there’s no reason to think that the way they ran away with it last season will obviously be repeated, as this time they don’t have a double-digits lead, are up against stronger rivals, and, in seems, are trying to win all four trophies, according to some from their camp.

Ways Man City Could Still Slip Up

Anyway, now onto how City – on fire in the last two league home games – may find it hard to reproduce their best form for the rest of the season – with some strong historical evidence of what might get in their way – and where Liverpool – joint-top with a game in hand – may find advantages as the winter turns to spring. 

And there’s a cautionary tale, too.

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This season Manchester City could play a record-breaking 28 cup games if they reach all the finals, as they seem to be so confident of doing. The most cup games I can find in the Premier League era is 27, and only 39 times prior to this season has a Premier League club played more than 20 cup games.

There is no precedent on this latest City side playing a lot of cup games – they did not top the 20-cup-games tally last season, falling just short at 19, and so you have to go back further three years, to the 21 played when reaching the Champions League semis (which ended in such a poor league points tally for the club). Only twice in the Premier League era have Man City played 20 or more cup games in a season. While this City team has a fair few new players, the core was in place back in Pellegrini’s penultimate season. 

And if they go further in the Champions League than last season they can expect to face at least two additional tough games (compared to last season) before the last league game of the season, after which the final would follow, if they made it; while their FA Cup run petered out to lowly Wigan in round five this time last year, despite being able to coast more in the league, if required.

What follows is something I’ve been working on for the new book, where I re-examine all the evidence on how cup games affect your league health, with Graeme (Riley) kindly providing a wealth of data, to go with my own research from a few years ago. While the book will look at the issue in more detail, across various clubs, for this article I’m just using a small part of the text, and thus it shares only some of the conclusions. 

In order to get a feel for how a dominant and expensive side would be affected by an excess of cup games – given that Man City in 2015/16 (who played 21 cup games, upon their best season in Europe) weren’t as good as this current City side – I looked at the six times Manchester United played 20 or more under Alex Ferguson, at an average of 23 games per season. 

The results are identical: three times they did slightly better than expected in the league and three times they did slightly worse than expected. If listed in descending order based on the number of games played – from a high of 25 to a low of 21 – they did better, worse, better, worse, better and worse in those Premier League seasons.

So, as clear as mud! 

That said, there was no clear evidence of momentum within those seasons, if additional cup games – which people say winning breeds confidence – actually led to a worse overall outcome half the time. 

Based on that alone, you could say that there’s a 50-50 chance an excess of cup games would hinder City in the league; or that, at the least, there’s no strong evidence that playing all those extra games will definitely help them. However, the challenge of playing so many games gets clearer.

In the three seasons where United reached the Champions League final, two seasons saw a drop in league performance based on the full metrics I used (which are: league position compared to the season before and the season after; points tally compared to the season before and the season after; and performance against the financial ranking – £XI – in the season in question – which I put into a formula that gave an output of progression or regression). When the extra games are in the Champions League it can make all the difference.

Looking at Chelsea – who had seven seasons with 20 or more cup games between 1992 and 2014 (all seven of which were after Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003) there’s a similarly mixed pattern – but in this case it tilts more towards league damage. Four of the seasons saw a decline in league points against expectations.

As with Man United the improvements and disappointments were all fairly small, except for 2011/12, when the Blues won the Champions League (and lest we forget, the FA Cup, the jammy bastards); their slip to 6th meant they took some serious league damage. And the slip took place in the final third of the season.

After 24 games, Chelsea were 4th. Yet they won only six of their final 15 league games, dropping from a 52% league win-rate all season to just 40%. And that was with “just” 23 cup matches. Because, obviously, Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals are not just any old cup games.

What’s weird is that, according to Graeme’s data, they had their best-ever Premier League season in 2011/12 in terms of how well they did in a league game directly after a cup game; winning 33% of their league games after another league game, and 66% after a cup game. But this is where I feel supposed cup momentum can kill you in a silent way, as I will come onto later in the piece. (And b best-ever I mean the difference between how they did after league games to how they did after cup games, and not their overall league record.)

That was Chelsea after playing 23 cup games. But when all teams play at least 25 cup games it gets messy.

To date in the Premier League era there’s a 75% chance of incurring league damage when going to 25 cup games and beyond; as such, the odds perhaps shift a bit more towards City falling short in some way. And of course, they can’t now even match last year’s 100 points tally, the pussies*.

(* Being purely ironic, here, and paraphrasing the offensive language of Vincent Kompany.)

Indeed, as you can see – of the teams most damaged in the league by their cup games, the most damaged was Man City of 2015/16, when reaching the Champions League semifinals. (And a quick look shows that it was between games 24-30 where the damage took place: six games, with only one win, one draw and four defeats. Part of the reason seems to be a lot of Big Six head-to-heads seem to be scheduled for that period of the season, amongst the Champions League games.)

You have to go back to Rafa Benítez at Chelsea, in 2012/13, for the last manager to steer a club playing 20+ cup games to a better league situation than the average of the preceding and subsequent seasons. 

Indeed – and this is where it gets even more interesting:

Of the nine clubs to have played 20 or more cup games since 2009, Rafa’s Chelsea side are the only ones to come out without any league damage; and the overall average for league damage in the past decade is significantly greater than the overall 1992-2018 averages. 

This suggests to me that fighting on all fronts has got significantly harder in the Premier League in the past decade. And even the Chelsea success of 2012/13, when Rafa steered them through the longest season to date (27 games), had the caveats of being a Europa League cup run undertaken with a Champions League squad (and manager); and it scores so positively because, a year later, Chelsea’s aforementioned league form was massively hit by reaching the Champions League final. 

So while City appear a potentially era-defining side, they are aiming really high. Is this ambition or hubris? Time will tell.

But the evidence still suggests – to me, at least – that Liverpool will probably be better off going out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich. You can argue about momentum, and confidence damage, but can this squad win big league games after (and sandwiched between) big Champions League games? It’s a massive ask, especially if not everyone is fit. (I’m not sure why but I wonder if Daniel Sturridge will start against Bayern at home, as he did against PSG?)

2007-08 – A Cautionary Tale

Liverpool currently rank 3rd for the best-ever starts to a Premier League season after 26 games, with 65 points. (Man City’s tally after 26 games currently ranks 12th, with Spurs 17th, making this a record-breaking campaign for the top three.)

Aside from Liverpool and City this season – only because this season isn’t over (although at least one will have to “fail”) – only one side in the top 14 ranked teams at this stage of a season did not finish on top.

They are the cautionary tale. They are Arsenal from 2007/08.

They rank 11th in the best Premier League-era starts, with 63 points from 26 games – just two points less than Liverpool, and with a very similar record of only one defeat, 19 wins and six draws. (Liverpool currently have five draws and 20 wins.) Even the goal difference is very similar, although Liverpool have scored three more and conceded three fewer. (And should Liverpool lose at Old Trafford, Liverpool would fall to 11th or 12th, with City’s 27th game already played; and after beating Chelsea 6-0 their 27-game rank takes them from 12th to 10th.)

To be honest, I don’t remember too much about the Gunners that season, other than one of the key moments mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for Arsenal’s campaign: “The club ended their Premier League campaign in third position, having led the table for two-thirds of the season. Arsenal made it into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, but were eliminated on aggregate score against Liverpool. The team exited the FA Cup in the fifth round to Manchester United and lost in the semi-finals of the League Cup to Tottenham Hotspur.”

The Gunners played 20 cup games that season, one down on the season before and two down on the season that followed. Like Liverpool from 2006-2009, they were playing a ton of cup games – 20 or more each season – and falling just short in the league. Like Liverpool at the time they could not balance everything, with a squad that cost far less than the richer rivals (at the time, Chelsea and Man United); Liverpool never had the big money to start with – at least, not since the mid-’90s – and Arsenal had been selling off players to fund the new stadium.

Like Liverpool in their four best Champions League seasons, Arsenal’s league results dipped after their cup games that season; indeed, absolutely identical to Liverpool last season, with a 17% decline.

But my hunch – ever since Arsenal’s ‘invincibles’ were knocked out by Chelsea in 2004 and then Liverpool knocked out the apparently unbeatable Chelsea in 2005 – is that things collide around the quarter-finals and semi-final stages of the Champions League. Mid-March always seems a dangerous time.

Go back 11 years and, after game 26, Arsenal were five points clear of Man United, who were 2nd.

But then came an FA Cup match at Old Trafford (Arsenal lost 4-0), and four Champions League games: two against AC Milan, and two against Liverpool. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, the second leg ended in a 4-2 defeat for Arsene Wenger’s men, having been leading 1-0, and then, having drawn level at 2-2 with just five minutes to go, were going through on goal difference. But then Ryan Babel won a penalty, which Steven Gerrard scored, and Babel himself added a fine solo goal.

In between that FA Cup match on February 19th, which was just before the Champions League resumed, and the devastating defeat in that competition to Liverpool at Anfield on April 8th, Arsenal played eight league matches – and their season imploded. They drew the first four, all against unfancied opposition, and in that run of eight games, also drew at home to a weakened Liverpool team; only managing one win – against Bolton. By game 34 they were a staggering nine points behind Man United.

Of course, Man United won the Champions League that season; and they stormed past Arsenal whilst also facing those extra games. But even then, Ferguson’s men still played only 18 cup matches in 2007/08, having gone out of the FA Cup immediately after knocking out Arsenal, and playing just one League Cup game. Arsenal played two League Cup semi-final games, against Spurs; and again, you have to wonder about the cumulative toll, come the spring.

Even then, Man United – with their bigger squad – lost their league game in between two Champions League semi-finals against Barcelona, and dropped points to Boro and Blackburn after the quarter-finals. But when Arsenal had that nightmare run, United were too far ahead; and Chelsea crept up into 2nd.

Incidentally, Man United, 15th on the list, did not win the league in 2011/12; as previously discussed. Newcastle in 1995/96, rank 18th. So that means, aside from the three current clubs in the top 20 (Liverpool, City and Spurs), only three other clubs in the top 20 best starters after 26 games failed to win the league. But it also shows that it can happen.

Liverpool and Post-Cup League Damage

It’s fair to say that Liverpool tend to fare really badly in terms of league damage in seasons where they play a lot of cup games. They are the only Big Six club who (post-1992) regularly loses more league games after cup matches than they lose league games after league matches. (That said, I think the Reds are also the English club to reach five European finals in that time?)

However, to go back to silent damage, even in seasons where those rival clubs actually appear to get momentum from winning cup games – for all of them their next league game is, on average, a better result than after playing another league game – the overall result is still, more often than not, one of league underperformance; particularly if a lot of cup games were played that season.

Which would suggest – even if I cannot prove it – that short-term “momentum” (post-cup-win euphoria) can still lead to longer-team flatlining. That’s the paradox. 

Perhaps it’s because those teams then collapse in the final months of the season, having had great post-cup momentum that, as well as improving some league results, took them into all those extra cup games. So perhaps you feel in better mental shape for a league game having just won a cup game, but those bursts of wins are only storing up potential danger for later in the campaign. Perhaps it’s like the joy of being paid six months in advance for three or four freelancing jobs, only to realise in six months’ time that you now have too much work to do and you just can’t cope.

As I detail in the upcoming book, 39 Premier League teams have played 20 or more cup games in single season, and only 13 of them (33%) actually had an improved league performance that campaign; the other two-thirds suffered league damage.

Perhaps the killer stat, from Liverpool’s perspective, is that in the four seasons to date when the club has reached at least the Champions League semi-final (three finals, one semi-final), the Reds – incredibly – had title-winning (or at least “top two”) form in the league after other league games. But in each of those four seasons, their league results after cup games were either mid-table or relegation form. The contrast is staggering.

Indeed, according the Graeme’s stats, in 2004/05, which is the most extreme example, Liverpool won 72% of their league matches that followed other league games – and 72% of wins virtually gets you the league title. But the Reds won only 20% of their league games that followed a cup fixture, which equates to what Swansea achieved last season (eight wins) when being relegated. In the other three seasons the contrast isn’t quite as marked, but Reds never once managed a 50% league win percentage after cup games.

This season – going into the Bournemouth game – it was 75% wins in the league after league games and … 75% wins in the league after cup games. (Now the post-league game league form is a fraction better, after the 3-0 win.) 

But this is after just eight cup matches so far this season. Eight!

The most cup matches the Reds can rack up now is 15. Which could still be costly to the league health, but maybe not catastrophic. That said, in addition to the cumulative effect, it’s often the league game that’s between two Champions League knockout games that are either six or eight days apart, where the greatest danger can lurk, and Liverpool could have a couple more of those if they get past Bayern. 

But if City do indeed go on to play 28 cup games – or get close – especially following the World Cup and given the age of some of their key players (and their proneness to injury) – they may well collapse later on; or at the least, drop enough points to leave it open for Liverpool to take advantage.

Here’s hoping…


Comments (85)

  1. Author

    Okay, I’m working really hard at the moment (a lot of the time with Graeme’s data) to find all the little insights that you might not get anywhere else. A lot will go into the book (which, as well as being boxed, will have extra content for those who preorder via TTT), but the research I’m doing is helping me to better understand the situation myself – and to write better articles.

  2. Chris Rowland 4 years ago

    Perhaps the killer stat, from Liverpool’s perspective, is that in the four seasons to date when the club has reached at least the Champions League semi-final (three finals, one semi-final), the Reds – incredibly – had title-winning (or at least “top two”) form in the league after other league games. But in each of those four seasons, their league results after cup games were either mid-table or relegation form. The contrast is staggering.

    That is indeed staggering. As ever on TTT, it says put aside what your intuition tells you and instead dig deep for the facts.

  3. jimbomac 4 years ago

    I do wonder if fans of other teams get this kind of quality analysis. Sometimes i feel like im talking in a different dimension after picking up stuff from TTT. To my knowledge, this level of writing is unparalleled.

    • Author

      We do seem to have a lot of analytical fans. I’d love to know if I’ve influenced that in any way, having used stats on my LFCTV articles from 2005-2010, and done a stats book in 2006. Maybe we’ve needed to dig harder to find why we’ve fallen short, while other big clubs were winning the league having spent a ton of money!

      • Andrew Beasley 4 years ago

        I was at the OptaPro Forum last week, and having a chat among a group the consensus was definitely that Liverpool have the most fans who get involved in this sort of thing and match stats/analysis etc. As you say, Paul, it could be people looking for reasons, which fans of other clubs would call excuses!

        Brilliant article, by the way.

  4. red mick 4 years ago

    It’s brilliant stuff. Many thanks. But I simply can’t go to the Bayern game hoping for anything other than a thumping win.

    • Author

      I get that, entirely. But maybe it will be a “celebrate now, pay later” situation. I don’t expect us to go into that game half-hearted, but VvD is suspended for the 1st leg and Matip is our only available centre-back.

      Going out after playing brilliantly may not be the worst thing. But if we get through, we are just a few games from glory in Europe, but also probably more likely to suffer some league damage. As ever, nothing is certain.

      • Thomas 4 years ago

        I agree. A heroic away-goals loss with loads of dodgy decisions by the ref undoing a superb performance would probably be best!

  5. James 4 years ago

    Chapeau Paul. So thorough, clear and fascinating.

    In terms of what is available on TTT compared with elsewhere I need to borrow a phrase from this piece – “the contrast is staggering”.


  6. Benjamin 4 years ago

    I think it’s obvious that City’s domestic cup runs will not help them in the league this season. They’re flying at the minute as you say, but they’re riding on a wave. It’s perfectly plausible that they suffer a physical and more importantly a mental lull at some point, particularly after the final international break of the season when the league and CL restarts. They cannot do any better than they’re doing at the minute. They’re literally pasting teams 6-nil, 7-nil, 9-nil! This is their peak. Physically, mentally, tactically, they’re cannot get any better than this, and history has shown that after long streaks they have a comedown. This season it was in December (they looked frightening before their ‘relief’ defeat at Chelsea). Last season, they had a stressful period around the CL QF-time, having cruised to an unassailable position. It was their ‘crisis’, albeit with the league wrapped up.

    Pep is an intensely stressful man too, and Mourinho got under his skin when he shouldn’t have when at Real. If they manage the intensity to win the Quad Vod, then fair enough, we will all hold our hands up. I certainly think they’re absolute certs for the domestic cup-double, and should be favourites for the CL. But that makes trying to win the PL all the more difficult. We rode the spring of 2014 with only the Prem to deal with. If you had thrown in Europe and the League Cup there, we would not have won 11 on the spin. And we should have won the PL that season, no doubt. We wound ourselves up too much and reached boiling point a week too early.

    I had hoped Spurs would go further in the cups to dismantle them a bit too, but there’s no point trying to get wound up about one rival let alone too. Focussing on ourselves, we all knew that the instant cup exits would benefit us at some point, and hopefully we’ll see in the next couple of months when that will be.

    Although I was disappointed to see City dispatch three big victories in a week against ‘strong’ opposition, this season has shown that they’re at their most vulnerable against the genuine underdogs who have all the excuses to roll over but want to prove something, rather than the big dogs who are nowhere near City’s level but will still and try and play their normal game.

    • Chris Rowland 4 years ago

      City now have 3 consecutive cup games – Newport (A) in the FA Cup, Schalke (A) in the CL, and the League Cup Final against Chelsea. I’m kinda hoping that by the time they finally return to league duty, at Bournemouth on March 2nd, their rhythm has been disrupted. No league game between Feb 10 when they stuffed Chelsea and March 2nd.

      And presumably CL and FA Cup quarter finals, given their favourable draws, to come, and who knows how much further they progress in those competitions. Fatigue may yet set in.

      • humdul1 4 years ago

        I hope they win and score loads of goals in these games…

        Remember what happened just before Newcastle? They had scored a hat full and conceded none in the cup games leading up to that match.


      • NickM 4 years ago

        Unfortunately Bournemouth provide a nice opposition to come back to. Open, expansive and nothing like the entrenched, battling sides like Leicester, Palace or Newcastle who will try and throw up a defensive wall, occasionally launching the odd blitzkrieg to try and get something out if the game. I sincerely hope I am however proved wrong.

      • humdul1 4 years ago

        Their next league match is vs West Ham on the 27’th – I wonder if Lanzini could be back for that game?


        Hopefully the final has been an energy sapping, extra time plus penalties one – but it is Chelsea so easy win for City!

      • the_law 4 years ago

        Don’t Man City play West Ham on the 27 Feb?

        EDIT: humdul1 beat me to it.

      • Chris Rowland 4 years ago

        Ah yes, I stand corrected folks, I forgot there was a round of midweek matches. So they have West Ham at home and Bournemouth away after their cup sojourn. Not the toughest reentry is it? Hard to see where they’re dropping points next, but you never know. And they don’t have to lose, just draw a few.

  7. humdul1 4 years ago

    Leave it out Tomkins!! – We will win the double….  😉



  8. Simon Klopp (AKA 1Hanmdd) 4 years ago

    Amazing stuff… really great. As an aside, I made the mistake of watching the Sunday Supplement … and that Shaun Custis? (From The S*n).

    He said he believes City will win the league by 6 points… you could see his face was contorted with hate (I think because of the paper he works for, he gets a lot of flak on social media from LFC fans) as he obviously hates Liverpool… he is also massive a Jose apologist and he got a dig in about LFC and Spurs not winning a trophy (Jose won 2 at Man U)… and one of the other journalists pointed out that Man U spend a lot more money and he came back about LFC not being paupers…

    To quote Kevin Keegan… I would love it… just love it if we won the league… I want it so much it fucking hurts and seriously affecting my sleep… I am 52 for fucks sake!

    • Author

      Custis makes that crack every time he’s on, which is far too frequently. I skipped that section this week, and just watched it from the Cardiff/Sala thing onwards.

    • Grover 4 years ago

      In fairness I have to advise it’s Neil Custis you are referring to.  His brother Shaun is slightly less obnoxious but still works for that unmentionable rag.  I had to turn off Sunday Supplement once I heard the nonsense being spouted.  Not only is Neil Custis a Jose apologist he is also a Manc apologist and basically thinks all things from Manchester are beyond reproach.  This is particularly strange given he claims to be a Newcastle fan and he is from Newcastle. I cannot imagine he is someone Rafa would have any time for!

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 4 years ago

        Weirdly, he’s a big supporter of Rafa, and has been for a few years. But yes, it’s Neil, the one who LvG called fatty or something like that, after Custis continually undermined him.

    • Benjamin 4 years ago

      Sunday Supplement is a disgraceful show. Every time there’s one decent person on, it has to be counteracted with having an utter arsehole being on. The representation from the Sun is utterly sickening. Not only it is chaired by a Sun writer, who did a dreadful hatchet job on Michael Edwards when he wrote for the Mail, the Custis Brothers are on most weeks. The level of analysis is typically shallow, the discussion banal. Sky’s output is quite dreadful at the moment, bar the odd good ep of Monday Night Football, which I admittedly never watch because who has the time to watch football for four hours after the weekend has ended and they’re usually showing a dismal game. And even then, MNF takes about a week to produce. If they had any characters on their shows with any sense of style, empathy, flair for talking, they might do alright. They don’t.

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 4 years ago

        Some weeks they’ll have the broadsheet guys and gals on, like Jonathan Northcroft, Oliver Kay, Alyson Rudd, Sam Wallace, et al, and it’s usually worth a watch and a listen. They’ve had a few younger journalists on this season who have been okay at times.

        And I often enjoy Martin Samuel, even if at times he can annoy me. At least he has some kind of interesting perspective.

        Henry Winter is one of the other broadsheet writers I can’t stand to listen to, even if he’s nice about LFC. He just talks in platitudes.

        Shaun Custis is actually bearable, unlike his brother. But yes, too much representation from the rag at times.

  9. watyeonaboot 4 years ago

    Very interesting stats there, Paul. The stakes are so ridiculously high in the league that it almost feels like we’re almost giving the Bayern games the same importance as if they are FA Cup games against a good midtable Premier League side, rather than against a team who almost always gets to the Champions League semi final. Sandwiched against two season-defining away games to Man United and Everton, the level of focus required here to win all three is quite incredible. It will bring this Liverpool side – as it would any side – to their limits. Compare that to City’s breezes in the cups against Newport and Schalke, and meeting a decimated Chelsea side again, and this is surely going to be the three weeks we look back on and say this was where the league was won or lost. But you never know, one of those three cup fixtures might well be even more significant to our hopes of winning the league than those Palace or Leicester games over Christmas.

    Imagine: it’s almost 4pm, Sunday 24th February. Klopp walks across the touchline at Old Trafford, looks up to the away supporters singing ‘Allez Allez Allez’ in mock irony at Man Utd’s manager, and shakes his fist. They’ve just downed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s overconfident Man United 3-1 with a truly dominant performance, having conceded a ridiculous penalty in the 2nd minute. The TV cameras then pan to Wembley, with the fans in sky blue shirts glumly looking at their phones checking the scores from their home city. Chelsea have come to Wembley with a clear game plan to stifle and frustrate this City side, absolutely determined not to be humiliated again. After 120 bruising minutes where City have been taken to a 1-1 draw, it’s penalties. Club legend David Silva steps up for the final sudden death penalty…and the meek shot is beaten away by Kepa. All of a sudden, that 6-0 defeat, that procession to the title, seems so far away. The club marketing team are wondering how else they can manufacture artificial atmosphere and support at the ground and for the team bus, for the next half full capacity home game against West Ham United on the Wednesday night. City are beginning to make Spurs’ Wembley games look like sellouts.

    Fast forward to a few days later. City are held to a 1-1 draw. Pellegrini holds his hands up in apologies that his West Ham team didn’t lie down as expected. More blue seats than fans left now. BBC Salford cannot hide their disappointment in the live BBC text. At the same time, 40 miles west of the Etihad, Watford trudge off the Anfield pitch after a 4-0 thrashing. For the first time that season, that famous song starts up: “…now you’re gonna believe us, now you’re gonna believe us…”

  10. Kloppy D 4 years ago

    Great piece Paul, thank you.

    I too half wish/expect us to get knocked out by Bayern. Partly because of what our defence will look like next week and partly because I just want a clear run at the league. And I want us to play less games in March/April than City do.

    The reason City are favourites to win the league is evident from Sunday – they had Mahrez, Sane, Silva on the bench. Those 3 would walk into any other team in the league. Their replacements on the pitch were Sterling, Gundogan and B Silva. Its just not possible for us to compete against that if we play the same number of games from here on in.

    The reason I have hope for us in the league is that come March when there’s FA Cup/UCL crunch games and EPL games thick and fast, having more time between games will be what might make up for our lack of squad depth compared to City.

    The one fly in the ointment here is that its Bayern – and Kloppo will not want to lose this game. I chatted to a big Bayern fan who now lives in London and follows LFC in the UK (mainly cos of Kloppo). He told me there was no way LFC lose this game….(dammit!!)

    Also, you can’t coach a team to not win a game. You can’t tell the front 3 that they’re not playing in this game. Allison was explicit that he joined LFC over Chelsea because it is his “dream” to win the UCL. ALl top tier players want to play in these sorts of games and will give their all.

    Its a toughie.

    PS – AM I right in thinking Guardiola’s teams tend to fade away towards the end of the season? Sure it happened at Bayern….maybe they’re designed to peak around now physically. would explain their current hammering of opponents to some extent.

  11. Garyjos 4 years ago

    *first time poster*….The above article is superb. Referencing the point about City winning every game and why we should expect them to drop points is looking at some points per games comparisons from Jan 2018 onwards. Both teams are on par and I remember us dropping A LOT of points in those final few months of last season. Looking at the ppg came about having had an argument with a work colleague (as some of you will have had) and insisting that although he thought “we had our chance and blew it” I pointed out that since a certain Dutchman joined and subsequent summer signing that there’s been hardly anything between both teams….ie our upward curve started back in late Dec 2017/early Jan 2018.
    PPG in the whole of 2018…..LFC 2.38, MCFC 2.38
    PPG over first 10 games of the season…..LFC 2.60, MCFC 2.60.
    PPG over the past 10 games….LFC 2.30, MCFC 2.10.

    (what crisis?!)….

    Another interesting factor is MCFC’s away PPG is relatively low (I think on the “away” league table they’re about 5th or 6th) and they have 1 more away game than us.

    Looking at this, combined with everything that Paul has shown above regarding the cup competitions just adds to my conclusion that….

    ……it’s happening.

    • Chris Rowland 4 years ago

      Welcome Garyjos!

    • Author

      PPG in the whole of 2018…..LFC 2.38, MCFC 2.38

      PPG over first 10 games of the season…..LFC 2.60, MCFC 2.60.

      PPG over the past 10 games….LFC 2.30, MCFC 2.10.

      Yeah, but they are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much better than us, right?! 😉

  12. Markus 4 years ago

    Great article as always Paul. I am looking forward to really reading it after work. Pedant alert though: I believe that City have only 11 games left to play, not 12.

  13. Jeff 4 years ago

    I remember sitting in a bone head physics course that I had to take as a freshman at the University of Chicago the lecturer was a man named Chandrasekhar who later in his career won the Nobel Prize in Physics and sometime in his first lecture he said something that has stuck with me for darn near 60 years. The simple answer is almost always the best answer. Why can Liverpool win the Premier League. There are 12 matches to go and if Liverpool keep piling up the points at the rate they have this season and if Man City keep piling up the points at the rate they have all season, Liverpool will win the Premier League. To me a sample of 26 matches is more than enough to draw a reasonable inference.

    I could go into all sorts of reasons why 26 matches is a more than credible sample to draw a conclusion from but I have no desire to subject anyone here to such a discussion. In addition, I am certain that if you want such a discussion that there are some here who would do a far better job with it than I could.

  14. Author

    Continuing my research on this for the book, and writing it all up – but a quick précis on what I’m finding:

    Arsenal’s invincibles, 2003/04. In terrific form in all comps until the CL quarterfinals. Then won only 2 of 10 games in all comps. That season, a bit like the 2007/08 one covered in the article, they saw a 16% drop in PL results after cup games compared to PL results after another PL game.

    Chelsea’s 2004/05 team, that got 95 points, won the League Cup and got knocked out by us in the CL semis – worst form of the season across all comps was April-May, with just 2 wins from 7 games.

    I’m going through other clubs, but these are two of the standout teams from the PL era, and arguably, two of the teams closest to Man City in terms of quality and winning things.

    While quite a few of these defeats for both clubs were in the CL, their league form was definitely affected. For example, Chelsea drew 1-1 with Birmingham at home 3 days after they played Bayern Munich. They then drew at home to Arsenal just after the 2nd leg against Bayern. Even if Arsenal were a very good side then, that’s still 1 point from 2 home games following CL quarterfinals.

  15. Author

    Holy Moses! Digging deeper into Man City’s longest cup campaign to date, from just three years ago. Here’s what I’ve written for the book:

    Man City 2015/16

    After 20 league games, as of early January 2016, Man City had won 12, drawn three and lost five, and were just three points off Arsenal, who were top. So, a 60% win rate for the 2012 and 2014 champions, and in with a shout of the title.

    But then came two League Cup semi-finals (against Everton) and the final against Liverpool. And then also came Dynamo Kyiv in the last 16 of the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain in the quarters, and Real Madrid in the semis. The league results? Seven wins from the remaining 18 games, at a 39% win rate; mid-table form. They finished 4th, 15 points off Leicester City, who barely played a cup match that season.

  16. i.wilson 4 years ago

    For me the key to remember is that the biggest goal of the nouveau riche is always the shiniest bauble. Win the CL and you actually are seen as the best in Europe/World.

    Win the LC – So what
    Win the FA – Wooo
    Win the Prem – It means a lot to the English fans but kinda expected with the cost and quality of the best team/squad arguably in Europe(Despite their defensive and leadership shortages).

    But win the CL and everyone looks past the spend and exhaults the team as the owners, Manager and players all expect/demand.

    For me it is this that makes the 6 CL games so dangerous for City – especially when combined with the belief that the Prem and domestic cups are already theirs for the taking.

    All we need to do is win the games until the next round of the CL is started and I believe we will watch City crumble as Fernandinho and Aguero join Kompany out injured.

    When that happens who do they have to grab the team by the scruff of the neck.

    We have VVD, Milner, Wij etc.
    Utd have a newly inspired Pogba.
    City without their aging injury prone old guard no-one – This is when the stress projected from Pep takes over the team. Like it did in the CL against us last season.

  17. Stevenson1988 4 years ago

    I think we need to be very wary of Spurs. So far they’ve handled the loss of Kane, who will be back soon and who, of course, has also now had a rest. I expect them to go out to Dortmund and then they only have the PL to worry about with games against both City and ourselves. If we are both still in the CL it is perfectly possible that they could sneak through on the blind side. If we’ve had a bit more luck this season than last, then so have Spurs and they may soon start thinking this could be their year. They keep being written off and yet they keep winning games they have no right to – most recently against Leicester. They totally bossed the recent game against Utd that they somehow lost, stick another 3 points on their total and they really would be in the mix. They are a very real threat and need to make sure we don’t take our eyes of them.

    • Author

      Spurs have by far and away the toughest remaining fixtures. They’ve hardly played any of the top teams and when they have they’ve often lost. You can’t write them off, but they’ve lost 6 games this season for a reason.

      • Lubo 4 years ago

        Right, Spurs still have to play at City, at Liverpool and at Chelsea. They also have the best away record in the PL. *shrug*

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 4 years ago

        Spurs and City still have all those World Cup players. Kane and de Bruyne may be refreshed, but a lot of the others could be knackered by April.

        I think that’s an extra factor in what might undermine City if they go for all four trophies. I haven’t looked into post-World Cup seasons, but you’d think that, with City having had an intense time with no real time off since the summer of 2017, it may come back to bite them. Equally they have a big squad and may get around it.

    • snowy1nl 4 years ago

      I agree with Stevenson here, also the fact that they have to play us even if it is at Anfield could be a blessing for them as it gives them a “6-pointer” opportunity. Whilst LFC and City have to hope one or the other drops points elsewhere, Spurs still have it in their own hands to hurt us direct.

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 4 years ago

        But they are also 5 points adrift and quite far behind on GD. You can’t write them off, but they play City towards the end of the season, too.

    • Denis 4 years ago

      To balance it out, Kane also has a record of returning too soon from injuries, and therefore playing hurt, leading to sub-optimal performances, and sometimes to recurrences / other injuries.  Just because he makes it back, may not mean he should be back, and may cause him and Spurs to drop occasional points unexpectedly.

  18. Author

    Man City 2017/18

    City dropped points (or failed to win cup games) in just four of their first 33 games that season in all competitions, winning a staggering 88% of their matches.

    In their remaining 24 games in all competitions they dropped points in seven, winning 71%; still a very impressive figure, but significantly down on their form up until they first visited Anfield in January.

    They lost just one of the first 33 games (a dead rubber against Shakhtar Donetsk), but lost five of the final run of 24 games that started with a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool.

  19. Lubo 4 years ago

    Looked at the 538 projection site, and Liverpool are at 50%, Man City at 49%, and Spurs at 1% to win the title. So, as Paul says, clear as mud. And they have both teams finishing on 92 points.

    Looking at their projections for the remaining 12 PL games, they have us as favorites in all of them, not surprisingly. Here are the %s that Liverpool *win* (I have added the Bayern games too):

    CL v BAY, 47%

    @MUN, 52%

    v WAT, 80%

    @EVE, 62%

    v BUR, 85%

    CL @BAY, 28%

    @FUL, 73%

    v TOT, 59%

    @SOU, 66%

    CL QF 1

    v CHE, 60%

    CL QF 2

    @CAR, 72%

    v HUD, 89%

    CL SF1

    @NEW, 66%

    CL SF2

    v WOL, @78%

    Spurs and Chelsea at home will be tough, as will United and Everton away (they always are). We will know a lot more by the time we have played Bayern away; by that time, we’ll have also played United, Watford, Everton and Burnley. Win all those 4 games and I’ll feel better about playing another round of CL games.

    The nice thing about the run of games coming up is that the team only has to travel once, and that’s a quick trip to Manchester, until they have to go to München. So hopefully that helps. But after that they have two fairly long trips to relegation threatened teams, plus a home game against Spurs, before the CL QF. That’s where it will get really hairy.

    Having Chelsea sandwiches between the potential CL QF games is never ideal, but if they eliminate Malmö, they will have two Europa League fixtures (vs a tougher team) sandwiching their game at Anfield. And who knows what state of affairs and mind they will be by then. And a trip to another tough Rafa team, likely fighting to stay up, between the potential CL SF games, will not be easy.

    • MikeB 4 years ago

      Well, that looks encouraging- until you consider that according to this, the chances of our winning the next four ‘easy’ ones – Watford, Burnley, Fulham and Soton – are less than one in three. Of course, many will be devastated, and slinging blame around, if we don’t win all four…

      • Lubo 4 years ago

        Like the saying goes, Mike, you take them one game at a time. A win at United would be huge. Incidentally, we have won only twice in the last 14 trips to United, in 08/09 and in 13/14. Both times we finished second in the league. So this season I hope we win *and* finally parlay that into a PL title

  20. sheriff 4 years ago

    Top piece, Paul, erudite and assiduous writing. I’ve got to admit, my head hurts now after ingesting it all. (don’t know how your must feel after writing it!!)

    So, for thicko’s like myself, what is the message?!!

    As others have said, I just want to batter everyone in front of us (or as one sharp kopite behind me said at the start of the game on Saturday ‘let’s win these’)

  21. Stevenson1988 4 years ago

    On 22 February 1986 we lost 2-0 at Everton which seemed to hand the initiative in that season’s race for the league to our toffee eating friends. We then went on a run of 11 wins and 1 draw in our last 12 games to win the league (and FA Cup double) by 2 points. I think this season, whichever team can put together a string of wins over the next few games will win the PL. Having read Paul’s article it’s clear that a deep run in the CL is likely to hurt us, but I still feel a sense of conflict over bowing out of the CL – and I suspect Klopp certainly won’t want to do so against Bayern, irrespective of how that affects us in the PL. We have a week coming up that is similar in some ways to City’s last week: away at Utd, home to Watford and away at Everton. If we can come through those unscathed we are looking pretty good.  We have 5 days to recover from the first leg before we go to OT and we have Fulham away after the 2nd leg, which should hopefully be a game that we can cope with.

    • Chris Rowland 4 years ago

      Much has been made of Utd’s CL game being a week before ours so they get extra prep time for the match at OT. But they will face 2 demanding matches, PSG tonight and at Chelsea in the FA Cup, before we play again. Besides, we have 5 days between Bayern and OT, and only 30 miles to travel!

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 4 years ago

        I think being at home to Bayern and then having 5 days helps us a lot more than if it was away first, and if it was 3 or 4 days. Five seems to be the magic number to be fresh again, although it does leave less prep time than a full week.

      • Lubo 4 years ago

        And United’s game at Chelsea is on Monday night, while ours is at home on Tuesday night. So it should not put us at a disadvantage ahead of the PL game.

  22. Author

    I’m finding lots more examples of teams that did really well until the spring, before collapsing. This includes Chelsea 2005/06, who won 20 of their first 22 league games.

    The same could apply to us, of course. But they went from a 91% PL win rate to a 65% win rate until the title was sealed (after which they had a 0% win rate!). They had the title almost wrapped up, but still saw a string of bad results.

    Whenever I look at these seasons I keep seeing a lot more dropped points in the final third or the second half of the season. This can of course also be a warning to us, as with the Arsenal 2007/08 example in the piece.

    Every example I look at seems to show some bad league results around the time of the CL quarters or semis, or both. The game directly in-between the two legs of the quarters or the semi seems to be a red zone – a high probability of dropped points, at least on the seasons I’ve studied so far.

    • Lubo 4 years ago

      That makes sense, Paul, remember us fielding a weak team at Everton (0-0 draw) between the two games vs Man City (which were 6 days apart!). And I we drew against Stoke (0-0 again) at home between the two Napoli games… after which we lost at Chelsea because the team was completely spent in Rome.

      Per my post above, the games that are between the QF and SF games are Chelsea at home and Newcastle away. Chelsea will hopefully have Europa League games to play before and after facing us at Anfield, but I really hate to think about us going to a desperate Newcastle team fighting to stay up.

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 4 years ago

        And one of City’s two league defeats came against Man United in between their two quarters with us. They lost three games in six days!

      • Stevenson1988 4 years ago

        Newcastle hammered Spurs 5-1 in 2016 having already been relegated so it might not make much difference whether they’re fighting for their lives or not. That is a real banana skin of a fixture, as is Wolves as the last game at home. On paper our run in looks pretty straightforward, but nothing ever is at that stage of the season unless it’s already wrapped up. I seem to recall a very nervy 0-0 at home to West Ham one year to clinch the league.
        Edit, I’ve found that game, May 1977. How good was that LFC team yet the atmosphere around Anfield was very tense and we won the league by just one point from guess who? City!

  23. Stevenson1988 4 years ago

    So what do we do if we beat Bayern and draw the winners of the Porto v Roma tie which is probably the weakest pairing of the last 16? At that point you have to say we would have as good a chance as anyone of winning the CL, so I suspect we then have no option other than to fight flat out on 2 fronts. At the moment, I suspect Klopp may tell them to just go out and enjoy themselves against Bayern, with little to lose in some ways, then see where that takes us.

    • Author

      I’m just giving some probabilities. My hunch is that going hard for both would mean falling short in both, but that’s just my hunch. Equally you could prioritise one and then lose a couple of games, and be in a pickle. But overall, to try and win both is likely to mean you can win neither – at least, given how close City are to us. If we were 10 points clear, as you normally would be with 65 points, you could afford to lost a couple of league games when trying to win the CL.

      • Stevenson1988 4 years ago

        Paul, I agree, but I fear that we may just get sucked into it if the home leg in particular goes well against Bayern. Can you really see Klopp throwing a tie against Bayern, especially if we win well first up? Once we were in the CL quarter finals, I don’t think we would have any choice other than to go for it – with all the attendant risks that would bring. That’s why I suspect he might just tell the players to just go out and have fun in the CL and just see what happens, free from the PL pressures.

      • James 4 years ago

        One  factor constantly occupying my mind (and brought back to it today with the news of Dejan’s woes) is the impact of injury. Although our squad is deeper this year I believe we still rely on a fairly small nucleus of key players to get this done.

        Next season I think it will have improved.

        Adding injury worry to the workload issues I’m reluctantly beginning to see the logic behind a CL exit, tough though that is to accept.

  24. Author

    Chelsea 2009/10.

    Won first 6 PL games, then the CL kicked in and they finally dropped some points.

    Won five PL games in a row, then lost one and drew three in December, two of them over the busy festive period.

    Then win 4 PL games in a row, including putting seven past Sunderland.

    Had a mixed February, but then lost both games to Inter in the Round of 16, and dropped points in both league games that followed.

    But once out of the CL they never dropped another league point, winning the final ten and scoring an insane number of goals: 0–5, 7–1, 1–2, 0–3, 1–0, 2–1, 7–0, 0–2, 8–0 and 1–0.

  25. Lubo 4 years ago

    Our results last season, starting with the PL game before our first CL QF game

    W @ CRY, 2-1 (second half comeback)

    W vs MCI, 3-0 (CL)

    D @ EVE, 0-0

    W @ MCI, 2-1 (CL)

    W v BOU, 3-0

    D @ WBA, 2-2

    W v RMA, 5-2 (CL)

    D vs STK, 0-0

    L @ RMA, 2-4

    L @ CHE, 0-1

    W v BHA, 4-0

    The league form struggled badly, but we had enough cushion over Chelsea (and they drew with Huddersfield after they beat us) so it did not matter in the race for 4th. But it will be different if we were fighting for a title with little margin for error. I am honestly at the opinion that if we lose to Bayern, say in away goals, and focus on the title, I might happily take it

    • Allen Baynes 4 years ago

      Lubo, you have to remember that last season as we went closer to the end, so our injury list grew massively.

      I think it might be good to have an extended run in the CL, it will both take minds off the PL and raise self esteem/motivation, keep the squad involved in game time and we know that we have conserved energy thus far and we have a bigger and better squad with maybe Ox coming back as well.

      Let’s give it a go

      • Author
        Paul Tomkins 4 years ago

        I think it might be good to have an extended run in the CL, it will both take minds off the PL and raise self esteem/motivation

        I think you’re falling into the momentum trap!

        I have no problem with people wanting us to go as far in the CL as possible, but my educated guess is that it will cost us league points. (But as it hasn’t happened yet, it’s just a guess – based on past events.)

  26. robfarrell 4 years ago

    I don’t see Klopp rotating too much unless we make the next round of the champs lge.  We play Bayern on the Tuesday, Utd on the Sunday so plenty of recovery time, then Watford on the Weds and Everton on the Sunday.  So probably a couple of changes for the Watford game but then a full week off again after Everton followed by Bayern again. Then the calendar can get a bit tricky with games against Chelsea and Spurs if we are still in the Champs lge.

    I also don’t think there is much to choose between our fixture list and City’s I would even argue that ours are trickier with trips to relegation threatened Cardiff (bruising), Southampton (high energy) and Newcastle (hope they are safe so Rafa can do us a favour if needed).

    • Author

      It’s the quarter-finals and semi-finals where the damage is most likely to be done. That’s when you play two CL games in either 6 days or 8 days, usually with a tough PL game in between. I’m not advocating giving up in the CL, just the potential increase in the damage we might sustain in the league.

  27. gagez79 4 years ago

    It is a difficult conundrum to be in as regards the season as it is now. Do Liverpool go for one competition or both? Also getting past Bayern would mean two games against another european heavyweight, while playing another high pressure game in between. My mode of thinking is let the cup games for Man City rack up. Despite them having an excellent squad, they still have a few undroppables. Ederson, Aguero & Fernandinho spring to mind

  28. Neil 4 years ago

    Amazing stats Paul.

    It’s so clear that a run into the latter stages of the CL has a big negative impact on PL results.

    If City stay in to the latter stages of the CL and so do we, would that not even things up?

    I know how important winning the PL is to us and having seen Paul’s stats I have to reluctantly conclude that I would prefer if Bayern knock us out  (though that won’t stop me shouting for us to win in the middle of the second leg).

    • Author

      To finish above City I think we need some advantages over them. That could be them having more injuries, which looked likely earlier in the season but we’ve caught up! Them playing 25+ cup games while we play 10-15 would also be a bit of a leveller. Post-World Cup fatigue should also hinder them a bit more than it does us. But none of these things are guarantees.

      What I will say is that I can’t find an example of a team in a tough title battle winning all their final 14 PL games (11 remaining) whilst contesting domestic cup finals and a long CL campaign – and that’s what some of the pundits seem to think they will do.

      • NickM 4 years ago

        But then you won’t find many/any teams historically with the kind of strength in depth that City have. Their biggest issue would probably be if they lose Fernandinho as they did around Christmas time. This is not to say they will win all their games but if there is a team capable of it, they are the one of the most likely candidates to do it.

        All we can do is try to match them stride for stride and if we do that we will lift the PL trophy at the end of the season.

  29. Joe K 4 years ago

    Great article, thanks Paul.

    I think the current City side may be an outlier in that they could have up to 4-5 superstars on the bench for any given game. The resources at their disposal have not been seen before. Equally, they play a high-intensity elaborate style of football which as you have alluded to previously is prone to player burnout.

    The bench power will help come the run in I believe. Players like David or Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez and Jesus sitting on the bench and City still winning is somewhat disheartening for me at times!

    It’s going to be a looooonnngg few months for our collective nerves.



    • i.wilson 4 years ago

      I wouldn’t overly worry Joe,
      They may have a talented bench but no player capable of replacing Aguero – Jesus is a pale imitation.
      Or Fernandinho???
      They are injury prone – old and have been overplayed already this season.
      That as well as having what I’m sure must be the most expensively accumulated Defence in history(allowing for footballing inflation). But is also a really vulnerable defence that can and has been got at by teams like Leicester, Palace and Newcastle.
      The belief that they are able to go for the quadruple is hilarious for a team that have never won the CL. But it is great as expectation is pressure and pschology the self doubt creeps in as the body tires. Especially when you pick up stress from your worried manager.
      The Manager who knows Klopp is his better and cannot fully make himself believe that they are guaranteed to win the PL or the CL.

  30. harisk87 4 years ago

    Really nice article. Can someone point me to some good open Data sets where I can play with this data?

    • Author

      I’ve no idea where there’s open data. I’ve used Graeme’s databases, and also created my own – but mine are very bespoke to me and my way of working. I’m busily going through Wikipedia for info that I don’t have.

  31. Bobby McP 4 years ago

    One thing to perhaps be considered is that since playing Palace and up to the Munich game, we will have played 3 games in 30 days. I wonder if there are any previous seasons where a team has had such a ‘relaxed’ mid-season?

    My gut feel is that this rest period could better enable us to attack on two fronts more than we would be able to otherwise. Coupled with this season’s use of midfield running and rotation (to protect the legs of the front three), I think we’re better positioned than we imagine we are at the moment.

    • Author

      Good point!

      That said, my belief was that it gets harder to win PL games in between and straight after CL quarters and semis, and having gathered data on 30 PL teams to have reached the last 16 this pattern seems true. I’ll explain in more detail once I’ve completed the study.

  32. Ross 4 years ago

    Great read Paul.

    Had to do it in 2 goes!

    (That said, I think the Reds are also the English club to reach five European finals in that time?)

    Think United have also reached 5 finals. Won 2 champions leagues (puke), lost two champions league finals v Barca (yayy) then that ridicuously easy run to the Europa League a couple of years back.

    • Author

      I just realised that last night as I was going through all the Champions League campaigns of English teams to look at how it’s affected their results. I forgot they lost two finals – to make three finals in 4 seasons was pretty impressive. But glad they lost two of them!

      • Garyjos 4 years ago

        Paul have you also realised that this season the CL semi finals have been pushed back so the return leg actually falls in between our last two games?! 

        S 04-May Newcastle (Away)
        S 05-May  
        M 06-May  
        T 07-May UCL SEMI FINALS
        W 08-May  
        T 09-May  
        F 10-May  
        S 11-May  
        S 12-May Wolves (Home)


  33. Anthony Stanley 4 years ago

    Stunning research and just a stunning article Paul.

  34. tattva 4 years ago

    I’d hope we’d get Bayern out of the way and see how we are in the league. Lots of time to asses ourselves.

    Anti-LFC were all over the bottlers tag, failures and just spouting vitriol post CL final a fourth place. But we’d never had won the league, 2-4th did the job of qualifying considering Kiev.

    Now this season, we can win the league. Next season, as champions, it is likely to be harder. So perhaps CL comes in to play at the quarter final stage next year. Trophy desirability will ebb and flow. But if the FA Cup and the league cup is reality, I’ll be holding my head in my hands.

  35. Richard 4 years ago

    All this of course makes our home defeat to Chelsea in 2013/14 even harder to take, even 5 years on, as that came sandwiched between a CL semi vs Atletico – which they lost that, at least.

    They had Cech, Terry missing due to injury in the 1st leg and threw in Schwartzer, Ba (obviously..), and Kalas for his debut – who is now playing on loan at Bristol City.

    And Salah started for Chelsea that day, had no idea of that…!

  36. mobykidz 4 years ago

    Daniel penned an article last month in which he explained Liverpool’s long-shot armoury. It is worth a re-read as it might be an area we try to improve on a little.  No disrespect to Gini or Fabinho but neither is particularly strong outside the box.  Mane too.  Every time Salah is in a shooting position he is usually surrounded and (if my eyes serve me correctly) he prefers to run into the 18 yard box to make it more difficult for the defender.  Bobby too.

    This season, according to, Man City (10) and Tottenham (12) lead the teams for scoring outside the area. Liverpool (3) are a fair bit behind, even though they’ve had more shots outside the area (124) than Tottenham (110).  Obviously we’ve scored more goals than Spurs but having a significant threat outside the area can force the opposition to shift their shape creating spaces elsewhere.

    Shaqiri and Origi have a shot in them.  But neither will start games. However I think we might see a little more action outside the box if Klopp instructs Kieta to shoot so he mixes up the deft pass with an attempt at goal – akin to Countinho.  If we can narrow the goals scored outside the box it could be a boost not only to our GD but provide a fraction more space for our attacking players and give Kieta (who has a thunderbolt of a shot – watch this video ) another key role to play. I think its time to squeeze our No 8’s talents as a real goal threat in a “weak” area.

    Remember with Ox coming back we’d then have two players who can fulfil that role – only if the boss sees the value in doing that. Personally speaking I’d love to see a couple of thunderbolts from outside the box to raise my blood pressure.  But who cares if we keep winning 🙂

    Loved the article.

  37. CONOR 4 years ago

    Love the article Paul as always. Just thought I’d through my 2p’s worth too.

    1. I firmly believe that Man City want the CL first, the league next followed by the FA Cup and finally the ELC. Meaning they won’t want to play too many stars in the league when tricky CL games are being played. I think you will see them dro off a bit against the very type of teams they’ve come a cropper to.

    2 we are in good shape except at the back. I think once the home CL game is over Klopp will shift the emphasis on to the league just as they shift to the CL. this will. Give us a kind of “hidden” run under their radar. I really think Klopp will go all guns blazing for one CL game and then switch. If we put the Germans to bed early then we can park the bus in the second leg and preserve energy.

    3. Seeing Ox back will be great but don’t expect anything from him. He is not going to be anything but an impact sub for how ever much of the season he gets. Shame but it takes a month to get up to speed and that’s not after a career risking injury.

    • 4. Spurs win last night was a blessing as was the Man Utd loss. It means Spurs will get distracted by the CL and it WILL effect thir run in. Manchester United loss will reset the reality button at a crucial time when the prospect of CL action was dangled in front of them. I see a potential tortoise shell approach fir the next few weeks especially as we’re on our way to their gaff with a clear focused and determined side.

    5. I think once we get out from under the Manchester United game we will be firing on all cylinders. I’ve not thought we’ve been as impressive this season as last year. Mayse a bit if Rafa’s blanket but we have been almost German. So so solid and generally flattening the opposition. Man City have been all goals and gusset… Showy but not as amazing as others think.  I really believe they are pushing themselves beyond their limits because of our steamroller approach. It’s almost like Spain vs Germany and the odds always favour the Germans.

    6. Pep is being pulled in two. His bosses want the CL but knows he could lose the league because of that. I’ve never seen him like this. He looks like he’s aged a bit this year.

    In summary I think we’ll take the league and he’ll lose the CL FINAL.

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