In the past five seasons, Liverpool have had mixed form in the last 10 games of the respective seasons, the stage Brendan Rodgers’ side are at now. From the 2008/09 season where Rafa Benitez ran a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Manchester United side close to the title, till Rodgers’ first campaign last year – 2012/13 – it seems to be that one season’s magnificent end of season run will be followed up by a mediocre final ten games. Having had a pretty good end to last season, Reds fans will be hoping this trend does not continue into this potentially great campaign.
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2008/09 – 9 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses
Benitez’s Liverpool side entered the last ten games of the season in third, having led the league during the New Year. They needed to have a flawless end to the season, and hope United slipped up at some point, in order to have any shot at the title. The fearsome offensive combo in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres ensured that, with comfortable home wins against Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, adding onto victories at Hull City, West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion. Further, Torres tormented Nemanja Vidic in that 4-1 win at Old Trafford, where even Anfield flop Andrea Dossena got in on the act with a cheeky lob over Edwin van der Sar. However, it was that only draw in the last 10 games costed Benitez, a crazy 4-4 draw against Arsenal at Anfield, which saw Emirates flop Andrei Arshavin bag four and effectively ended Liverpool’s hope of that elusive 19th championship title.
2009/10 – 4 wins, 3 losses, 3 draws
Benitez could not follow up the previous campaign with another sustained title charge. And as the season started drifting away, the Reds seemed to want the season to end early. They only saw victories against bottom-half teams, while suffering abysmal draws at Birmingham City and Hull, as well as at home against Fulham. Further losses at Manchester United and Wigan, and a home defeat to Chelsea would eventually see Benitez fired at the end of campaign and mark the start of Liverpool’s absence from the Champions League.
2010/11 – 6 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw
After coming in to save Liverpool from the predicament the current England manager Roy Hodgson put them in, club legend Kenny Dalglish oversaw a blistering end of season form that would see him be rewarded a permanent contract before the start of the next campaign. New signing Andy Carroll would enjoy his best game at the club against Manchester City, where he bagged two in a 3-0 victory, while fellow January buy Luis Suarez inspired the Reds to a famous 3-1 win against United, where Dirk Kuyt bagged a hat-trick. However great these victories were, the Reds’ habits against ‘lesser’ teams still held as they lost to West Brom, Villa and Spurs.
2011/12 – 3 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses
Probably the worst end to the season in recent memory, what made this all the worse was that it followed a League Cup victory, which should have provided the momentum for a push for Champions League qualification. Instead, Liverpool suffered from the curse of the League Cup as they first suffered a defeat at relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers, after going 2-0 up, an insipid defeat at home against Wigan Athletic, and a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle where Pepe Reina saw red for a Alan Pardew-esque head-butt. It was a case of the Reds either focusing on the FA Cup final, which they lost, or just simply gave up. Unfortunately, this led to Dalglish’s sacking. Ironically, the last game of the season was a defeat at, yes you guessed it, Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea City side.
2012/13 – 5 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss
Though most of the draws should have been wins, it was still a terrific end to the season under the new boss, and especially with Suarez out for the last 4 games due to his bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Still, Liverpool managed to cope with the combined efforts of January buys Daniel Sturridge and Philipp Coutinho, with 3 wins in that last four games. Still, there were those two unlucky goalless draws at Reading and against West Ham at Anfield, the fortunate 2-2 draw against Chelsea, and that abysmal 3-1 reverse at Southampton. Fortunately, this form did carry over into the next season.
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Taking the average of the last five season’s final 10 games, Liverpool will gather at least five wins in the next two months, and one should be able to pick up which five league games the Reds should win; there will also be close to three defeats and two draws. However, with the big teams coming to Anfield this time, the Reds should be able to go against statistics and convert some of those five negative results into positive wins.
Still, the main issue is how Liverpool deal with so-called ‘lesser’ teams away from home, like they did against Southampton last weekend. With Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho finally back from injury and playing their part in the reserves’ win last night, Liverpool should have enough depth in their squad to secure the wins they should, while pushing the other three teams hard in the last race of this long, drawn-out marathon. Yet, the focus should still be the same: Champions League qualification.