By Mark Chrystal
Before the season began I published an article on this site that suggested that Liverpool would be under pressure by October, due to the deficiencies and changes in their squad. As a life long red, it was a painful prediction to make and even more so to see come true now. The reality is that Liverpool have not picked up enough points from their first 6 matches for us to expect that they can now achieve Champions League qualification. I will explain this point, but please note that my desire is not to fuel negativity about the team. My objective is to inform Liverpool supporters about the likelihood of qualification from this starting point, for us all to be realistic about the prospects, and to back the team to the hilt anyway.
The Remaining Points Per Match Issue
Only once since 95/96, when the 38-match format began, have Liverpool qualified for the Champions League when they had 7 points at this point in the season. The year was 05/06 and they had 7 points from 6 matches, which comprised W1, D4, L1. Following this start, with a team that boasted Gerrard, Alonso, Hyppia, Agger, Reina, Cisse and Garcia all in their prime performance years, Liverpool went on to win 24, draw 3, and lose 5 of their remaining 32 matches. As a reminder, this was the season that was memorably capped by the “Gerrard-Final” vs West Ham. In fact, Liverpool have delivered 7 points or more after 6 matches and failed to finish in the top 4 on 6 occasions, but only on this one occasion have they started so poorly and still qualified.
So, only once in 20 years has Liverpool gone from 7 points after six matches and still qualified. In the Premier League era they have never finished in the top 4 with less points after six matches. Liverpool have qualified for the Champions League 13 times in the last 20 years, 12 of which came from top 4 finishes. Over the last 5 years it has taken an average of 72 points to qualify. This means that Liverpool would need to pick up 2.03 points/match for the balance of the season at a minimum; a performance pace that would require 20 wins, 5 draws and 6 loses. On the face of it, it doesn’t look so unreasonable right? Yet, a pace of 2.03 points per match has only been achieved once in the last 5 seasons, and that was last year. In 12/13 they achieved 1.60 points/match, and a rate of 1.75 from the last 32 matches. In 11/12 they achieved 1.37 points/match, and a rate of 1.31 points from the last 32 matches. In 10/11 the average pace was 1.53 and in 09/10 it was 1.66 points/match. In 08/09 they did achieve 2.25 points/match from the last 32 matches, but they began the season achieving 2.33 points/match. This is an important point where, aside from 05/06, Liverpool in the Premier League era have never achieved more than 2 points/match for the last 32 matches when they didn’t exceed that performance pace in the first 6 matches. When you consider that Liverpool are still yet to play 4 of the current top 7 on a home and away basis, having already lost 2 out of 3 to the remaining teams, the challenge to repeat 05/06 looks quite steep.
Even if they go on to perform like they did last season for the remaining 32 matches, it would give them a total of 77 points, which was only good enough for 5th place last season; albeit, that it would have qualified them in the prior 4 seasons. Yet, last season was characterized by having the two highest goal scorers in the league in the team, an achievement that looks very unlikely this season. Looking at the points per match achieved over the last 5 years, it is more likely that Liverpool can expect to finish in the range of 5th to 7th, unless a remarkable turn-around can be achieved.
The Squad and Tactical Consistency Issue
Compounding the problems associated with Liverpool’s ability to turn the season around is the current state of the squad and the tactics being employed. When any business organization undergoes significant change in personnel it takes considerable time to regain its cultural identity and operating efficiency. I would argue that this is also true, perhaps more so, for a football team. This is certainly the case when coupled with the loss of the world’s most creative talent. Consider that fully 50% of the players that played in the match against Everton were not in the squad last season, this includes 55% of the starting line-up and 60% of the defensive component of the team being new. This statistic is a really important one when you recognize that of the Premier League matches that Liverpool have won this season (2), the team’s starting line-up has only consisted of 3 new players on average. Whereas when Liverpool have dropped points (in 4 matches) the number of new players starting those matches averages close to 5.
Further exacerbating the ability of the new players to adapt into the team is Rodger’s desire to continually change the tactics and players. Given the need to get the new players to adapt to Liverpool’s system, and the need for the existing players to learn how to play with the new, there needs to be a strong level of consistency in all other regards. Consistent change in personnel and tactics does not allow a new team to develop the understanding required to perform at a peak level. While injuries to key players have certainly been a factor, it seems imperative that Rodger’s pick a more stable path. He must either stick with 11 to 13 players in a similar tactical pattern for a significant run of games, or he must go back to using players who understand the system from last season and keep the new players to just 3 of the starting 11. Without making these adjustments, I would argue that Liverpool have little chance of repeating the turn-around achieved in 05/06.
The Bottom Line
As a consequence of the above statistics relative to the current point tally and points dropped with new players, it looks to me that a top 4 finish in the Premier League is highly improbable. Winning the Champions League is possible, but also unlikely, and as such I am now predicting that Liverpool will not achieve qualification this season. This is a prediction I certainly hope does not come true, but I think it is important to assume that this has now become a transition year for the new team, and as fans I think we need to give them room to do so. However it is always worth putting a few quid on Liverpool, you never know, check out the sports betting guide by SportsbookNavigator.com.
Follow me on twitter: @mkjchrystal
Liverpool fans around the world again unite to help 1-year-old Kopite in his battle against leukaemia.
Little Bartus Waracki from Bielsk Podlaski, Poland was born on the 22nd July 2013 and he was healthy. However couple of weeks later on 9th September Bartus had to come back to the hospital. Doctors’ diagnosis was leukaemia.
Eight months in hospital and chemotherapy devastated Bartus’s health system. The boy’s lucky day came on 1st May 2014 when he finally came back home, but the fear is still with Waracki’s family.
– We have to wait around 5 years to be sure if Bartus have beaten the leukaemia – said Ewelina Waracka, mother of Bartus.
– Our brave boy has a small victory, but we still don’t know if he will be able to defeat leukaemia.
Bartus still needs help and LFC 2014 Fan of the Year Rado Chmiel and his friend Magdalena Spratek decided to help their fellow supporter by creating an English version of Facebook fanpage where they post all the updates about Bartus’s fight against leukaemia.
– Bartus still needs help with treatment and rehabilitation – says Rado.
– Transport to the hospital for regular checks, disinfection stuff costs lots of money and despite Bartus parents effort they are not able to cover all the costs of treatment.
– That’s why we created the Paypal account and English version of his Facebook page to aware the people and put all the recent updates about his health condition – added Magdalena.
– We are also in the middle of organising the charity music event in Liverpool where all the funds from the tickets and charity auctions of football memorabilia will be donated to Bartus and his family. All the details about the event will be on his Facebook page – added Rado.
For more information on Bartus story and how to donate
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Liverpools-little-fighter-Bartus/395319900616820?fref=ts
A last gasp rasping effort from Jim Jagielka robbed Liverpool of a thoroughly deserved three points in a hotly contested Merseyside derby yesterday as the game finished all square with a goal a-piece.
Against the advice from LFC File match preview, Brendan Rodgers opted for Martin Skrtel to partner Dejan Lovren in the centre of defence with Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno becoming customary in the right and left back positions respectively. Steven Gerrard was accompanied by his vice-captain Jordan Henderson in front of the back four. Lone striker Mario Balotelli was supported by Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and the so far ineffective Lazar Marković.
This time the real Liverpool team turned up to play and kept a high tempo for their visitors to contend with, moving the ball crisply and showing good movement. A definite improvement on previous showings it has to be said. The usual early, tasty derby day challenges came with Gareth Barry challenging Lallana robustly in the first minute to earn himself a yellow card, and Moreno craftily holding onto Romelu Lukaku as the Everton forward made a bustling run into the home area. Unpunished.
Marković spent most of the first half getting caught in possession, whilst Henderson made some good interceptions and runs from deep. Sterling and Lallana making good use of the space and kept the blue defence on the back foot. Lallana it has to be said was particularly bright. Balotelli went close with a free kick after being fouled by Barry who in all fairness, should have received a second yellow having escaped a handball shout in the Everton penalty area moments earlier. Tim Howard went well to parry away striker’s shot. From the resulting corner, Lallana forced another fine save from Howard from his close-range header.
The second half saw the introduction of Philippe Coutinho in place of the hopeless Marković on 60 minutes. Five minutes later, Liverpool were in front. Balotelli done well to dispossess the pantomime villain (Gareth Barry), and found Sterling on the edge of the visitors’ box. The return pass to the former Man City striker was unfairly intercepted by Leighton Baines to concede a free kick 25 yards from the Everton goal. Up stepped Gerrard to show the Italian international just how a free kick is converted, sending a dipping, curling effort to Howard’s left.The ball , despite Howard’s outstretched hand, hit the back of the net sending Gerrard, the team and 44,000 fans into raptures. 1-0 and Liverpool in the driving seat.
As with all things Liverpool this season, drama comes included, not to mention a huge drop of crunching disappointment. Having seemingly secured the three points and playing the game out, the unimaginable, up until now impossible occurred. With no huge threat to the Liverpool goal, the ball fell to Jagielka who, 25 yards from goal, unleashed a shot that on 364 days of the year would have ended up in the Mersey. However, this typically being the 365th day, it flew past a helpless Simon Mignolet and into the goal. 1-1. The visiting fans in heaven, as you’d expect from them. The hosts utterly deflated. Another win in hand, cast aside. This time, though in the cruelest of ways.
To be fair, Liverpool deserved to win this match. They showed real hunger from the first whistle to the last. Lallana and Balotelli were particularly impressive. In the latter we’re beginning to see a new Mario Balotelli. Miles better than the old one. This one works for the team as well as himself. This one chases apparent lost causes and refuses to quit having lost possession. This one knows what playing for Liverpool is all about. If he continues in this vain, he will be an undoubted success for the team. Lallana also, is showing why Rodgers shelled out – what amounts to more than a lifetime’s earnings for most people – on the 26 year-old.
A few more performances like this with the new Mario, Lallana and the return of Daniel Sturridge. The continued efforts of Henderson, Gerrard and the defence will see Liverpool’s season come alive. Hopefully, the early season lapses can be put behind them, but already, the side has it all to do. There’s a hell of a lot of football to be played between now and May. Yesterday we saw that anything can happen in that time. Get strapped in. Tight!
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen