As hard as it is to believe, we are already a quarter of the way through the 2011/12 season. Liverpool’s record after 9 games stands at P9,W4,D3,L2. We have come a long way since the same point last season (P9,W2,D3,L4) but there is still a long way to go before we can be talked about as genuine title contenders once again. Our fixtures year on year have been relatively similar, with games against Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United already out of the way along with a tricky and ultimately disappointing away game against another top 6 club (City last year, Spurs this year).
It is hard to look past the top 3 clubs being Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. The bookmakers certainly agree that this is the case, with Totesport offering 50/1 or higher on any team apart from those 3 winning the title. The realistic target is therefore 4th place.
If Liverpool maintain their current form (1.66 points per game) we will finish the season on 63 points. The 4th place team last season, Arsenal, amassed 68 points. It is clear, therefore, that our form needs to improve.
The fight for 4th place, according to the bookmakers, is between Tottenham and Liverpool. Both are 6/5 joint favourites to finish in a Champions League place. Tottenham’s start to the season suggests that these odds are wrong. They have amassed 16 points from 8 games (2 points per game) and if they maintain this form they will finish the season on 76 points, a full 13 points ahead of Liverpool. A significant gap.
Liverpool have been a lot more lively going forward, with an average of 15 shots per game compared to Tottenham’s 12. However, Tottenham have managed to score 15 goals from 8 games compared to Liverpool’s total of 12 from 9 games. Tottenham create less, but score more.
This points to Liverpool’s biggest issue: chance conversion. Liverpool only convert 8% of their shots into goals, compared to 18% for Manchester United and 15% for Tottenham. If the rest of the season plays out the way the first 9 games have, Tottenham will concede 14 more goals than Liverpool but finish the season with 13 more points.
The game against Stoke yesterday was a big step in the right direction. We only had 12 shots on goal, compared to 29 against Norwich, but we managed to convert 2 of them into goals, a 17% chance conversion ratio. If we manage to convert an average of 17% of our shots into goals between now and the end of the season, the 4th place spot is well within our reach. One factor in our favour is the amount of new faces we have in the squad. Suarez, Carroll, Enrique, Adam, Bellamy, Downing and Henderson need time to knit together with the rest of the first team, whilst Tottenham’s side is much more established. As the season progresses, our understanding and productivity can only improve.
If I was a betting man studying the form, my money would be going on Tottenham. As an unashamedly biased Liverpool fan, I am backing our team to clinch that 4th spot.
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