Liverpool have already gained eight points over rivals, as Jürgen Klopp’s side prove their credentials
It is incredibly difficult for a football team to perform at the top of their game for three consecutive seasons and Liverpool have discovered how difficult it is in 2020/21.
After registering 97 points in 2018/19 and winning the championship with 99 the following year, the Reds went on to experience a slump (which was heavily influenced by an absurd injury crisis) and finished with 69 points last season.
The previous two cases of a Premier League side scoring at least 90 points in successive seasons have ended in a similar, if not as dramatic, fashion. Chelsea followed two league titles under Jose Mourinho, won with 95 and 91 points respectively, with a season in which they “only” accumulated 83 points.
Likewise, Manchester City got 100 in 2017/18, then 98, then 81 as Liverpool won the title in a memorable way two years ago. If a third season setback could happen to the two most expensive teams in English football history, it could certainly happen to Liverpool, and it turned out.
This leaves Jürgen Klopp’s side with plenty of ground to catch up if they are to become realistic title challengers again, but the good news for Kopites is that their side have already made great strides.
The fact that they have improved markedly may not be immediately apparent. After four league games last season, the Reds had nine points, while this season they have 10.
But it’s more informative to watch how they fare compared to identical matches last season. While the circumstances may never be the same for matches in different campaigns – with fan feedback adding to regular changes such as manager and game staff changes – this method at least provides a better comparison in terms of difficulty of matches.
As three teams have been relegated, they are replaced by the three promoted teams, with the changes being applied based on their league results. This is why Liverpool’s season opener, which was against second division champions Norwich, has to be compared to the away game at Fulham, who lost thanks to their third place from the low.
The game at Craven Cottage ended in a 1-1 draw, so by winning 3-0 over eastern England, the Reds gained two points to 2020/21 straight away. Burnley and Chelsea both claimed victory at Anfield last season when Liverpool were in the middle of the longest home losing streak in club history, thus securing a win and a draw against these teams last month , Klopp’s team added four more points to their tally.
Which brings us to Elland Road, home of Leeds United. Liverpool’s previous visit, which was engulfed in European Super League controversy, saw them drop two points thanks to late leveler Diego Llorente. There were no such concerns last weekend, with a 3-0 triumph bringing the extra points tally already earned this season to eight, the most of any Premier League side.
Of course, the Reds won so many extra points in part because they had so many to play. There aren’t many teams that take two points out of a four-game streak and suddenly win 10 the next time those games come up. But they earned 80% of the extra points available, which is also the highest proportional improvement of any team in the division.
What makes their points even more encouraging is that they were earned rather than because the team exploited narrow margins. Liverpool’s goal difference for those four games is up 10 from last season, and their expected goal difference has also increased by 10.1.
Now let’s see how the Reds’ record compares to their likely title rivals.
Chelsea are three points and five goals clear of their corresponding matches which, considering they have lost two points at Anfield, is very good. Manchester City achieved identical results – one loss to Tottenham plus three wins – although their punches against Norwich and Arsenal increased their goal difference by seven.
Manchester United is an interesting case as they were the only Premier League side without any room for improvement. As it stands, their draw at Southampton means they are two points short of the same games they won last season, although their goal difference has at least held up thanks to gains made elsewhere.
Combine the point changes with the final tally from last season and you end up with this final order for this campaign: City top with 86 points, followed by Liverpool with 77, United with 72 and Chelsea with 70.
While this is certainly not a conclusion that Klopp would accept if offered now, and it is unrealistic to expect the rest of the results in 2021/22 to match last season, this scenario looks better. than table 2020/21 and offers hope for the future.
But for that to mean something, the Reds also need to win matches they won last season, which is the case for four of their next five matches. If they can also beat City at home, the only game in this next round that was lost last season, then the corresponding match-up ranking will certainly be worth another look.