It’s something every Manchester United and Everton fan on the planet wants to run from, but Liverpool have put themselves in quite a good position to win the Premier League this season. The Reds sit on top of the tree after 20 games and have done so without ever looking like Champions. Some would say that’s a sign that they will eventually fall away, and while that may be true, could they perhaps still have another gear to hit?
Liverpool’s Underlying Numbers:
Some fans have suggested that Liverpool’s position at the top of the table is not a sign of the level the team is actually at. Many feel the table is lying, and that Liverpool don’t have the stamina in the tank to go all the way and lift the title in May. While that may be true, their numbers up until this point suggest they have everything to become the eventual champions.
Defence wins you titles, and Liverpool’s defence has been superb so far this season. Virgil Van Dijk has been back to his best, and both Jarrell Quansah and Ibrahima Konate alongside him at any given time have been incredible. Trent Alexander-Arnold has improved his form defensively from last season, and they have hardly missed the absence of Andrew Robertson at left-back.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have conceded the least amount of goals (18) and have the joint most clean sheets in the entire division (7). Per game, it’s another impressive statistic, with the boys from Anfield conceding the least amount out of any other side this season (0.9). We can’t give them the undisputed title as the single best defence in the league due to the fact they haven’t conceded the least amount of xG, but Jurgen Klopp can’t have asked for any more from his back four, plus the midfield in front of them so far during the season.
A lot has been made of Darwin Nunez missing chances this season, and it is reflected statistically with Liverpool missing the most big chances this season (41). Despite that, they have only underperformed their xG in front of goal by 1.9. They are also averaging the second most goals per game (2.2), just behind Manchester City.
One criticism the manager could have of his front three is the big chances that are being missed. In some games, them chances being missed can cost you valuable points, and if Manchester City or Arsenal hit a stretch of form in the second half of the season it could see the Red Men from Merseyside being left behind.
City has been especially clinical in front of goal this season, scoring 45 goals from an xG of just 37.4, and an overperformance of 7.6. If Liverpool had of hit those numbers this season, we wouldn’t be having conversations about any title race, as the league would already be wrapped up in December.
Alexis Mac Allister’s rescinded red card aside, Liverpool’s discipline this season has cost them at times. The one defeat they have is due to their discipline, with two red cards in the same game resulting in a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. It leaves them with the third most red cards in the division, and a repeat of that in the second half of the season could again result in some valuable points dropped.
The Europa League:
The Europa League has yet to tarnish Liverpool’s push for the league just yet, but the Thursday and Sunday games eventually start to take their toll on a side as the season goes on. Being in all four competitions available is also a bit of a burden when it comes to the league race, and it could end up being the downfall if they do not use their squad properly in the coming weeks.
A positive is that the Europa League doesn’t come back until late February, and they will hope they are further along into the title race at that stage to fully decide on what becomes a priority and what doesn’t.
Potential January Reinforcements?
Where Liverpool is a bit short is evidently in the middle of the park, specifically at the six position. Endo has been good in recent games, but a world-class signing in that position could propel Liverpool towards the Premier League title with a bit more confidence. There was interest in Cheick Doucoure in the summer, but he is sidelined until next season after doing his ACL.
Feyenoord midfielder Mats Wieffer has been linked to a move to Anfield in recent months, and his physicality and profile on the ball could be the key ingredient in getting Liverpool over the line for the remainder of the season. Joao Palhinha has also been linked to the club, but Fulham is increasingly confident of keeping hold of the midfielder beyond this window.
In regards to defensive reinforcements, Wolfsburg defender Maxence Lacroix and Sporting CP’s Goncalo Inacio have both been linked heavily. Inacio would allow Trent Alexander-Arnold to slot into midfield on a more regular basis, which could negate the need to sign a six. FSG received investment last year, but there are currently no suggestions that Liverpool is ready to spend big in this window.
What Does OPTA Think?
Despite being top in January, OPTA’s supercomputer cannot look past Manchester City for the Premier League title. City has a 55.1% chance of winning the league, with Liverpool only having a 27.3% chance in comparison. This changed drastically over the Christmas period, with Arsenal in particular putting a major dent in their title hopes with a run of three games without a win, which included back-to-back defeats against Fulham and West Ham.
As a Manchester United fan, it pains me to admit I believe Liverpool will win the title this year, barring any significant injuries to their key players. If City don’t get purring in the second half of the season, Jurgen Klopp’s men will have enough to push to the finish. City have needed to be at their very very best to stop Liverpool in recent years, and if they are anything below that they have no chance of stopping them winning their 20th league title and matching the English record.
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