Everybody was laughing at Liverpool before Christmas. But the winds of change have swept through Anfield when nobody was looking.
Six games into the season and Liverpool spluttered. Was it just the cobwebs being blown off and a new squad adapting to how each component played? Six games in Wins: 3 Draws: 1 Losses: 2. Verdict? Confusing. What was going on, this was a side that took the title race down to the wire and played arguably the most exciting football in the League last season.
The next six games were where the rot set in. Two wins, one draw and now three losses. Defeat to a team like Chelsea is hard to take but explainable. But Newcastle United and Crystal Palace? Rodgers men were better than this surely.
The Premier League rolls in to December, Liverpool are worryingly bad now. Abject in the Champions League, it’s bye bye to Europe for the Reds, surely? Sunday December 14th, Ground Zero for Liverpool’s season? They travel to Old Trafford, a match they dominated the season prior and lose three goals to nil. Rodgers fields no recognised striker in a damning assessment of his forwards.
But then it stops. And now Liverpool have not lost a Premier League game since that match. Unbeaten in eight games Rodgers and co. slowly creep up the table to within five points of fourth place with fourteen games to go. Have the Reds got all of that bad luck out of their system.
Liverpool are managed better than their form suggested and have players capable of performances better than that which they produced. What we are witnessing is simply known as ‘reversion to the mean’. Flip a coin a hundred times and you will likely get close to a 50/50 split between heads and tails. But that’s not to say you wont’ get 15 or 20 heads in a row. Over the 100 coin tosses the law of averages smooths out those periods where things go much better or worse than expected.
And that is what is happening with Liverpool, they performed for so long below their expected position and are merely returning to where a squad of that talent should be in a league.
Last season at this point they had eight more points and occupied fourth. But it is a more competitive league this year, last year’s 47 points after 24 games would have Liverpool in third this season. The fact that the points total is lower is not a huge concern, it’s a more competitive league this year it’s that simple.
They now top the league in terms of recent form, that’s form that top four teams show coming into the back-end of the season. Arsenal have historically been kings of a late-season top four push, Are Liverpool this year’s usurpers?
There next six games will reveal all. Burnley is perhaps the only game they can be truly confident in. The rest are all a test of their mettle, they aren’t likely to win them all, but they cannot afford to lose either.
The test starts tonight at home to Spurs, lose this and things don’t bode well. It’s the number one in-form team (Liverpool) against the number two (Spurs). Then that’s followed up by a trip to Southampton who are the third placed in-form team. There’s nothing easy about what Liverpool are about to embark on, but they are literally THE team to beat in the league. Liverpool dominated Spurs at WHL in August, since then Harry Kane has announced himself but Daniel Sturridge is also back.
Tonight’s match is a cracker, no doubt. Victory for either team won’t decide fourth spot outright, but it could keep Liverpool’s form running and running and running, all the way to fourth.