In the nine games Liverpool has played since the start of December, the Champions League contenders and darkhorse title challengers have gone 4-3-2. That’s 15 points from a potential 27, or 1.66 points per match. Over a full season, that would be 63 points which is firmly in the “maybe Europa League but definitely not Champions League” places. Liverpool Twitter has noticed and is handling it about as you would expect them to.
But here’s the tricky thing: Liverpool isn’t that different from anyone else. If we talk about a team’s ceiling (the best they can possibly be) and their floor (the worst they can possibly be) then this year’s Premier League is unique in that all six teams have pretty enormous gaps between their ceiling and floor.
- Chelsea was posting results very like Liverpool’s December and January before Antonio Conte’s move to 3-4-3.
- Arsenal has had a number of fairly preposterous late wins in tight games that could have gone either way.
- We have looked very very fifth-place for a good chunk of the season until Pochettino also discovered the 3-4-3.
- Liverpool is an attacking juggernaut but is derpy as hell defensively despite having good underlying numbers. (This tends to happen when your answer to “what can we change defensively to improve results?” is “let’s try this dude named Ragnar.”)
- City’s best form has come when they basically defend by hoping they never have to defend.
- United has at times looked like a vintage brutal Mourinho team and at other times looked more like Mourinho’s final Chelsea team. Their hilariously bad luck has also been a major factor in their results.
Basically, there is not a single team in the top flight this year like the vintage Fergie teams at United, Mourinho’s best Chelsea teams, or even Arsenal at Wenger’s peak. Chelsea are leading the title challenge because of their insane winning streak, but even that win streak included some fortunate results.
What all this means is that every one of the big six is likely to go through some bad patches this year. Chelsea and Arsenal haven’t had prolonged slumps yet and, not coincidentally are in the top two places in the table. Spurs have had longer slumps, but still typically drew in those games due to our defensive quality. We are in third. Liverpool and City have had prolonged slumps and are bad defensively... fourth and fifth. Then United has just been ridiculously unlucky and is in sixth.
At this point, Chelsea seems pretty certain to make the top four and a fairly significant favorite in the title challenge. Past that, it’s hard to be confident about anyone. There are six points separating second from sixth in the table and most of the teams in the top six still are yet to play each other in the second half of the league campaign. A lot can change in that time. So, Liverpool fans: Chill. And fans from the other big six clubs that are going to freak out when your team inevitably slumps sometime this winter or spring, that goes for you too.
On to the Links:
Some new advanced stats for you: Ted Knutson debuted expected goal chains.
West Ham needs to drop Payet and stick with Andy Carroll leading the attack.
Ryan Mason is progressing well in the early days of his recovery from a fractured skull.