The Premiership is just around the corner. In a recent article, I came up with specific plan of action on how to win the league by focusing almost exclusively on the ‘Bottom 14’ teams. This article looks to explore a list of specific parameters that can help Liverpool win the league based on the managers recent results with Liverpool. It will explore what Jose Mourinho does against his top 4 rivals in the Premiership, look for the likely amount of goals required and also set each player a specific goals target that would enable Liverpool to win the league.
The statistics in this article are a guideline of parameters that are required for Liverpool to win every single game based on their defensive record. It averages out over a whole season based on previous seasons under the same manager, and does not take into account games on an individual basis and many other relevant factors. It is also ridiculous to assume that LFC will have to score 3 goals to win every game. There will be clean sheets and other variables, but for the purposes of this article we will explore what is required to win every game on an average basis.
Let us start with a quick recap of where Liverpool have finished in the Premiership under Brendan Rodgers. The most consistent statistic in the table below is the average goals conceded. Under Brendan Rodgers, the best defensive record was conceding 43 goals in his first season with his second season being his worst, conceding 50 goals. The average goals conceded is 47 Goals or 1.23 goals per game. This is a good base to use and it follows a trend before Rodgers managed Liverpool. We will use this as the basis to determine what Liverpool have to do and how many goals they will need to score to win the league, if LFC concede 47 goals this season.
TOP 6 & THE JOSE PHILOSOPHY
This section needs to be broken down into two categories; the top 6 teams and the bottom 14 teams. For the top 6 teams I have examined one of the most successful managers in the Premiership; Jose Mourinho. It is no real secret that Mourinho has a philosophy of trying to achieve 4 from 6 points available against each of his closest rivals; win at home and draw away. These games are often not very pleasant on the eye, are usually very tactical in nature and quite often defensive from Chelsea’s point of view. I explored Mourinho’s record since he arrived in the Premiership in 2004.
The tables below explore the Chelsea games against the teams that finished in the Champions League places in that particular year. Therefore, they can be judged as the elite English competition faced by Mourinho in that specific year. As you can see, both tables have an identical record and this is probably little more of a coincidence. However, it does highlight the importance of conceding zero or one goal against elite competition as this has a direct effect on the amount of points that can be picked up. The focus is more on not conceding rather than looking to score to an abundance of goals.
How effective are clean sheets in the Premiership? In the ‘Numbers Game’, authors Chris Anderson & David Sally studied goals scored and conceded in the Premier League from 2001- 2011 and they came up with the following:
“It turns out that clean sheets on average produce almost 2.5 points per match. Compared to scoring a goal, which on average earns a team about one point per match, not conceding is more than twice as valuable. And even conceding only one goal still gives a team around 1.5 points on average, about 30% more in value than scoring a one. Another way to think about this is to ask how many goals a team needs to score to generate the points produced by a clean sheet? The answer for the Premier League is more than two.”
Therefore, when we play the top 6 teams, I believe Liverpool should focus on not conceding and play a little more defensively. This is also an opportunity to adopt specific or tailored tactics against more talented opposition. To reference Mourinho again, Manchester United were on a great roll in the league with one of the main points of their attack being direct, long balls to Fellani. This was used as a catalyst for their attacks and to by pass narrow midfields. Jose brought in a physical presence in Kurt Zouma to counteract this threat, helping Chelsea to win 1-0. It was not a sophisticated tactic and Zouma was playing out of position and was not a regular in the Chelsea first eleven. Zouma man marked and aerially challenged Fellani at every opportunity whilst another Chelsea player would stand in front of Fellaini to stop him taking the ball down on his chest. It proved to be the right tactic for that game.
As much as I would like Brendan to play more defensively or play with two defensive midfielders, it is unlikely to happen. With all of this in mind I think it more important to focus on not conceding against the top 6 teams and aim for 2 goals per game. Presuming Liverpool are a top 6 team and will play 5 other teams, LFC should aim to score 20 goals in 10 games against quality opposition.
THE BOTTOM 14 TEAMS
The bottom 14 teams are a lot easier and I believe there is no need to change our style or philosophy for most of these teams. The gulf in quality between the top 6 & bottom 14 is huge and this year it will get even larger. My recent article goes into this in detail and what can be achieved when you focus on beating inferior Premiership opposition- http://anfieldindex.wpengine.com/15635/liverpool-win-premier-league-bottom-14-teams.html.
If Liverpool do concede their average under Rodgers of 1.23 goals per game against the bottom 14 teams, they will need to score 3 goals per game on average to ensure that they win the majority of these games. Therefore in 28 games, Liverpool should aim for 84 Goals. Overall, if we add both totals against the top and bottom teams, Liverpool should be aiming to score 104 goals. This will take a massive effort and will need to surpass the huge efforts of 2013/2014, where Liverpool came second under the influence of the free scoring Suarez and Sturridge scoring 101 goals.
WHO WILL SCORE?
The final question then is this: Who will score all of these goals? Rather than trying to put to much pressure on our strikers, I have set out what I believe are realistic targets for Liverpool’s most attacking players; targets that I feel the players are capable of producing. I have assumed that most players, including Sturridge, are available for over 80% of Liverpool’s Premiership games.
In conclusion, I do not think that Liverpool will score the incredible amount of goals mentioned above. However, this is what I believe will be required to win every league game (on average) based on the amount of goals conceded in previous seasons under Rodgers, averaging at 47 goals per season. Can we tighten up this defence? Under the same ratio of goals required, if we can reduce our goals conceded to one per game, we would need 84 goals based on the same assumptions. A much more realistic goals target.
What are the key factors for this Liverpool team to win the league? I believe it is by playing our normal attacking exciting football against the substandard opposition and aiming to score more than three goals against these teams. When we play against our rivals it is key to recognise the power of not conceding and perhaps grinding out results, Jose or Rafa style. Will we look to implement these targets and tactics? It seems unlikely but we don’t have to wait long to find out.