Unpacking Klopp’s Liverpool Scoreline Consistency
“What’s your favourite humming noise? Would it be mmm-mmmmm or would it be mmmm-mm? The first one there, now that’s the sound of a fridge and the second one, that’s the sound of a man humming.”
Father Ted’s Wisdom: Framing the Central Question
Some of you probably recognise this quote from Father Ted. It came to mind when thinking about how to frame the central question at the heart of this article: What’s your favourite score line? The query sounds boring and worthy of Father Austin Purcell, but the reason for enquiring will soon become clear.
Even if you just assess the Jürgen Klopp era, there are 40 different possibilities from which to make your selection (if we take 1-0 wins at Anfield and on the road as the same result, rather than 1-0 and 0-1 as appropriate). That’s wild in a low scoring sport in which the average match only sees around 2.6 goals and the 12,229 Premier League games since 1992 have only had 36 different outcomes by the same method.
How many managers have had a 7-2 and a 7-2 loss in their career, never mind within the space of four matches as Klopp has? Who else has had more wins by at least four goals (45) than defeats by two-or-more (33)? The German has overseen every drawn score line from 0-0 through to 5-5 and nearly has as many 5-0 victories (nine) as 2-0 losses (11). It’s been a crazy eight-and-a-bit years and here’s hoping the madness continues for many more to come.
When judging score lines, context has to be applied. They’re not all equal. European 4-0s are not the same against Crvena Zvezda or LASK as they are against Barcelona. A 7-0 thumping of Manchester United will always trump a 9-0 pasting of Bournemouth, and so on.
Opta’s Insight: The Power of 5-0s and 1-0s
A recent newsletter from Opta prompted this whole thought process. Someone wrote in to ask if Manchester City had more 5-0 victories than 1-0 wins in the Pep Guardiola era. They haven’t – the score line there is 39-24 to the latter – but they do have over twice as many wins by at least five goals as any other Premier League team in this period. So far, so predictable, but the paragraph following this information contained something truly remarkable:
“City’s most common score under Guardiola is a 2-1 win (47 times), which is the fourth most common of any score in that time among Premier League teams in all competitions. Manchester United have won 1-0 50 times in that period, while Liverpool winning 2-0 has happened 49 times and Chelsea winning 2-1 has occurred 48 times.”
Wait, what? 2-0 isn’t just the Reds’ most frequent scoreline since the summer of 2016 but the second most common for any top flight English team? That doesn’t seem possible.
There have certainly been some great 2-0 victories in the last eight seasons; you can start with winning a Champions League final and work down the ladder from there. Most people would put the famous victory over United early in 2020 as the next best (“and now you’re gonna believe us,” and all that), with perhaps the victory over Chelsea the previous year – in which Mohamed Salah unleashed a rocket – taking the bronze medal.
Everton’s last three visits to the red half of the city saw Liverpool win 2-0 too. The latest of them was one of five fairly recent matches which saw Klopp’s side win by that scoreline; they had a run of four consecutive 3-1 victories earlier in the campaign (against Wolves, LASK, West Ham and Leicester) but they seem to have shaved a goal off both sides. Keep it long on top, mate, yeah?
Liverpool 2.0: A New Era of Comfortable Wins
In a stretch of 21 games, Liverpool beat Union SG, Everton, Sheffield United, Burnley and Arsenal 2-0. The remarkable thing about this quintet of matches is that the earliest second goal occurred in the 90th minute, with Diogo Jota slotting home at Turf Moor. He netted in the 92nd minute against the Belgians, Dominik Szoboszlai scored in the 94th at Bramall Lane, Luis Díaz was a minute later to confirm the Gunners’ exit from this season’s FA Cup and Salah struck in the 97th minutes to fully secure yet another Merseyside derby win for the Reds. Even though the cliché of 2-0 being a dangerous lead was debunked by Optajoe a few years ago, Liverpool went two up so late in these matches as to render the very idea of a collapse moot.
22 – There have been 1061 previous occasions of a team being 2-0 ahead at HT in the PL; only 22 have lost from that position (2.1%). Answer. https://t.co/CKwrMyWOuZ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 4, 2016
Looking at Liverpool’s most common scorelines across an arbitrary stretch of 21 matches should be largely pointless, but it does show how the team has evolved under Klopp. In his first couple of years, there were batches containing a lot of 1-1 draws; the Reds became difficult to beat almost immediately following his appointment but couldn’t always get the job done. There were then spells of 2-1 victories through the title-winning season, and in the last couple of years (when at their best and not struggling) 2-0 wins have come to the fore.
This is not to say the current team is better than the version which became champions of everywhere, it’s just a quirk of score lines. It is certainly a positive that they keep winning by two goals to nil though.
There was a time when it was a rarity. The Reds recorded just one in the Premier League across Brendan Rodgers’ first two seasons in charge. It didn’t stop them challenging for the title but there’s something to be said for relatively comfortable victories, for not having to win 3-2 or 4-3 every week. As The Anfield Wrap’s Neil Atkinson has noted, you don’t want to be involved in too many classics. It’s draining.
And Liverpool 2.0 seem to have found a groove for relatively comfortable wins without running up the score. Maybe they should be called Liverpool 2-0 instead.