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What’s Gone Wrong For Liverpool This Season

Liverpool Players Celebrate After Scoring
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The 2020/21 season has been a dramatic fall from grace for the defending English Premier League champions. At this stage last season, Liverpool FC had 67 points after 23 League games. Compare that to this season, the Reds have only managed 40 points in as many games. That is a 27-point deficit, the most for any defending league champion at this stage of a campaign. Liverpool has now lost more games in this campaign than in the previous two combined where they notched up 97 and 99 points respectively. 


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The Anfield fortress has been breached, the goals have dried up and the defence is no longer water-tight. Just a month ago, Liverpool was on top of the league; now they trail Manchester City by 10 points (who have a game in hand). Many factors have caused this season to blow up for Liverpool, the shortened pre-season, congested calendar and lack of fans have all played a part. Today we take a deep-dive to understand the reasons why this season has unceremoniously fallen apart.

Misfiring Front Three

Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah have been the lifeblood of Liverpool’s success over their recent golden run. They press from the front, play with intensity and score bucketloads of goals. However, this season the goals seem to have dried up. Liverpool has only scored 1 goal in their last 4 home games and the front three are shooting blanks. Mane has scored 22 and 18 goals in Liverpool’s last two seasons but 23 games into this season he has only managed 7. Firmino has also been underperforming in front of goal and has only 6 league goals so far this season. Salah interestingly has continued to be prolific and has 16 league goals to his name this season and is leading the Premier League golden boot race. However, there needs to be an asterisk attached to that number given that 6 of his 16 goals have come from the penalty spot.



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In the last 2 seasons in which Liverpool won both the Champions League and the Premier League, they were extremely lucky with injuries. Virtually none of their first-team stars were injured for a prolonged period which allowed them to compete on both fronts. Unfortunately, their luck has run dry this season with a collection of first-team players spending time on the treatment table. Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez both suffered season-ending injuries, new signings Diogo Jota and Thiago have missed two months each and now Joel Matip has also suffered significant ankle ligament damage. This injury crisis has meant that Liverpool’s best two midfielders have had to deputize in the centre of defence which has upset the entire balance of the squad. Every club has injuries, so it’s difficult to empathize with Liverpool, but they have suffered due to the various injury setbacks. 

Expected Goals

In the analytics world, there is a widely-used metric known as Expected Goals (xG). xG is a statistical measure that represents the quality of goalscoring chances and the probability of them being scored. xG takes into account various factors (assist type, type of shot, angle of the shot, keeper-positioning) to determine the probability of a goal being scored. Penalties are scored 78% of the time so they have an xG value of 0.78. The reason I am bringing this up is that, in the 2019/20 season, Liverpool over-performed compared to their xG. They scored 85 goals with an xG of 71.5 and conceded 33 goals compared to allowing an xG of 40.

What this means is that statistically, they scored more goals on average based on the chances they created and conceded fewer goals on average based on the chances they allowed. This season Liverpool is performing in line with their xG having scored 44 goals from 43 xG and conceding 29 goals from 28 xG allowed. Hence from a statistical standpoint, Liverpool’s performances this season shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s just a regression to the mean. 

Congested Season


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It is unclear how much you can attribute Liverpool’s dip in form to this Covid-infected season. Every team has had to deal with the shortened preseason, congested calendar and ridiculously low recovery times. But has this had an even bigger effect on how Jurgen Klopp likes to play. Liverpool and Klopp have a high-intensity pressing style that looks to stifle opponents and press them from the front. However, with the shortened calendar, it is difficult to maintain this level of intensity throughout the season since players can’t physically recover in time. The data shows that last season, Liverpool averaged 148 pressures per 90 in the league, which has dropped to 125 pressures per 90 this season. Liverpool is no longer able to play that intense running style which has worked wonders for them over the past 3 seasons.


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As you can see it’s a myriad of factors that have caused Liverpool’s downfall this season. The supporters being absent from stadiums have not helped either. Last season, Liverpool was described as mentality monsters and would often lean on the crowd to give them that extra lift they needed in games to push them over the line. This season they haven’t had that boost and as a consequence has lost 3 games in a row at Anfield for the first time since 1963. Nevertheless, despite all the hysteria surrounding them, this is not a bad team suffering an identity crisis. Like most clubs, Liverpool has just faced an extraordinary set of circumstances that have all worked against their favour. And there is no doubt in my mind that just like City have done this campaign, Liverpool will be back with a vengeance next season.


[Image Credit: Liverpool FC]