LAST week Jürgen Klopp claimed the gap to Chelsea was not as large as the table suggests, it’s a comment that is always going to be met with howls of derision.
I typed words along these lines in to Twitter to gauge the reaction and was met by an Evertonian accusing him of ‘talking shite’ and someone from South Wales who wanted him drugs tested.
League tables, it appears in the eyes of some, are a really good gauge of what’s going to happen next. Obviously, anyone who can analyse football in the slightest can work past a league table and have a deeper look at things and understand that what happens in the past won’t necessarily repeat in the future.
As I said in a previous piece, I don’t think there is a great deal between five teams in this league, and if Arsenal had played as they currently are for the whole season then that number would be six. It’s easy to mock Arsenal and presume that they have declined this season, but they’re going to drop a minimum of two places in the league this season while obtaining more points than they did last season. We can watch their fans get angry on YouTube and laugh at them, but they’re still a reasonably good side.
Next season two of these six sides are going to miss out on Champions League football, unless one of the two sides who finish fifth or sixth manages to win the Europa League. Five teams are going to spend their summer attempting to hunt Chelsea down.
The good news for these five teams is that it’s unlikely Chelsea are going to improve. With a fixture against Sunderland at home remaining they’re probably going to get 93 points, and fair play to them for that. It means that they are the second best side in terms of points gained in a Premier League season – they’re going to get more points than ‘Kenny’s boys of ‘88’ having played less games. Impressive.
Amazingly when the Premier League started and had 22 teams with a 42-game season, Manchester United won the title with 84 points, and had 10 points more than the side in second. Chelsea this season will drop 21 points and get nine points more than a side that played four games more. That tells you just how good they have been.
It is hard to say the following without sounding like you are doing them down, but they have had a huge amount of luck on their side. Diego Costa, their top scorer and only real striker worthy of the opposition being truly concerned about, started 34 of the 36 games that Chelsea required to win the title. For me, the best striker in the league plays for the side in second in Harry Kane. He’s started 27 games this season – what if their appearance records were swapped? It isn’t ridiculous to think that such pivotal players playing and not playing changes things.
You can then compare Eden Hazard with Sadio Mané, Hazard has started 35 games this season, Sadio Mane has started 26. You don’t need to know much about football to see that Chelsea would be negatively impacted if they were to lose Hazard for 10 games, nor do you need to know much to see the Reds would be better off if Mane was available for an extra 10 games.
You can’t even put the injuries Kane and Mané suffered down to better training methods from Antonio Conte, both of these players got injured with impact injuries during games of football. Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino can do nothing about that, in the same way Conte didn’t do anything that kept Costa and Hazard fit.
Chelsea, like ourselves, have without doubt benefited from the lack of European football this season. How much work would N’Golo Kante have been able to get through away at Bournemouth if he’d had to chase down Toni Kroos and Luka Modric three days earlier, for example? I’d wager it’s less; the gap that Chelsea have is, as Klopp says, not as big as it appears, and the vagaries of football have undoubtedly gone in their favour.
This isn’t Chelsea’s fault nor does it diminish their fantastic season, but when looking at what might happen in the future, which given Chelsea have won the title is what everyone has to do, it means you’ll struggle to form an argument that they improve next season. I’m not expecting them to repeat last season and be in the bottom half in January or anything, but I think they’ll naturally regress to a point. They could definitely still win the title because they’re very good, but I’d be staggered if they got to 93 points again.
And so, every other team will have to have to direct their thoughts at how to close this gap that I feel is exaggerated by circumstance. I would be very surprised if Liverpool were 17 points behind Chelsea after 37 games next season. So, how do Klopp and staff go about closing that gap?
Well firstly, the Reds have an automatic boost – Mane isn’t going to get off to Africa for six weeks in January. Secondly, there is the really obvious; buying some good footballers. A centre-back, a midfielder, another winger, a goalkeeper, a goal-scorer, whatever the manager wants, get the chequebook out, spend the money, build a deep, high quality squad capable of competing on multiple fronts.
I think Klopp has probably learned a lot this season, and that’s an area that helps going forward. It’s notable that for large parts of this season Liverpool were unable to keep it tight away from home; Burnley scored twice at Turf Moor, Palace scored twice, Bournemouth three times, Sunderland twice, Hull twice, and Leicester three times. That’s 14 goals conceded in six away games against mid table to bottom half side.
The Reds have conceded 42 goals across all league games this season. So that’s 33 per cent of all goals conceded in 15 per cent of games, and they aren’t even games to be particularly worried about in the grand scheme of things, and while this is an area to be improved on there are signs that it already is.
Given that large parts of this season have seen misery and frustration away from home, goals leaked all over the show, it’s hugely promising that the final four away games yielded 12 points with just the one goal against. Areas for concern in the winter haven’t been in the spring. Let’s carry that through to autumn and beyond.
Yes, Chelsea are the better side. Yes, they deserve the title, but I just can’t accept that the gap is as drastic as 17 points will make you think it is. The Reds are 17 behind Chelsea while Bournemouth are 16 behind Everton – I certainly know which gap will close more next season, and it doesn’t involve our Blue Brethren from the Sewage Works.
Liverpool can only control their own improvement, they’re powerless to stop other sides from getting better, but there’s a real chance to kick on this summer. I want the world next season, but the reality is that repeating a top four finish is a perfectly acceptable achievement. Finishing top four is going to be an achievement that six teams will be happy with next season – for someone, a league title will be a bonus.
You don’t have to aim for top four to be happy with it, and that’s where Liverpool should be in 12 months’ time.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Buying proven world class players is not just about acquiring ability it is also about acquiring a player who has already shown they are physically robust enough to endure a season long slog and win something. Diego Costa won the La Liga with Athletico the season has before he joined Chelsea playing 35 times. Kante won the league with Leicester playing 37 times. Injury disparity between Chelsea and Liverpool is not just a question of luck.
How does playing loads of games stop you from getting injured in a 50/50?
Diego Costa has played 26,28 and 33 games in 3 seasons for Chelsea – that’s 2 seasons where he missed 10 or more through injury or loss of form.
Good read, just a small point I’m pretty sure 87/88 was a 38 game season as well.
86/87 was 42
87/88 was 40
88/89 was 38
Wikipedia is god in these situations…
U just blab all through without any sensible argument, who cares what happened with players, is it only mane that has injury, Everton could have come with excuses why they couldn’t catch us on backley’s injury, pls 17points is damn too much & no escuses can ward it away
I agree with you, Phil. Chelsea were also savvy/lucky to have exited the League Cup in the fourth round (same as Spurs, incidentally), whereas we had a quarter-final and a two-legged semi-final at a time when fixture congestion can make or break a team’s season. No Europe and no injuries helped Chelsea but I think no EFL Cup helped them even more. I especially agree that a top four finish next season is perfectly acceptable, but it would be great if we’re in the FA Cup final this time next year as well.
it’s a 17 point gap, what is he smoking? We can’t say exiting the league cup helped chelsea, so liverpool exited the FA cup and got where?
He’s only saying the 17 point gap is not representative of the difference between the two teams, i.e. a 10-point gap could be more representative, an 8-point gap could be representative. Of course Chelsea’s team is superior to ours. He’s not saying there is no gap, but that it’s not a 17-point gap. Maybe we can’t say exiting the league cup helped chelsea, but we can’t say it *didn’t* help them either… As for the FA Cup, we exited that competition after we played the games during the January period, so had no more FA Cup matches after that. The point here is about the extra games in the most congested period of the season that had a huge impact on our season. It’s not the *only* reason we didn’t compete for the league title, but it could be a contributing factor. Maybe the bigger point here is why stay in a competition with so little prestige. Clearly not even this Chelsea team, who are superior to our team, could compete in three competitions in one season. Whether their league cup exit was strategic or not, they did a lot better than us when they did exit it. That doesn’t excuse the manager’s overestimation of our squad and lack of adequate recruitment e.g. to cover for Mane’s absence. It’s just one more thing to think about for next season. Better than just saying the manager is on drugs, no?
hahahahahahaha you guys are
all haters. If we’re going to use that logic then why not apply it to every team dominating their respective leagues?. why stop there even?. You can’t say Chelsea can’t improve next season, the Juve team Conte built is getting better every season.
If you drop 21 points in a season it’s almost impossible to improve.
I fail to see how this makes me a ‘hater’.
They had more ‘better’ players to start with. Winners and ‘marquees’. They had apparently only a third of our level of ‘serious’ injuries (10 day plus) -12 compared to 32 plus we missed Mane too much. They didn’t need to use the EFL Cup to blood youths as their Reserves are massive. They had a great coach.
I think Klopp would’ve won the league if he was the Chelski manager in that position. I think he would’ve won it if we had their resources of quality and winner players.
The fact that Klopp’s teams can beat the best in the league and now has stopped shipping goals to others augurs well for next season. It all depends on the quality of the next 7 he brings in and which kids can step up for next season but for this one he’s right- Chelsea are deservedly Champions but we have no fear of them and are moving into a position to balance our resources more closely to theirs.
When we had most of our resources and they went on their 13 game winning streak- they were still only 4 points away from us. They may finish 17 points ahead, but not necessarily 17 points better.
Agree with all your general points. Especially the one about trying to predict results for next season.
But my gut tells me that
– Chelsea will be strong but fighting on more fronts will take its impact
– Spurs will struggle to adapt to Wembley. It won’t be fortress WHL.
– Arsenal will still be in transition whoever is the manager
– Man U will be stronger but I also think their manager will screw up big time and explode.
– for the Reds,.. read as Chelsea above. I hope Klopp has learnt a lot of lessons from our January meltdown, and that we get that little bit of luck with non-injuries to key players that we deserve.
the best way to look at klopps comments is that we have only lost one more game than Chelsea. But they have managed to convert draws into wins – we’ve drawn 10, they’ve drawn 3. In theory, just 7 more goals could have converted seven of those draws into 14 more points. Feels like fine margins when looked at like that.
Really good point.
Good point. But if we were a bit tighter in defence we may not need so many more goals. That should be the next step to develop, all the great teams have a better defence and we need to work on that
I don’t entirely buy into this argument of one or two players being injured leading to a huge deficit.
It’s not Chelsea’s fault that Klopp refused to strengthen in January especially when he knew our top player was going to the AFCON. And then also didn’t change the system positively enough until the diamond formation vs West Ham.
Also, Spurs lost Kane for quite a few games but are going to finish at least 10 pts ahead of Liverpool. Why? Because their manager adapted tactically better to Kane’s absence and they kept picking up good number of points. Not bashing Klopp, love him and love the direction he is taking us in but we have to be honestand point out flaws when we see them.
Here’s the thing that you people seemingly refuse to consider, chelsea have a much better squad than us as a whole… Even if Hazard got injured they would still have Willian to turn to… If Kante got injured then there’s Fabregas… If Courtois got injured there’s still Begovic….. Plus if any of their defenders got injured then there’s Terry…… Costa gets injured then Batshuayi is there… Mane and Matip go and we automatically fall apart and that shows that we haven’t got options….. Besides that 17 points is nearly a quater of the points we currently have so to say that isn’t too much of a gap is completely absurd. Who considers winning the league as a bonus whilst the main objective is a top 4 place??? Man City just brought in Pep and they’re unimpressed with a 3rd place finish. Is it wrong for me to expect a title challenge to be the priority because i have never seen Liverpool win the league?? Also we haven’t won a trophy since 2012 and that was a narrow penalty win against cardiff city so shouldn’t i expect a cup run too? Assessments like these are part of the reason why we haven’t finished 1st for over 25 years and people mock us for that